Fulfill Your Hiking Dream! Here to help fellow hikers by offering wisdom, ideas, and lessons learned from a two-time AT North and South, Long Trail, Foothills Trail, Allegheny Trail, Colorado Trail, Florida Trail, Shenandoah Nat'l Park 500 miler completions. Former AT Ridgerunner for six years, Author, Speaker on Hiking and Backpacking
No Matter the Trips and Miles – You are Always a Newbie
I was so excited to hit the trail again. It had been several
months since my car accident that had caused major back issues. I had been out
once for an overnight during the summer, but for a few quick miles. I was ready
to hit the trail for some fairly good walking and cover about 70 miles in four
days. It had been a trail I’d done so many times, I had it memorized. The
graded Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park. The outlook was bright.
Unfortunately I had several things working against me right
off the bat. First, I had a pretty good sore throat going when I left. Meaning
I was battling sickness. I waved it off, having endured as much on the Florida Trail
and thought it shouldn’t affect me much. Second was my backpack. Since my
good one was getting reconditioned by ULA, I went with a very old
one. I figured it would be fine for a four day trip. Third was the idea I could
do some good miles each day on what I believed was easy trail for the most part.
The first day was lovely. I ascended from Chester Gap into the
park, enjoying the pretty but warm day. Not a few hours into the trip I felt a
certain exhaustion beginning to grip me. There was some decent ups and downs on this
route. I worked away any issues as I did most everything else. But the
unplanned tiredness, coupled with some muscular pain from the backpack that began
erupting early on clued me in I ought to cut miles the first day. But I
can be pretty stubborn and pushed through
to reach Hogback Mountain and a 17
mile total for the day. Yes, I hiked 17 miles on day one.
I was pretty exhausted that night but still was able to check
out a backpacking meal I had created for a magazine article (to be published in
Mother Earth Living in March, 2019). Somehow I managed to get my act together to
review the recipe and even take some pictures using a selfie stick I threw in
at the last minute (which worked out well).
But then next day I felt it. I enjoyed a pretty sunrise over
Hogback, but I was extremely sluggish and I hurt everywhere, with blisters also
on my big toes (a situation I deal with on every new start until the prized
calluses form). The 17 miles on day one had completely done me in. I was okay
for the first two hours but after that, it was a mental push just to do minor elevation
gain. The illness was
Hogback Mtn sunrise
sapping strength too.
So with great reluctance I called for a pick up at Thornton
Gap, having done 27 miles in two days. At least I was able to get out but it
took several days for me to recover from fairly intense muscle pain and the blisters, along with a cold.
I keep forgetting that my best on a trail was formed by consistent
hard work and continual hiking. Not zooming out into long stretches straight from
So here’s the lessons –
1.DO NOT hike high miles on day one
2.Change your plans
3.Don’t go if you feel a cold coming on (sore throat,
aches, etc.) cut your miles, head to a hostel, or wait on your trip.
4.Remember that despite the many trails and miles
of the past, of which the mind can play tricks, whenever you go out, you are still
a newbie in your body