My Shake Down Hike on the Lone Star Hiking Trail

The Game Plan

I carry two liters of water and four days of food to start. I have water stashed along the route at ten-mile intervals. Lastly, I have the remaining food supply (six days’ worth) stashed in my friend’s truck at TH#7 (35 miles). My starting weight is 42.2 lbs.! A lot! More on that later.

I decided to do this hike to refine my packing list and processes, and of course… to get some miles in. I walked approximately 100 miles, which theoretically will get me through GA on the AT. The original plan was to walk five miles the first day and then ten miles the remaining days for a total of ten days.

February 10 (Day 1)

Up at 5 AM for an appointment in Austin… an hour from where I live… so there’s that. Then a two- and half-hour drive to the trail. I stash a gallon of water at roughly 10-mile intervals, something I wouldn’t have done in retrospect. This time of year, and after a week of rain, the water sources were abundant. Lastly, I linked up with my buddy after staging my vehicle at TH#15. We drove to TH#7 to stage his truck (he must leave early) and Uber to TH#1. It’s roughly 5 PM at this point. We begin! Not how I first envisioned my shakedown hike, night-hiking! We knock out five miles, as planned, and hunker down for the night.

Sleep was difficult, as I suspect it is for most people the first few nights. We were excited to see the trail had mile markers which helped us keep some semblance of pace.

February 11 (Day 2)

We start moving around at 7 AM. Breakfast was delicious and warm. After I make a quick IG video, it’s time to hit the trail. For those interested, it’s a gorgeous trail! Now I’ll be the first to tell you, I can’t identify many plants or trees, but I can appreciate the beauty around me. The plan for the day is to walk to the next water cache, approximately ten miles. We end up finding an established campsite right on Lake Conroe. We couldn’t have asked for a better setup: a campfire area, some stockpiled wood, and even a primitive table made with logs and twine!

After setting camp, we of course take advantage of the firewood and get a fire going. We use the much-appreciated heat to dry our socks… the trail was pretty soupy in some places. Additionally, you can’t beat eating dinner around a fire on a lake.

February 12 (Day 3)

Our latest start… didn’t start hiking until around 1030 AM! We got the fire going again and enjoyed a warm breakfast. We also took time to appreciate the beauty of the lake. The game plan for the day was the same as day two, walk to the next water point approximately ten miles away. The day was clear and cool. The miles ticked by easily. Then my buddy decides to leave tonight versus tomorrow to make it back in time for an appointment.

No biggie… in fact, due to the weight of my pack I decided to dump the stuff I wasn’t using (shakedown hike) in his truck… turned out the stuff I rid myself of weighed 3.8 lbs. I ended up stealth camping at the water point along a forest service road with plans to start early the next morning. I was excited to walk with a relatively lighter pack despite being loaded with six days of food.


February 13 (Day 4)

I already have sleep issues (insomnia) and thus far, the miles weren’t helping me sleep any better. It was time to take advantage of that problem and get moving early. I was on the trail by 6 AM, still attempting to stick to sunrise as a starting point. This is my first day solo, which of course is a different experience. I enjoy the solitude as I start knocking out miles. About three miles in I come across a primitive campsite and decide to check it out… we have been stealth camping thus far. So, for those of you out there considering the LSHT, the West Huntsville Hikers Camp is the best campsite on the whole trail. All the primitive campsites had firepits, but W. Huntsville also has a bench, two chairs, and a pond! Too bad I was only three miles in and nowhere near stopping for the day.

The last campsite motivated me to put in some extra miles and make it to the next campsite past my water point. Unfortunately, it was just the firepit (boo). Although I was slightly disappointed in the campsite, I had things to be thankful for: I clocked 12 miles, I met my first thru-hike buddies, and I found something in my pack that made all the difference in the world!

So, there I am, at Phelp’s Hiker Camp, doing my chores, and staging my gear for the next morning and I decide to shake out my bag to remove any dirt, leaves, etc… guess what falls out?! A five lbs. plate I had used for training hikes! Talk about a rookie mistake! At this point, I had come approximately 38 miles with five lbs. I didn’t want or need. I left no trace and I’ll leave it at that.

Valentine’s Day (Day 5)

After another restless night, I’m up and running by 3 AM. Turns out I like night hiking. All you can see is what the headlamp shows you and this somehow makes the miles shorter! The goal for the day is 13 mile, since I’m starting so early. I happen upon the trail’s highest point, an epic 445′! I sign in on the ledger and move along. What kind of boyfriend would I be if I didn’t call the better half for Valentine’s, so after a quick call, I keep moving.

Today there is rain. I don my rain jacket because it’s still chilly, remembering it’s easier to prevent hypothermia than it is to treat it. I arrive at TH#8 which happens to have a covered area. This happens to be my halfway point for the day, so I decided to take an extended lunch break to let the rain pass. Happily, the guys I met the day before arrived and we were able to get in an usie!

After lunch, I knock out the rest of the day making it to East 4 Notch Hiker Camp for a much-needed rest. The longest distance day thus far.

February 15 (Day 6)

So today is where things get a little hairy. First and foremost, because of the extra mileage the day prior, I’ll reach my water point much sooner than planned. Therefore, I decided to make it a 17-mile day. Oh, it’s also the hottest day of the week. Oh, and my stashed water wasn’t there (not cool)! Oh, and most of the day was on paved roads. Talk about a trail trial! Luckily, I was able to refill my bottles at a little church along the way, which sustained me until my next water point. I also came upon a bench approximately halfway through the day and took full advantage!

After arriving at Big Woods Hiker Camp, I ate two meals and bedded down for the night. I slept hard this time y’all! I didn’t wake up until 5 AM the next day and decided to only do the planned ten miles.

February 16 (Day 7)

So, it rained in the middle of the night, which reinforced my trust in my equipment, because I stayed dry. Another sleepless and restless night. I didn’t pack anything to wipe the funk off and I was getting sticky in the tent. While lying there, I had approximately 28 miles left at this point. I decided to do 14 miles, starting around 2 AM, set up camp, and rest… if I slept through the night, great! If not, I’d strike camp and tough it out. Well… I did it! 28 miles in 21 hours.

After setting camp at Hiker Camp #1, I ate two meals to provide the energy I’d need for the extra miles, cameled up, and hit the sack. I left my remaining meals (two) in the hiker box at the campsite. Then I proceeded to walk the scariest part of the trail. It was pitch black, my phone was on 2%, and I was afraid my headlamp would die (it didn’t thankfully). The last 10-12 miles of the trail are not as well-blazed as the rest. I got off the trail and had a momentary freakout. At the end of the day, I know I’d just half to stay put and wait for the sun, no big deal. Except for the last 10-12 miles of the trail is also marsh/swamp terrain and that would have sucked!

I was able to keep my shit together by stopping and employing some breathing techniques. Got my bearings and got back on the trail! I reach mile 96.5, the end of the trail! Butttttttt……. not the end of the night! There’s still an unexplainable 1-2 miles to TH#15 where my truck is parked! So, it’s 2 AM and I’m finished!

Lessons Learned

  • Better field hygiene plan.
  • Trust my water filtration systems, would have prevented me from carrying empty water jugs all over Texas.
  • Bring extra batteries (I did, but an extra to the extra).
  • If I were to do the LSHT again, I’d stash food instead of water (unless conditions are dry).
  • Breathing techniques work to cool your shit!
  • Congratulating yourself on small accomplishments does actually have a positive physical effect.

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 8

  • Jenny : Feb 20th

    Congratulations on your shakedown hike. Awesome lessons learned. You will do great on the AT!

    • DaddyLongTrails : Feb 20th

      Thank you so much! I hope so!

      • Marshall : Feb 21st

        Good luck. I took loved the plate thing – I always unpack my pack completely before a backpack trip and find interesting things and resupply.

        • DaddyLongTrails : Feb 22nd

          Yes sir! I’ll never forget that lesson!

  • Sparky (AT name) : Feb 20th

    Interesting, I had no clue there are any hiking trails in Texas. Will use that one to test out my gear before I head back to Springer Mountain

    • DaddyLongTrails : Feb 20th

      It’s a great trail! Highly recommend!

  • Rolf Asphaug : Feb 21st

    Fun and informative post (I laughed at the 5 pound plate). Sounds like a great shakedown and location!

    • DaddyLongTrails : Feb 22nd

      Glad you laughed! So did I! It’s a great trail!


What Do You Think?