As expected, I’ve gained some valuable thru hiking knowledge from this trip. That was essentially the point of a shorter hike, I suppose, to build my confidence and abilities for application to other hiking ventures of grander scales. Things I will change and/or hone in on before my next thru hike:
- Socks dedicated solely for sleeping in. No one wants cold feet at night, especially if that means wearing the wet socks from the past three days of rain. Might go with compression style too, just to keep circulation up at night. I want my feet to have all the luxury and comfort as possible, they dictate forward progress more than any other thing.
- Shorts and thermal tights combo in place of hiking pants. I will miss my cargo pocket, but after walking all day in the rain it would be fantastic to have dry pants to change into. Plus wet thermals will still be warmer and lighter than wet hiking pants.
- Some combination of tarp-tent. I like the, possibly false, sense of security with a completely enclosed structure. And I will preference Cuban fiber over silnylon, which seems to hold moisture.
- More creative and healthy meal plan. It took two weeks for me to feel the same hunger I have in day to day life sans 25 miles of hiking. During week three I only wanted a regular amount of food. Not until the end of my hike did I gain the hunger associated with thru hiking. No hunger creates a problem when you need food for fuel but cannot motivate yourself to eat what you have. I tired of junk food quickly and found myself simply not eating the less desirable items except as a last resort. This will simply need more work to know my trail food preferences.
- Hiking with a companion/s. I definitely prefer the company of at least one other person over being alone all the time. This is mostly the case at night while camping. Unless well matched in pace and endurance, actually hiking with someone is not as convenient nor realistic as having someone to camp with. I found it difficult to perform anything long term other than my own pace, set by my moment to moment physical capacities.
- If given a full day, even with plenty of breaks and a leisurely pace, I will make about 25 miles. I can manage higher 30’s but not for extended, consecutive days. In honesty, I liked setting overall mileage goals so that 25 miles is my day to day average while the actual tally ranges from 20 to 35. You can never anticipate the lightening storm in a pass, heavy rain coupled with wind and chill, and whatever else may impede your forward progress. Plus zeros or neros are fantastic.
- Hike your own hike. I met a lot of thru hiking neophytes through well seasoned veterans, and everyone has advice and hiking preferences. That is the best part about hiking. You start at A, end at B, and the purpose is the journey. Of course you should try new techniques, styles, goals, etc., and always make minor alterations to keep things fresh. But in the end, only you should dictate how you want to hike because why hike at all if not for your own achievements and pleasures.
- Embrace the hiking community. With my misanthropic tendencies, I habitually take the role of observer in new settings and when meeting new people. However, I discovered that hiking is neutral ground. People do not ask the petty, volatile, or controversial questions, so you can create connections based solely on people in their basic state, on who they are as a person. Prejudices and stigmas run more along the lines of opinions on ultralight versus traditional, stove versus cookless, or tarp versus tent. Not that I am suggesting we should avoid conversation about subjects that separate us or create room for conflict, in fact I quite enjoy the role of devil’s advocate in my normal life, but there is shroud of serenity and ease over the people you encounter on the trails and the people who support the people on the trails. You all have hiking in common and that is sufficient to allow bonds amongst people of all shape, size, gender, color, creed, ability, etc. I found the hikers, trail angels, townspeople along the route, and others interested in my hike, to be amicable, generous, and engaging.
I am sure there are lots of things I have taken away from this experience that I am leaving out, but these were the big things or more germane lessons I wanted to accomplish.