I’ve walked the AT twice, plus another 2,000 miles working as an ATC ridgerunner for seven seasons.. How did I start all this? By locating the nearest trailhead to my home and setting foot on the trail. that one hour let me hear my call to the trail “If I just keep walking, I can get all the way to Maine!”
Next step: a half day walk with my husband, exchanging the car key in the middle. Over the next four years, we built up to a full month on the trail, two trips per year, from over night to three nights, a week, two weeks. There are landmark steps, I think:
In response to the question “I’m vegan. What food do I take hiking?”
I sprout mung beans and lentils on trail. Hummus, olive oil, sweet potatoes, corn mush, maple syrup. Did I mention olive oil – most calorie dense food? I was soooo afraid of being hungry and not getting enough calories when I started my thru! My first week southbound from Katahdin, I carried 13 lbs of vegan food for my 10 days to Monson. I had several pounds left!!! What I’ve discovered in my 15 yrs and 10,000+miles of walking is that food can be lightweight, easy, tasty and nutritious. When I count the calories of my day, feeling energetic and satisfied, its more like 2,000 calories. I haven’t consumed 5,000 calories ever! Maybe I don’t hike as hard? Dont know, but the advice that I’ll need 5,000 calories a day (hmm. used to be 3,000) doesnt seem to be real for me. I enjoy fresh foods and have my favorite dehydrated staples to build meals around. I eat pretty much the same foods on trail as I do off trail. Happy to explore this with you!
My 10,000 miles of walking after the age of 52 have helped me see is that detractors are reflecting in me something that I have not yet fully processed myself because I truly lack an answer from experience. Their questions and doubts invite me to do my research, look at what I really am unsure about, and yes, how the questions reveal that they care about me. What ARE the realities about bears? (they do live in the AT corridor and have been disturbingly impacted by hikers’ ineptness at food storage). What ARE the risks and dangers we take when walking solo and what precautions ARE we taking? I now know that those can be known, articulated, and practiced. As a ridgerunner in VA for seven seasons, I would have loved to have seen more of the thousands of hikers I met be more concerned about respecting the needs of bears and be more knowledgable about the unique challenges of trail life and willing to choose behaviors that support community and stewardship of the resource.
“I think I want to do a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. How should I prepare for that?”
Here’s my answer:
Go out for a day, then a night, then three or four nights. Go out for short walks in all four seasons to test your gear. One landmark in preparation is to go out long enough to have a resupply or maildrop, say 8-10 days. With the experience of finishing a 3-5 day section, taking a townstop, then going back out, you’ll have the basic idea of a long distance walk, which is really a long string of 4-day walks without going home in between! That’s the best part of long distance journeys. Resupply, rest, cleaning up and going back out!!
Here is my backpacking toiletries list:
Hotel bar soap, tiny sponge, lidded bowl for taking wash water to my tent; lip balm; .5oz teatree oil (or eucalyptus or peppermint); tiny tube of general salve; travel toothbrush; sometimes a tablespoon of baking soda for tooth powder + deoderant; large bandaids that can be cut to size; roll of stretchy gauze; dental floss for teeth and thread; comb.
This is one category where the moniker, “If I don’t have it, I don’t need it” is useful. Going without something for a few days helps me clarify what I want vs what I need.
May 29, 2020
When I dropped off two large flat rate packages at the P.O. in Borrego Springs, CA, I believed Bonnie, the postal clerk, when she said they would arrive May 26th. “That’s perfect!” I said. “I’ll be there May 27th and we leave there May 29th.” The USPS has been reliable with their priority mail service for years, starting with its inception at the same time I started hiking long trails!
Package delivery has turned out to be an emotional parachute drop! I was delighted when my son said on Saturday – the next day- “Oh, your package arrived.” I was amazed at the speedy delivery. “Oh good! Inside there’s a present for Sebastian”! That’s my grandson. “There’s only one package,” Adam said. ” “We’ll watch for the other one.” The one that arrived was loaded with dry food in preparation for quarantine in Maine.
I was challenged with this question yesterday. I caught my breath in response because I realized that in my heart I KNOW! It’s one of those things that I’ve never had to explain to MYSELF because I just know that walking in Nature is important. So, here’s the beginning of what might be a long discussion – at least I hope so!
What are your thoughts?
Here are a few of mine:
When I walk in Nature, even just stepping out my door, my senses open and I feel more involved in the World.
Why is it important to have my senses open? Because then my physical body is more ALIVE!
And why is that important? Because being alive is necessary for being on Earth. I have to have a living body to do that.
And why is that important? Being on Earth? Hmm. To fulfill my spiritual purpose. And that’s connecting with the Creator God Goddess, the nameless energy of all that is.
May 21, 2020
How I manage the terrain on the Appalachian Trail is to choose each step to be easy. I can always do one step! Breathe, choose ease, step. In each easy step I can savor the beauty of the one rock on which I’m stepping, then choose the next one to be easy as well. In this way of conscious walking, the “rugged” path unfolds and lures me on. Try it! “Difficulty” is a choice.
Over my 20 years of walking long distance trails, I’ve noticed that practically all of my questions can be addressed with five essential considerations. I have started calling them my Five Essentials for Creating a Radiantly Fulfilling Walk of Any Length.
The five essentials are:
- Know your Trail
- Consider your Timing
- Love your Gear
- Magnetize your Trail Angel Network
- Nourish your Inner Journey with Practiced Tools for Shifting Energy, Beliefs, and Challenges
Bonus Essential: Know your Why!
I’ve elaborated on them in my report, which you can read here:
My view of creating a walk is that the trail is a blank canvas on which we get to paint our own version of fulfillment. I’m a fan of distinguishing between accomplishing your walk and fulfilling your walk. When I create a journey, I always focus on creating a journey that makes my heart sing, that supports an inner transformation, and that provides me opportunities to be aware of how I have met my challenges and grown as a person. For me, I can literally use each step as a moment for personal growth, which is what I’m all about! The trail, and my physical accomplishment of its miles, is the venue, the medium, the stage upon which my inner journey unfolds.