5 Lessons I Learned In My First Few Weeks On Trail
I have been on trail for several weeks now and I’m still not sure if it feels real. My confidence is building as I face the many ups and downs, wildlife (I’m looking at you, rattlesnakes), and weather. The wind has been the biggest surprise so far. No one warned me about how annoying it is to live in days and days of wind. So as I slowly make my way up the trail here are five lessons I had not learned in all my years of shorter backpacking trips:
1. Apparently my feet swell from desert thru hiking. Prior to the trip, I figured if my feet did not swell for a 10-day backpack, they likely would not during a thru-hike. How wrong that was! My feet had swollen to the point of needing a new size by Julian. I also think the sandy/dry desert is a contributing factor. I also switched to Injinji toe socks as recommended since my blisters were on the toes. I’m not completely sold since one already has a hole. But my blisters are gone so I’m not going to tempt fate, so Injinjgis at least until I am out of the desert.
2. The shade in the desert can be really cold. With little experience in desert hiking, I was not sure what to expect. But I started noticing that a longer break in the shade would get chilly. Even when a foot away in the sun, I would feel as if I was roasting. I also found going to bed early just works ’cause it’s too cold to sit around after dark and it also gets you up early to hike before the hottest times.
3. It’s okay to go slow on the uphill. In mountaineering, you have a dedicated turnaround time for safety. So it’s important to know your pace and limits when setting that time. Out here on a thru-hike, it has been a luxury to take my time with the long winding uphills. There will always be more hills, more descents, and more flat stretches. You may as well walk at the pace you enjoy. Who wants to suffer up the trail?
4. Plan your water carries carefully. Always read the descriptions in Guthook. The desert is beautiful but harsh. The descriptions on Guthook are amazing and I’m so glad to have people ahead of me who update the comments. I have also been reading every waypoint. Some are just funny (there was a small ode to a rusted pipe near palm springs) and once I almost missed a great water source because it did not have the water icon, instead had a picnic table.
5. Things always look further than they are. You will get there before you know it. It is easy to get caught up in the miles and the vast stretches of trail you see in the distance. But If I stop focusing on that, I find I always get there quicker than I thought.
This trail is amazing, frustrating, challenging, and just pure magic. I am sure many more lessons are in my future. For now, I’m just trying to go with the flow and enjoy everything I can!
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