As I sit here soaking my feet in a minty fresh Epsom salt bath on my zero day I thought I would let you know what a typical day on the trail is like in the life of a hiker.
No alarm needed to awake me from my not so restful slumber. I am usually awake before sunrise but don’t act on any movement until about 5:00am.
Decide it’s time to start the day. Let the air out of my partly deflated mattress pad and start packing my bedding. First my sleeping bag gets stuffed back into it’s compression sack and placed in the bottom of a dry bag followed by the mattress pad then topped off with the ground cloth liner. After which I change into my usually wet hiking clothes and pack my dry sleeping attire into their own dry sack. If it is not raining I place everything outside my tent and take down my home away from home and it also goes into its own dry sack. It it’s raining I pack everything inside my pack and pack the tent last.
I have a quick breakfast which is normally cereal enhanced with trail mix with dry milk. It is actually very yummy and nutritious. A great way to start a hike. If all goes well I am on the trail by 6:00am or 6:15am. Sometimes if I am lazy boots do not hit the trail until 7:00am or so.
Second breakfast, a granola bar comes about one and a half to two hours once I start hiking or sooner depending on how my feet feel. I usually like to hike a certain duration of time before resting. My normal pace on moderate terrain is 2mph without breaks. So if I hike at least an hour I know I have covered about 2 miles or so. This helps me judge my progress and gauge my ETA based on the day’s mileage goal.
Lunch hopefully happens around noon or 1pm and with any luck takes place at a shelter with a picnic table or a rock outcropping with a view. I am not always fortunate for this to happen depending on weather, terrain, shelter spacing and how I feel. Burgers and fries would be my preference but I settle for pretzels and peanut butter, or crackers and peanut butter.
The afternoon is a rythmical dance between hiking and stopping for breaks. They come more frequently in the afternoon. My best hiking time is in the morning. By afternoon I start to slow down and wear out. I like to arrive at my destination by 3:00-4:00pm. On some days I have arrived as early as 1:30. My latest ending times was 8:00pm. That was a long rough and tiring day.
Arriving at my home away from home is the beginning of the evening chores. Rest does not come yet. I lay claims to a spot in a shelter or a level place to pitch my tent. I must set up my tent and get everything pitched and set up. I prefer tenting over shelters so I have a barrier between me and all the creepy crawly things that are out there just waiting to freak me out.
When all the chores are down I can think about eating. Supper choices have always been a challenge for me. At home I cook wonderful gourmet meals. Out on the trail I hate to fire up the jetboil and prepare my trail dinners, not to mention cleanup. Many days I would just have snacks for dinner. When I head back to the woods tomorrow I will not be packing out a stove. I will try just PB&J’s for lunches and suppers. It will be much lighter and no clean up.
Hiker midnight is about 7:30. With any luck that’s when I can close my eyes. That doesn’t always happen as planned. But I can always hope.
In between all the hiking, eating, breaks and chores there are those moments when I come across a fantastic view when the trees clear and the sun shines on the valley below. Or I literally almost stumble onto a black rat snack slithering across the trail or entering a pond area in the morning fog and being serenaded by a chorus of frogs are just some of the reasons I keep putting on my boots and enduring the daily pain I experience in my feet. I never know what is waiting for me around the next corner or over the next climb. There you have it, a day in the life of a hiker.