Things I Learned on the Trail so far
I’m just 650 miles in the PCT and I would consider myself quite experienced with hiking. But still, I learn something new every day. Every hike is different and hiking in the desert is a thing for itself for sure. Here’s what I learned so far:
- Train for your hike or take it slow. People are so busy with their pain that they can’t fully appreciate the beauty of the beginning. When you train before you go it’s not for crushing miles, but you can actually enjoy it from the start. The other way is to take less mileage in the beginning so you don’t feel any pain until you’re fitter. It’s not a sufferfest.
- Be prepared for the weather and stick with your cold-weather gear from the beginning. It can be scorching hot during the day with temperatures dropping to freezing at the night. And the wind chill can be pretty bad as well. Don’t be fooled by the word “desert”, the weather can change from one moment to the next. And don’t listen to others who try to talk you out of gear that you are convinced of. For me, that was an emergency blanket that somebody told me to get rid of at a shakedown. That emergency blanket was much needed during a really cold and windy night.
- Eat as much as you can. At the beginning that might not be as much as your body is still adjusting to the strenuous exercise of hiking 6+ hours per day, but try to increase that as soon as you can. Also, make the best out of town food and get as many calories in as possible. But don’t overthink food. No need to calculate calories per day, you can’t take as much food with you anyway as you might need. Also, check out the many hiker boxes along the way, you’ll always find something to add. And there will be occasional trail magic as well. It’s most unlikely that you will run out of food that way. The trail provides. I even found an unopened bag of chips right on the trail I could share with others in the evening, that was trail magic as well.
- Take care of stones and sand in your shoes or weird spots on your feet immediately to avoid blisters.
- If you expect a cold and windy night, don’t be lazy and put your tent up. It offers at least some protection from the wind chill which will go right through your sleeping bag if you’re out there cowboy camping. Also, hike as long as you can before you go to sleep to stay warm and have a shorter night of doing nothing and being cold.
- If you expect a windy night and the ground is sandy put all your stuff inside your backpack that shouldn’t get dirty. Otherwise, everything left out will be covered by sand in the morning and especially electronic devices don’t like that. Even if you put up your tent, the sand will be all over the place.
- We are all on the same page when thru-hiking. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or not, what kind of background you have or what your story is. We are all out here to enjoy being outdoors and see the beauty our world has to offer, pushing our bodies to go further than you ever would have imagined. We are all hiker trash right now.
8. Even if you are fit and crushing those miles, listen to your body. Overuse can happen fast. If some pain arises stop and take a look at it, don’t just ignore it until the problem gets bigger. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.
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