A Thru Hikers Thanksgiving: Delicious? Eh. Nutritious? Nope. Beautiful? Absolutely!

For this year’s Thanksgiving, I’m trading my grandmothers famous sausage stuffing for a stuff sack of backpacking snacks. Swapping the fresh pies and desserts for Luna Bars and gummy bears. Instead of curling up into a glottonous food coma, I’ll be crawling into a cold sleeping bag inside my one person tent.

If your not sold on the fun of backpacking don’t worry, let me tell you about the misery’s of running out of TP or having rodents raid your food stash.

All fun, no games…

It sounds like a self induced suffer-fest, I know, but isn’t that what backpacking and hiking is all about? If you’re not wishing you were at home, than you’re definitely not having fun! All sarcasm aside I’ve been looking forward to this trip for a few months now, and for more than one reason. I’m headed down to North Carolina and plan to hike 7 days on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) from Asheville to Blowing Rock, or sections 3 and 4 if you’re a MST geek.  Any miles spent walking through nature are worth looking forward too in my book, but these ~170miles are serving as a much needed cornerstone of confidence as I prep for my thru hike of the CDT this summer (2024)!!

A sunny fall afternoon in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Shot from the MST looking west towards Mount Mitchell. (Pisgah National Forest)

More than Mountains

The Southern Appalachian mountains are where I fell in love with the outdoors years ago. Back then, my adventures were mainly based on a set of mountain bike wheels. Long rides with steep downhills and scenic views were my jam. The farther from the road the better! But as the trails became more remote, I realized I couldn’t bring my mountain bike everywhere.

That’s when I discovered the joys of simply walking in the woods. Flash forward 4 years, and hiking, running, camping, basically any time spent outside has become more than a joy, but an essential part of maintaining a happy and health lifestyle. To put it simply, these mountains have shaped me into who I am. Returning to them is like looking at a reflection in a mirror as I see where and who I am now, compared to years ago.

A sea of mountains, shot from the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. (Pisgah National Forest)

Lets get something straight

So, I won’t be completing a thru hike this Thanksgiving. Not only that, but I’ve never actually completed a thru hike before! The longest trip I’ve spent in the backcountry was 6 days in Olympic National Park. Although the trip was full of unforgettable memories through spectacular scenery, 6 days in a groomed National Park is a whole lot different than 6 months on the rugged Continental Divide.

It’s going to be a big leap come April 2024, one like I’ve never taken before. But in my book, that’s not a good enough reason to shy away! Surfing the web for hiking reports and photo highlights from my couch in New Jersey isn’t enough to ready me for heavy water carries in New Mexico, the summer storms in Colorado, or the grizzly bears in Montana and Wyoming. Honestly, the MST will only prepare me so much. Thankfully, I’m a certified weekend warrior with many miles and nights under my belt. If you don’t believe me, check out the tread on my tires or listen to some of my poop stories around a fire.

Even though I’m nameless on the trail and have no prior thru-hike under my loose belt, I’m confident the CDT will remember my footprint come next Thanksgiving.

Day 3 of a backpacking trip through the Olympic Mountains. A spring sunrise shines down on the fittingly named, Enchanted Valley. (Olympic National Park)

Your never forget your first…. backpacking trip!

The mountains and forests of North Carolina, specifically within the western part of the state, hold a special place in my hiking heart. 4 years ago on my 20th Birthday, I set off onto my first solo adventure exploring those Blue Ridge Mountains.  I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew that I wanted to do something. So I overpacked my Subaru with borrowed gear and oatmeal packets ready for the world. Over the coming days, I felt freedom like I never had before. Between day hiking, car camping and a short overnight trip, I drove back from home with an itch I still haven’t managed to scratch.

There is something so unexplainably rejuvenating and inspiring about exploring the vast corners of nature. It’s almost like that’s where we came from…

Since my early days of forgetting headlamps and carrying cast iron skillets,  I’ve traveled to some spectacular places and hiked some beautiful miles. Most recently was Hawaii’s Crown Jewel of Backpacking, the Kalalau Trail. Before that was a 3-day trip through the Wind River Range, along with many other trips out West and up and down the East Coast. Even still after so many places, there ain’t nuthin fina’ than North Carolina’.

A warm summer sunset on the MST. (Pisgah National Forest)

What about thru-hiking?

After falling head over heels with hiking on my first trip to the Appalachian Mountains, I returned to the real world chanting my aspirations to thru-hike the AT. I couldn’t think of a more perfect trail through a more perfect mountain range. Even with my goal years and years away, my excitement was overflowing at the thought of thru-hiking. After stacking a few more vacation days, I immediately set back off on a peak bagging frenzy to some more local mountains.

As a weekend warrior, Sundays mornings are a bit sour and tainted with the thought of returning to work on Monday. But as a thru hiker, there was no return. Not for days, not for weeks, not for months…. My brain could barely comprehend that amount of freedom.

Although my goal of the AT has since been replaced by the CDT (a story for another time) the same enthusiasm (if not more) remains.


Day 1 of a backpacking trip through the Wind River Mountains. Passing through scree fields and spectacular views. (Bridger Wilderness)

So what’s for Thanksgiving!?

No matter how much food I pack in while hiking, my stomach seems to define a new level of hunger every time I hike out. Suffice to say, I’ll be starving this Thanksgiving…

Comparing my lousy sack of snacks to the feast of the year really makes me question it all. What is fun? Is this what life is all about? No apple pie… Seriously!?!?

Even still, Im thankful for what I’ve got, which includes….

  • 5 Boxes of couscous
  • 3 Dehydrated Meals
  • 3 Family size bags of Jerky
  • 5 Bagels
  • 3 packets of nutts,
  • ~12 Liquid IV + 1 Nuun
  • Luna Bars, Kind Bars, Gummies
  • 15 Oatmeal Packets
  • 5 Poptarts
  • As much fresh fruit as I can fit without crushing it
  • A compulsive and irrationally purchased apple pie….

If you’re feeling stuffed this holiday, like you can’t fit another bite of food into your mouth. Remember that there are starving hikers out there. Eat for us!!

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Comments 2

  • Mike : Nov 12th

    I love it when I read about others who have my attitude. Being from Connecticut, I know what it’s like on the east coast. After having brain surgery nearly 8 years ago ( for epilepsy), I now plan on starting the AT April 4th of next year. Right now, I have been hiking west of Denver for the past 8 years, and I try for at least 10 miles per day. Some part is connected with the CT, ( Waterton Canyon), where I’ve been going off and on for the past year. I also signed up as a blogger for TREK, so I am stoked and anxious for April to come. At the age of 66, I feel like I can finally follow my heart and dreams. I’m looking forward to your future posts and maybe we’ll come across each other somewhere next year. Be safe, strong and wise as you tackle the goals of your life. Hiking Mike here, over and out.

    • Sheehan Twomey : Nov 13th

      Hey Mike!

      Happy to hear your following your heart and dreams! Kudos to you for not letting any health problems keep you away from your goals. Looking forward to hearing more about your prep and upcoming trip this April! Happy trails and stay tuned for the follow up trip report!


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