Day 60 on the AT: Thoughts Evolve.
Even after 60 days you don’t really get tired of payoff views. This is Blackrock Mountain in the Shenandoah National Park area.
June 10 for me is 60 days on the Appalachian Trail! Wow. Just wow. 60 days can go by quickly. To build on my 30-day reflection post, here are a few more takeaways from the last 30 days.
Habits and Routines are the Foundation of my success so far
As written in another blog post, the AM and PM routines around taking care of my body and mind have become the foundation to sustainable success out here on the AT. Though I have pretty solid AM and PM routines, I have experimented a lot with my middle day routines.
Virginia is NOT flat.
Oh how innocent we all were to believe the AT would get easier! In camp or in passing, there was a lot of talk about the Virginia portion of the AT being on a plateau, or flatter, and enabling hikers to dash through the state. Let me tell you, that’s a vicious lie. This portion of the AT has just as many ups, downs, turns and twists as any portion of the AT in GA, NC, or TN. You go up, you go down. That’s the AT.
Your Ability to Endure Challenges of the Trail Increases
In my research and in many a blog post on this site, I took the advice seriously of gradually increasing miles per day in GA, TN, and NC. I started out at between 10-12 miles per day, then bumped to 15, then 18, and now I am able to sustain 20-22 mile days without serious pain or discomfort. Some days I am able to go beyond this, my personal record day is 28 miles. For me, the routines I have in place seem to be able to sustain me, especially my morning and evening routines. As the temperature and humidity have built, midday breaks and even siestas have helped to enable major mile gains.
Knowing & Accepting Limits
20+ mile days 60 days into the AT is no small feat. However, as in many things in life, you will find there are people who could do that sustainably back in GA. Honestly, good for them. That’s not for me or my process. Some people enjoy major mile gains ranging to or above 30 miles in a day. For me, the risk of injury, sheer level of effort, and for just enjoying the journey, I’ll keep to my 20-ish miles a day when possible.
Limits also apply to gear. Tents and clothing are only so water-resistant. A common myth that is quickly dispelled on the AT about your gear is it is water-proof. No no. No no no no no. Check the label or do further research. Everything you bring with you on the AT will get wet, or at the very least damp. Planning accordingly for this reality is a crucial step in staying comfortable out here.
It’s also okay to know your limit while being on Trail. In an ideal world I would be on the AT 6 days a week, with one zero-day at a hotel or hostel nearby. This plan has not happened this way for me. I find myself taking a refresh break at a hostel, hotel, or in town roughly every 5 days. The path we are taking and where trail towns are or what is available along the way influences these decisions. I definitely do not stop at every off-trail opportunity. Sometimes just washing clothes or being in an air-conditioned room for a few hours can be such a relief. You will know when it’s time to take a break. Let yourself have that moment, and move on to the next section.
During the day I am mostly solo hiking – I may run into perhaps a dozen people during the day. At night though, I’m very fortunate to have an absolutely amazing trail family. Over the last 30 days the group of about 9 of us have connected and keep in frequent contact along the trail. I have been very fortunate to co-hike with them on a regular basis, and we have a WhatsApp group chat going to keep aligned with where we are. Some trail families are definitely more tightly bonded than our group, and that works for them. For us, we tend to end up in the same trail towns, hotels, or hostels around the same time, and when we do, we hangout and spend quality time together that for me has been deeply nourishing for my soul.
Sending Unused and Underused Things Home
Over the past 60 days I sent myself 4 resupply boxes. At each resupply box stop, either a hostel or USPS location, I took the opportunity to send a few things home I was not using. So far I have sent about 8lbs worth of gear I was not using, leaving my pack at around 36lbs fully loaded now. What a difference this makes in my day to day! The AT makes you hone in on what’s necessary to keep you going versus what’s nice to have on trail.
Staying connected to Friends, Family, and your Significant Others
My time away from the modern world has been a very important experience, showing me there’s definitely more to the world than what I was experiencing. That said, the AT and those trekking through are not in a disconnected bubble. We all still have friends, family, community, and significant others who need some form of connection to know we are okay, we are thriving, and we struggle out here like they do in their world.
I have found it important to connect with my non-AT community by regularly reaching out, making time to talk, or even bring my community here. In Waynesboro VA, old college friends and family met me there during a zero mile day and we just caught up on each other’s lives. We as a group had not been together since before the pandemic, and even then, not as a group. Seeing each other in person and enjoying the time together is definitely one of the highlights the AT has brought me. Being able to reconnect on a new adventure with old friends and family is extraordinarily refreshing.
Off-Trail Time for Everyone seems to be an Understood Norm
Nearly everyone in my Trail Family has mentioned an event, someone joining them on trail, or taking time off trail in June. This has been a great reminder that the AT does not happen in a bubble, and it can be essential to get off trail and go do things, and then return to the trail and continue.
It has been an amazing and transformative 60 days, I’m looking forward to adding another post at day 90!
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