Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Typical Day

Even though we were all hiking, the hikers we met all had different routines. Some started before sunrise (usually old people), and other started way late (usually stoners). Some hiked 10 miles a day (usually old people and stoners) and some hiked nearly 30 miles a day (crazies). Some cooked a breakfast (usually old people) and others didn’t even cook dinner. You get the idea.

Here’s a very generalized skeleton of what a normal day hiking was for us. It took a couple of weeks to really settle into this routine, but it was pretty similar the entire time.

We woke up around 6:30-7:30 am. This varied only when we got lazy toward the end of the trail, before the time changed, and we realized we could start hiking at 9-9:30 am and still make good time. However, it changed back to this time when we lost an hour of daylight at night and gained it i the morning. We were moderate in our waking up time. Then I’d get up almost every time and start boiling water on our stove to make coffee. There was a period in the first few weeks when we didn’t carry coffee or have anything hot in the morning, but we found ourselves gouging on coffee whenever we were in towns because we missed it so much. I’d have dreams about coffee. And it’s not healthy to go from not drinking coffee for 4 days to drinking 5 cups in one day in town. We decided to just start carrying it. It was awesome, especially when it started getting really cold in the morning.

Sol waking up in the Smoky Mountains

For breakfast we were pretty lame. We both love breakfast when we get to go out to a diner type place, but if we’re on our own we don’t really care. More often than not we ate pop tarts. If not pop tarts, then a granola bar or the “power cookies” that Sol’s mom sent us. Somehow we never got sick of pop tarts. We’d switch it up and get strawberry sometimes or cookies and cream, but still pop tarts. We actually knew a hiker that made it from ME to VT and then skipped to PA and hiked for another 2 weeks before dropping out for good that ONLY ate pop tarts. He was in his 50’s, fit and a really nice guy that we got along with very well. But the pop tart thing was crazy. He’d eat pop tarts for breakfast and dinner and snack on Luna bars and almonds during the day. He was like a pop tart spokesperson. He always said the pop tarts were a trifecta of 1. Color, 2. Variety, and 3. Fun.

After breakfast we started hiking within an hour and would go until lunch. We usually tried to hike about half of our mileage for the day by lunch. We usually took a small break to snack after a couple of hours of hiking. From the very beginning of the trip I realized that I needed to eat about ever 2 hours. I could push it to 3 hours, but that might make my blood sugar dangerously low. And we can’t be having that!

Snack time in Shenandoah NP

Lunch was our biggest break. Since Sol and I were always hiking together, we’d stop and chill and take a good half an hour. We’d often try to make it to a shelter that was between 7-11 miles away, since that would be around lunch time. If there was no shelter at a convenient distance we’d choose a scenic spot to eat. I’d say 9 out of 10, if not 99 out of 100 times, I was the one that said “I’m hungry, let’s stop for lunch.” Sol would almost always be like “Good, I’m hungry too.” And I would always wonder...why didn’t he just say “let’s stop for lunch.” Sometimes I’d wait and not say anything for a while around lunch time, trying to wait him out to see if he’d propose stopping, but he never did and I always gave in and said something first.

After lunch, we’d hike for another 5 or 6 hours until we arrived at the spot that we were going to camp, or the shelter that we were aiming for. At the shelter we got into the distinct habit of Sol getting our water. We’d have to refill our water two or three times everyday. Once in the morning before hiking, usually sometime in the middle of the day, and then once at night when we got to our shelter in order to cook and hydrate. Sol hated that we fell into this routine, but like I said, he was in charge of figuring out where the local water source was (a stream or a spring), walk to it (sometimes it was as far as .2 miles away), and fill up our water bottles. I’m not 100% sure how I pulled this off, I think it’s because I always cooked. Plus I was always more tired/weak. I couldn’t handle collecting water or my one shred of mental stability might snap.

I’d begin making dinner once I got water and Sol would bring out the whiskey that he carried with him for at least 130/152 days we hiked. We’d chat with the other hikers we met at the shelter, or if we were alone, we’d put on our am/fm radio that we got in Front Royal, VA (always to NPR or some classic/80’s rock station). We would rarely make fires if it was just the two of us, but once we started hiking with Sam we had a fire every night because he needed it to cook on. Also, since I cooked, Sol would wash our one dish with his finger and some water.

Prepping for dinner in NY

We’d go to bed whenever we were done with dinner, had enough whiskey and got bored. Sometimes this was ridiculously early like at 6:30 pm, and sometimes we were able to push it until 10 pm. It really depended on how exhausted we were and how entertained we were. Then we’d repeat.

So this is how we managed to make it the whole 2000+ miles. This kind of routine allowed us to hike a good distance everyday and not get very burned out. Every once in a while we’d get an interruption and adjust, like the time that 3 dogs followed us for 10 miles before we realized that there was no way they were just going to ‘find their way home’. Or the times that we decided to push it another 3 miles to get to a road to go into town. And then there were all the days that we hiked into a town, which we tried to keep to 10 miles or less so we’d have an extra half day there.

The day with the dogs in Virginia

As you can see, life pretty much involved hiking, eating and sleeping. Visits to town basically involved tv, eating and drinking. Come to think of it, since finishing life has pretty much been a “town visit”.

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