Solemates // Soulmates

Alright y’all, I’ve got a question. What is more important to ya, your feet or your friends?

To some, friends are ‘ride or dies.’ You talk to your besties everyday, know all the little details about each other’s lives; heck, y’all might even be meeting up for happy hour tonight. Others, the movers, may prefer to be alone or can make friends anywhere; these folks would rather spend their time seeing new places and trying different things.

When answering this question myself, I’m kind of surprised. Pre-trail, I would choose my feet over my friends any day. I want to see the whole wide world, and plan to do so via walking, A LOT. My friends know this about me and they understand, so it’s cool. In the week or so that I’ve been out on the trail though, I’m shifting my view more to the middle. It seems that the pace I’ve set for myself is above the average hiker’s speed. Because of this, I meet a hiker on the trail, but after a day or two, I’m passing them and don’t see them again.

Foot pain while hiking can be the worst, but I’m learning that it’s lame hiking alone a lot of the time, too. As I walk, I can’t help but think of the wonderful friends and family I have supporting me as I go. There is one particular friend that comes to mind as I write this post; maybe it’s because her birthday is at the end of the week or maybe it’s because I’m missing her everyday. Let’s press pause on this topic for a sec before I get too totally mushy over here. Instead we can talk about feet and trail shoes.

I’ve been super lucky on the AT because I have had ZERO foot pain. If you’re a thru-hiker you know that’s what’s up. Honestly, up until this point, I didn’t know it was possible to have happy feet while backpacking.

I tend to have pretty funky feet. Between hiking and running, I’m always losing a toenail, getting an ingrown toenail, nursing my Achilles, popping a blister, wrapping my bad ankle, powdering away at my athlete’s foot, etc. Like I said, I’ve had no issues on the AT and I think it’s because I FINALLY found the perfect trail shoe.

When it comes to finding the right shoe, there are some things to remember. One. The idea that there is one perfect, universal, hiking shoe is a myth. Companies want you to buy their product; they’ll use celebrity endorsements, fancy colors and words like ‘pronation’ to scare people into buying shoes that are crazy expensive. Everyone has slightly different feet, remember this. Do yourself a favor and disregard the flashy shoes. If you’re like me, your shoes will quickly be caked in mud anyway, so just get whatever is most comfortable for you.

Another thing to remember is that a lot of people have foot problems on the trail because they don’t break their shoes in properly. Here’s the deal, if you aren’t walking around on uneven terrain with 30+ pounds of additional weight on your back, you aren’t helping yourself. The best way to break in your shoe is to just get on the trail and start going.

My trail shoe story is kind of a fairytale. It’s funny because my shoes (Altra Women’s Lone Peak 3.5 Mid Mesh running shoes) were not purchased for hiking. I actually got them for running in Colorado. I needed new shoes, they looked cool and were 60% off, so I gave them a go. Ya know what? I HATED RUNNING IN THEM. I got blisters on both baby toes and actually ended up losing my big right toe nail after wearing the shoes for a race. When it came time to start AT, I decided to give them one last chance. I’ve wanted to try out hiking in trail runners, plus if they remained uncomfortable, I could just chuck them off the side of a mountain, no big deal.

Shockingly, my feet have never felt better, so let this be a lesson to you all. For one thing, your hiking shoes don’t have to be what everyone else is wearing. If a cheap sneaker is comfy for ya, get after it! Also. Don’t be afraid to try out shoes that may not be your first choice. I never would have thought that these dumb, uncomfortable running shoes would end up being my best friends on the trail, but here they are, doing the thing.

Speaking of friends, it’s time to get mushy again. If you don’t have a tissue, feel free to stop reading here cause y’all may get emotional like I did when writing about my soul sister/ trail twin, Rachy.

Just like it can be hard to find the right hiking shoe, it can be even more difficult finding the right hiking buddy. I’ve heard the best way to get a good hiking partner is to just get out and go. Do your thing, find your pace and hikers will appear.

Rach and I didn’t meet this way. We were actually coworkers before hiking together. Rachel and I did a ten-month program in New Hampshire for the Student Conservation Association. We started the job in January, but didn’t get to know each other until mid-May when we both decided to attempt the NH 48.

Because we had the same work schedule, we hiked together. Not only did we complete New Hampshire’s 48 4000 footers; we also climbed the high peaks of Maine, Vermont and dabbled in the Adirondacks, too. We’ve camped, laughed and sweat a lot together. When I cry while hiking (like, every time) Rach gives me comfort. We’ve loudly sang Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and the Overcoats during car rides to and back from the trail. We’ve pooped on the same mountains, eaten too much trail mix and enjoyed each other’s company for so many post-hike meals.

Being on the AT without Rach has been pretty strange. When I put on my gear and look at my plans for the day, she’s always in the back of my mind. She’s not out here with me, but Rach is one of my biggest supporters. Every time I get service I have some sort of warm message from her; asking where I am, my mileage for the day, how I’m doing, etc.

I really wish Rach was with me on the trail right now, I just know we’d tear up the AT together. Lucky for me though, Rach is still up in NH; seeing her when I get to the Whites is all the motivation I need to keep going.

So to my dearest mountain-climbing, IPA-drinking, dog-loving, trail twin; this post is for you, happy happy birthday. You are a huge part of why I know I can accomplish this trek. Thanks for being the absolute best hiking partner a girl could have, I love ya so much Rachy and I will see ya soon.

Love your feet and love your friends; that’s all I’ve got for today, y’all. I’ll catch ya later, happy hiking!!

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