Hiking events

30 Days in: A Perspective on the AT Thru-Hiking Experience So Far.

30 days in! Catch the sunset from the Beauty Spot outside of Erwin, TN.

{Written May 10, sorry for late posting!}

Hello from Beauty Spot prospects in TN! Wow, it’s been 30 days since I started TA from April 10!

Here is a list and comments on what I have experienced so far on the AT.

Planning versus execution

In preparation for this endeavor, I read 5 books for the trail on the trail, as well as this blog site and several YouTube videos. I also spoke to several hikers and section hikers about their experiences.

You can research and prepare all day, and honestly, it helped flatten the proverbial AT difficulty curve. The research really helped with gear preparation, food choices, when to stop, and contingencies in an emergency. I have another article about my research for the TA – so you can read it in detail.

Routine Routine

What planning won’t necessarily help is the day-to-day TA. What I mean in particular are the routines that allow your body to resiliently support you on the AT.

Routines, for me, are the cornerstone of success so far on the AT. While it’s important to stay flexible and dynamic with the AT weather and terrain, or even being in town, having consistent routines has been the foundation of success for me on the AT.

This means, for example, having a consistent bedtime. This is a socially enforced norm called Hiker’s Midnight. Hiker’s Midnight aligns quite closely with sunset and the official start of night. Every night it was around 9 p.m. You feel a shift in energy at camp as people drift to their tents or shelter. The lull of the calm washes over the shelter area and most people fall asleep or begin to lay down for the night. This has been one of the core routines that even I feel if I arrive late at camp or if a conversation with another hiker takes longer than expected. Falling asleep around 9 p.m. every night sets everything up for an earlier climb the next morning and a day off on the trail.

Mornings are the next cornerstone of a good routine. I have a particular process that I follow for a successful morning routine, which I elaborate on in another post, that works well for me and gets me going about 1 hour to 90 minutes after waking up. Some hikers move faster than me in the morning and get on with it, but this process works for me and makes for a successful day.

Take the time to think

The signature of the register is only the beginning of the reflection of the end of writing which is done on the AT!

Prior to joining TA, my work and personal life had so much going on that I often couldn’t even list all the things that happened in a day. Hyper AT focuses a lot on your life even though it apparently introduces risk and complexity.

One of the most important things I’ve done since day one is to take the time to reflect. This came in two parts as essentials of a daily routine.

The first is to take time during the day to stop and meditate. For me, it only takes 10-20 minutes, usually during a water break, to sit down and breathe. I work to clear my mind and be very present in the moment. I find that taking a few minutes to just sit, breathe, and be present is as refreshing as an hour-long nap.

The second keeps a diary every evening. At first, I didn’t think that many interesting things would happen to me during the day, climbing hills and crossing streams, so the stream of events that my mind absorbs and then writes down has been a fascinating experience. I didn’t keep a journal regularly before joining TA, although I now find it an essential task to help me manage the day.

Water water, everywhere, but not always!

The fabulous water source of Big Beauty, literally springing from the mountain. A luxury item here is someone who channeled the source to make it easier to collect. Thanks!

The first day on the AT, which included hiking the approach trail, I took 6 liters of water with me, assuming I wouldn’t find a clean, sustainable water source along the way. .

Boy, was I wrong! The water on the AT, especially the water sources above 2000 feet elevation, have been some of the best water sources I’ve had in my life. I was really preparing for limited water sources and had to carry clean water all the time. Water filtration technologies are very successful in filtering out harmful bacteria from water. The water from the streams along the trail and from the shelters also tastes good. It can be shocking to go to town and drink tap water again!

Although to be clear, the general rule of not drinking water below 2,000 feet in elevation seems to work well. Water sources roughly below this level are often merged sources from multiple locations, and often these water sources include road runoff or water from local farms which often includes livestock or fertilizer .

I certainly suffered from anxiety related to access to water. The worst was coming out of the NOC in North Carolina. The day started out cool, but the temperature quickly rose to the 70s, which was a peak for April. Far Out and other apps indicated nearly 9 miles between available water resources, which included multiple peaks and descents. I have a 2L platypus with me and figured that would be enough for the section. Boy, was I wrong! I tried to ration but ran out. I had to carefully manage my speed and level of effort to minimize sweating or the risk of dehydration. The relief I felt once I got to a water source in the next gap was tremendous. Limited water anxiety has taught me to refill water in the morning while stopping more often to drink water. I also plan to top up the water the night before to make sure this doesn’t happen in the summer months.

I can’t wait to see what else I can add for the day 60 reflection on the TA. Stay tuned for more!

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