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I am currently sitting in a coffee shop in Franklin, NC taking my first zero (non hiking day) of the trail. I have been reflecting on the last 110 miles & 12 days and I am summarizing my thoughts in 10 lessons in 100 miles.
1. Be kind & humble:
The hiker community is full of happy, sad, nice, odd, funny, and eccentric people from all walks of life. The kindness you lend is almost always returned 10 fold. Additionally, everyone has an opinion on the best way to hike & camp. Not everything you hear will apply to you but be humble and listen you just might learn something.
2. Listen to your body:
The ache, the pain, the weariness it is not going to go away magically. So stretch, do less miles, and stop when needed. This can be hard when it feels like everyone else is passing you, doing “big miles”, etc. But, there are still so many miles to go!
3. Don’t be lazy!!! :
Set up your tent right, clean it out, clean your pot, hang your bear bag, check for ticks, dry out your sleeping bag, etc. Life is SO much easier later.
4. Seek out alone time:Although it seems like there would be a lot of opportunity for this it can be rare to have time fully for yourself. So slow down, speed up, go to bed early. Friends will still be there after you have spent some time alone.
5. Nature always wins, be prepared:
Mother Nature is a beautiful beast full of power. You cannot win, so be prepared Physically, mentally, and gear wise. Nature can be unpredictable so having the right gear or knowing when your gear will become ineffective is very important. Your 20 degree sleeping bag isn’t going to keep you warm if it is soaking wet.
6. Going to town isn’t cheating:
Need different gear? Need a mental reset? Need to get dry? Go to town! Sometimes you need to push through but if it is between being miserable or in danger and pride, go to town.
7. Just fill up your water:
Lately the mornings have been between 20-30 degrees which is not inspiring to stick your hands into a freezing stream for water. But inevitably two miles later, your warm and thirsty and the next water source is 4 miles away. Just get water.
8. Embrace the suck:
Sometimes your sleeping pad breaks, you fall, your dinner is everything you don’t want, the uphill never ends, and the rain keeps coming. Take a breath, look around, and laugh. Your mentality can changing your hike from enduring to embracing.
9. You don’t need that much food:
My biggest downfall has been my food weight. I started the trail with the concept that within three days I would be starving and eating like a wild woman. Wrong, I eat like I did before the trail started and was able to extend my food for two weeks. When you have resupplies every 3-5 days you do not need all of that weight. So you don’t need as much food as you think you do in the beginning.
10. Leave no trace:
Plan ahead and prepare, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impact, respect wildlife, and be considerate of other visitors. What lessons have you learned lately?