Things I Learned in My Aborted Hike of Section J

As always, you are invited to find humor in my failure. 

  1. Ditch the hiking boots. Every thru-hiker I saw was wearing trail running shoes. Every. Single. One. The Hubs expressed concern for the lack of ankle support, but that’s largely a myth that we need “ankle support.” There are people who do; I don’t. Before I started running, I thought running would be terrible for my ankles. Nope – it’s made them resilient and strong. Any running will do so, but trail running is especially good for lower leg stability. The biggest difference is that running shoes lack a stiff shank, so my feet will need time to adapt. I’ll make a concerted effort to get my feet used to carrying an extra load while wearing trail runners.
  2. I need a roll of Tyvec! Yes, the house-wrap stuff. It’s incredibly lightweight, durable, and waterproof. I saw a lot of thru hikers carrying a Tyvec. You can use it as a ground cloth, You can wrap it around your waist to keep the water from wet brush from soaking your legs. I’m fashioning a pack cover from it.
  3. I need to get more efficient at breaking camp in the morning. Even on the days I didn’t eat breakfast, it took me an hour & a half to get out of camp. That’s nuts. I decided I can do my hygiene stuff in the evening; that will save me some time. I just need to get more efficient overall. What really drove this home was the thru hiker who camped near me the last night. I heard him moving around in his tent as I headed off to the backcountry toilet. By the time I returned, he was packed up and ready to go. He was able to break camp in the time it took me to poop. (It’s worth noting that this guy has been doing the same thing pretty much every day for the last four months. It stands to reason he’s become very efficient. Still, it was a surprise to see how efficient.)
  4. I can skip breakfast. Not entirely, but I don’t need a hot breakfast and a cup of coffee first thing in the morning. It was freezing my last morning on the trail. I ate an ounce of 100% cocoa chocolate (unsweetened bakers chocolate – I’ve grown to love it) and some trail mix while packing up. I carried granola & coconut milk powder in my pocket. (The coconut milk powder tends to clump, and when it’s cold it forms solid rocks. Carrying the mix in my pocket warmed it up enough to make the milk powder mixable.) Once I got near a flat-ish area of the trail, I put water in the bag & mixed them. I never thought I could like this, but I loved it. I found I ate it too quickly while walking, but I can pace myself. This will help me break camp more quickly, too.
  5. Toilet paper gets a ziplock bag. This should have been obvious. It wasn’t.
  6. Sometimes a hot beverage is a miracle cure. This is kind of a moot point since my frickin’ stove died. But prior to the hike, I debated bringing along some Skratch. (It’s like Gatorade but without the weird and possibly dangerous ingredients.) My last morning at the hotel, I eyed the instant hot apple cider & hot chocolate packets and considered grabbing one or two. If I’d had a functioning stove, it would have been a wonderful nightcap. I’ll bring the Skratch in the future.
  7. The Garmin InReach is awesome, but bring the 910. I don’t see a way to load what the InReach recorded into Garmin Connect. The 910 is a fitness device, so it’s easy to read and provides a ton of information quickly & easily. That’s not what the InReach is designed to do. The 910 can also remind me when to eat by giving me ‘calories burned’ alerts. Next time, I’ll bring the 910.
  8. Time to ditch the ensolite foam pad. I’ve had this thing for a long time. I’ve carried it because if I have to rig up the hammock as a bivy sack, I’ll need protection from the ground. It occurred to me that I won’t sleep well regardless of what padding I’ve got. So I bought a couple Thermarest sit pads. They weigh 2 ounces each. Two of them weigh less than half what the ensolite foam pad does, and I can use them under my torso if I have to sleep on the ground.

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