Weird Things You Get Used To While Thru-Hiking

So much has happened since I last posted that it would take too long to recap. Instead, please enjoy these snippets from the trail about things that initially felt strange that now feel perfectly natural.

Drinking Water from Streams 

Between towns, our only source of water are springs, streams, and lakes. We use a water filter to ensure it is safe to drink. There is nothing as fresh and cold as drinking water from a mountain stream or river. 

Sleeping Shoulder to Shoulder with Strangers

Along the AT there are 3-sided wooden structures with sleeping platforms for anywhere from 6 to 12 people. When rain is forecasted, shelter space is coveted and often fill up fast. Sleeping between brand new trail buddies, at least two of which snore, becomes commonplace.

Pooping in the Woods

You don’t always camp at shelter sites, and not all of the shelter sites have privies. You often end up taking care of bodily functions behind a tree (first digging what is called a “cat hole”) being careful not to drop your drawers within sight of other hikers or campers.

Going to Sleep at Sunset

Occasionally conversation around the campfire or picnic table continues after dark but after 8 or more hours of hiking, most of us climb into our sleeping bags soon after dusk – aka “hiker midnight.”

Scavenging Items from a “Hiker Box”

Hostels and other places that cater to hikers have boxes, shelves or closets where people can discard unwanted items. We’ve picked up, among other items, oatmeal, trail mix, clothing, pita bread, coffee packets, dried milk, ziplock bags, fuel canisters and bagels. What one hiker discards, another hiker covets. 

Being Always Hungry 

You’re in a constant state of calorie deficit after hiking for hours over mountains, day after day. Constant hunger becomes the norm as does eating huge meals whenever you’re in town. 

Some Things You Never Get Used To

Seeing a breathtaking 360 degree view from one of Tennessee’s balds.

The thrill of crossing a state line or reaching a milestone mile.

Making instant friends with another hiker, being sad when you don’t see them again, then greeting them like a long-lost relative when they reappear on your path. 

Cresting a hill and catching sight of the mountains and valleys in the distance. 

Sharing a story that only another thru-hiker will understand. 

Crying because thru-hiking is so damn hard, yet getting up every morning, lacing up your boots and heading out for another 12 miles.  Because you’re a thru-hiker and that’s what we do.

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Comments 4

  • Anne Woodward : May 9th

    Great post! Thanks for the glimpses into your thru hiker life.

  • Jayne Jessen : May 9th

    Keep going. Hope to meet you someday!

  • Julie : May 9th

    Your writings motivate me! Thank you!

  • Heidi Hertel-Therrien : May 9th

    So proud of the two of you and enjoy your posts . Just showed my Mother in Law who is 96 1/2 all your pictures and read your posts. It made for great conversation. Just climbed Moosilauke and told her we went 9.1 and then shared your AT travel. Talked about how we carried our lunch and how you had to carry a tent and all your supplies. Keep posting, my heart is swelling .


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