Why Rest When You Can Still Walk?

I’ve already reached the mid-point of the Appalachian Trail. Crazy, right? I’m incredibly proud of myself, yet I also realize it marks a turning point. Far from the start yet not at the end, it’s a strange mix of “Wow, I’ve done all this!” and “Okay, so what comes next?”

Behind this achievement, the accumulation of fatigue becomes more pronounced.

Long days of walking, temperatures swinging between biting cold and the penetrating humidity of the rain test me. Exhaustion sets in. I find myself more drained each day.

But this milestone also signals the imminent end of this first phase of my Calendar Year Triple Crown.

In this adventure, every bit of support I receive is incredibly important, whether it’s the warm welcome from people like David, a true trail angel, Jolly Gear supplying me with their amazing shirts of all colors, or the generous gesture from a reader who decided to financially support our journey. We were truly touched by this wonderful solidarity. A reminder that there are other humans who believe in us.

But before diving deeper into the tale of the last few days, just a quick reminder to check out the practical sections at the end of the article, where I share advice and thoughts for those tempted by their first thru-hike.


Let’s go back to day 31. A reminder that MS, my beloved and support team, flew back to Montreal the day before to spend the spring break with her children.

So, a few hours after leaving Dismal Falls where I’d spent the night, the day took an unexpected turn. It started pouring rain. In a moment of pure optimism, I told myself it wouldn’t last long so it wasn’t worth putting on my raincoat… Big mistake! I ended up soaked to the bone.

In this incessant rain, the path led me to a shelter where I met Nightshift, also committed to the same challenge as me: the CYTC.

Together, we decided to head to the next town to spend the night dry in a hostel, thus avoiding what could have been a rather disastrous night. Without this heated haven, my wet clothes would have completely frozen as the mercury dropped to 23°F that night. We went to eat at a restaurant and chatted about hiking and our respective plans.

The next day, I enjoyed introducing him to the long hours of walking that characterize my days. Together, we pushed our limits until late at night under the glow of our headlamps. The day after next, I left him behind, wanting to start early to arrive in time at the post office to pick up my resupply box. We will probably never see each other again… Fleeting encounters are part of the trail.

A More Dangerous Evening Than Expected

I’ve gotten into the habit of extending my days this way: dinner around 5:00 p.m., then a few more hours of hiking. This strategy, usually effective in increasing my daily mileage, sometimes has its downsides.

Like that evening, after leaving Nightshift behind, fatigue and weather conditions turned my routine into a real challenge. The last section of the trail, a scrambling section, traversed in darkness and under pouring rain, proved particularly perilous. Between the wet rocks and total lack of visibility, I had to proceed with caution for nearly a mile and a half, struggling not to slip with every step.

Okay, I admit, doing this section at night was not my brightest decision, but know that as soon as I had the chance, I set up my tent on the first spot I found, completely drained.

In my defense, I must mention that the sign indicating the danger of this section only appeared at the end.

Serendipity Works Its Magic

My quest for distance and my usual routine don’t leave me much time to research points of interest on the AT. Arriving exhausted at camp every night, managing to keep a journal feels like a miracle in itself.

That’s why I stumbled, quite by chance, upon McAfee Knob in the Triple Crown region of Virginia, without immediately realizing I was reaching one of the most iconic panoramas of the Appalachian Trail.

The decision to detour to this viewpoint for lunch was spontaneous, motivated by the desire to enjoy my delicious pad thai-flavored ramen in an exceptional setting. And I was not disappointed! What I hadn’t anticipated was the presence of the Hiking Mamas, a group of hikers who, by happy coincidence, were there just when I was. Thanks to them, I had my Instagram moment.

A Feast Fit for a King

Shortly before her departure to Montreal, Marie-Soleil received a message from David, a trail angel renowned in the Triple Crown area, offering his help. Touched by his offer, she shared with David that I might need his support while she was away. Initially, the idea of taking a break didn’t appeal to me at all, obsessed as I was with counting my daily miles. The thought of stopping, even for a day, stressed me out.

However, when David suggested a day of rest, I let myself be persuaded, almost despite myself. Against all odds, this break turned into a memorable day. David prepared an unforgettable feast: a steak cooked to perfection, just the way he does it, one of the best I’ve ever had, and a chocolate cake so delicious he gave me the leftovers for my snack the next day. Over a few beers, we shared great conversations, making me realize how necessary and profoundly restorative this break was. Thank you, David!

A Disappointing Park

After this refreshing break at David’s, the arrival of spring was now noticeable on the Appalachian Trail. In March, the bugs started to come out, as did the hikers! I’ve never seen so many people on the trail. Let’s just say I quickly learned to avoid shelters on Saturday nights…

My journey also took me through Shenandoah National Park. As I traversed it, it seemed to me that its amenities were more designed for cars than hikers. The scenic roads offered spectacular views, indeed, but I sometimes lamented that the pedestrian experience wasn’t as valued. In fact, the trail often zigzags under these famous viewpoints designed for cars. What motorists don’t see is that to clear the view, all the vegetation has been cut down. And guess where all those debris end up? Right around the trail. Not exactly a great arrangement.

A Major Realization

Day by day, the need for rest became more pressing, a reality I could no longer ignore by day 43. That’s when I allowed myself an evening off. In a nice restaurant, I indulged in short ribs, tacos, cheesecake, and a few beers before diving into the world of “Dune 2” to the movie theater. This evening out of time was not just a pleasure; it marked a turning point.

I began to realize all the unnecessary pressure I was putting on myself. This break allowed me to reflect and understand that, in terms of timing, I was more than on schedule. The constant race against miles didn’t justify the burden I was placing on my shoulders. This moment of relaxation taught me the importance of listening to my body and respecting my needs, a valuable lesson for the remainder of my adventure.

Indeed, this realization was liberating. By allowing myself the right to rest without guilt, I not only recharged my physical and mental batteries but also let go of the stress that had accompanied me since the beginning of my adventure.

Understanding that I had the space and time to enjoy the adventure without unnecessary haste transformed my approach to each day on the trail. I now see rest not as an obstacle to my progress but as a precious ally.

Speaking of precious allies, I reunited with my adventure partner on day 46, two days before crossing the midpoint milestone, leading to a few well-deserved days of rest. These moments of pause were anything but boring…

Among other things, we faced a big decision… I’ll tell you about it in my next story. Stay tuned!

Trail Lessons: Essential insights for Thru-Hikers

The wins

  • My Senshi Design Alpha 120 Hoodie, my ally against the cold and humidity. I wear it as a base layer when it rains. Made of ultralight Polartec, it keeps me warm because it breathes and doesn’t get wet.
  • My Durston Kakwa 55 backpack. I’ve had different models of ultralight backpacks during my various thru-hikes, and this one is a perfect match for me. After more than 50 days of walking, I feel no discomfort at all.

The fails

  • The iPhone and rain, a capricious combination. My normally reliable iPhone becomes a source of frustration in the rain. The screen, usually responsive, turns into a rebellious surface, refusing to respond to my wet commands.
  • Delivery of a new pair of Altras. During MS’s absence, I quickly needed new shoes and had them shipped to a post office with the General Delivery label. What I didn’t know was that Altra ships with FedEx, so after several days of waiting, I still hadn’t received my new shoes. It’s a shame FedEx didn’t notify Altra quickly that they couldn’t deliver to the address mentioned on the order form. Fortunately, I found a store near the trail that had the LonePeak 11.5s. I would have preferred the wides, but under the circumstances, it was still a good compromise. I need a new pair every 500 miles. That’s a total of 16 pairs! Crazy, right? And I dare not even mention the cost in $$. A note to future thru-hikers: when I started 3 years ago, I wore size 9.5. Today, after completing the Te Araroa in New Zealand and the PCT, I’m up to a size 11.5. Yes, feet grow and widen from all that walking. It’s a common phenomenon among thru-hikers.

Shake down

With the warmer weather, I’ve been able to leave behind my crampons, my merino wool base layer, my down jacket, my bivy, my tarp, and I’ve slimmed down my first aid kit for blisters since my feet are doing well…

Trail Revelations

I’ve finally understood that I don’t need to put so much pressure on myself regarding time. I have enough of it to complete my CYTC. Rest is crucial. I’m not just talking about sleeping, but also engaging in fun activities from time to time. It not only allows the body to rest but keeps motivation high. The other day, MS made an interesting slip of the tongue. She told me, “Don’t go to work today.” I think it says a lot! It’s important to release the pressure and to keep it fun.

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Comments 4

  • David Groce : Mar 27th

    Thanks for the shoutout, pal. Really glad we met. Great post. Especially the insights on your mental reasonings. Looking forward the the next post and update. Reach out, please, if you need anything. (PS- Hi MS. Missing our messages!)

    • James and Marie-Soleil : Apr 21st


  • MP3 : Apr 11th

    Salut, Sparrow! Thank you for sharing your thoughts about motivation and the self-push to make the necessary miles on your CYTC quest. I’m going to share this with a friend who is currently thru-hiking the AT. I’m glad to have met both you and Nightshift on trail during my section hikes in Virginia last month. Happy Trails!

    • James and Marie-Soleil : Apr 21st

      Hello! I’m glad you found my reflections on staying motivated and pushing through those tough CYTC miles helpful. Feel free to share them with your friend on their AT adventure—I hope it gives them a boost! It was great meeting you in Virginia. Keep enjoying those trails!


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