Yes, the daily life on a thru hike becomes normal after a few weeks. When you experience hiking as an everyday life as a thru hiker, you’ve been living on a trail for quite a while.
Have you ever thought about what daily life as a thru hiker feels like?
Or are you even thinking about doing a long distance hike yourself? Everyday life as a thru hiker has routines just like a normal daily life at home.
My cell phone alarm plays “Vandraren – the Wanderer” by the Swedish artist Nordman
5:30 in the morning. I wake up and hear the rain pattering on the tent. Outside it was still dark. The outer tent is soaked from hours of rain. My nose is freezing cold and the sleeping bag around my face is slightly damp.
I would like nothing more now than to have a warm coffee served to my bed… but no… first I have to retrieve my food from the trees. Since I was in bear country, I had to hang everything that smelled away from the tent safely in the trees. I started to sing my bear hymn. Because I wanted to avoid surprising a teddy when I went to get the food bags back.
After plugging my phone into the power bank I peeled myself out of the sleeping bag. My way too big Frog Tog rain pants were still wet from yesterday in the vestibule. A bit annoyed I slipped in, put on my headlamp and crawled out of the tent.
My stomach growled and my brain screamed for coffee. Oh how I longed to get back to bear-save country. There I could enjoy coffee and breakfast right out of my sleeping bag!
I peed under the tree with my food and took down my bags
Business number two was not ready yet. Daily life on the CDT was messing with my digestion a bit. When my dark business announced itself, I had to react directly to prevent disaster.
A vet life
Shouldering the two food bags, I reached my tent. I left them in the vestibule, because they were totally wet. With the dirty shoes still outside, I sat down on my mat in the tent and took off the wet rain gear again.
But I could not prevent everything from becoming wetter and wetter. In continuous rain, everyday life on a thru-hike is wet. Daily routines also have to be adjusted to avoid being soaked right through.
Back in my sleeping bag
I put on water for my coffee and prepared food for today. Oatmeal with dried cranberries for breakfast. One bar or serving of nuts per 6 km. 3 tortillas smeared with peanut butter for lunch. Half a bag of mashed potatoes and tuna for dinner. A package of ramen noodles for emergencies and a handful of M&Ms for dessert.
I poured some of the coffee water over the oatmeal and put Nescafe powder in the rest. Finally, it smelled deliciously like coffee! I enjoyed the brown elixir of life while I got rid of my sleeping clothes and put on the smelly hiking clothes.
The daily life on a thru hike stinks
It was a good thing that I didn’t really notice the smell anymore. It belonged to me like toes to a foot. On the contrary, when I set off freshly showered and with washed clothes from a resupply stop, I felt a bit strange on the trail for the first few miles.
I was out of coffee and the oatmeal was soaked. I reluctantly spooned down the porridge. No, definitely not a treat, but calories and energy. Daily life on the CDT was definitely not a culinary highlight.
With some cold water, I rinsed the cup roughly and stowed it in my provisions bag. I rinsed it only when it was really necessary, depending on the water supply.
Because it was raining I packed my backpack completely ready in the tent. In dry weather it would be easier outside. I put the rainproof backpack in front of the tent, slipped into my rain gear and crawled out of the tent.
To avoid more wetness, I hastily packed up the tent. I separated the inner and outer tent and stuffed them separately into a plastic bag. Quickly I took off my warming puffy under the rain jacket, stuffed it into the backpack and put the two tent bags on top.
By now it was 6:30 a.m. In better weather I managed my morning routines faster, in about 40 minutes. Annoyed, I looked for a while for my trekking poles, which I didn’t put in the usual place in the evening, and set off….
Simplify the process
Everyday life on a thru hike, like an ordinary daily life, requires routines and order that simplify the process. Since the backpack is very small and cluttered, it is important that everything always has the same place. Likewise trekking poles…
The first two hours of hiking were always the easiest. The legs were still fresh and the hiker’s hunger had not yet awakened. So I could often hike another mile or two before I had to eat the first snack.
Most of the time I snack while walking, but never during the first snack. I stopped at a water source when possible to refill my containers, brush my teeth, and adjust my clothing at the same time.
My routines while walking
And on I went. Drinking, filming, photographing, route checking, enjoying and thinking. Approaching a resupply stop I also planned my tasks. I noted these in Google keep and studied the upcoming stop in my hiking app. To know where I could do what effectively.
Yes, thinking also became a routine in my daily life on the CDT. Often unintentionally, my brain worked at full speed. Many trail related thoughts of how, when, what and where will probably be waiting for me in the coming miles. Or why and how I was doing something in miles covered. Thoughts on optimizing my routines I loved. How can I do everything more effectively?
Thoughts about my personality were also a constant companion in everyday life on a thru hike. I got to know myself anew despite my good 50 years. Not physically but mentally. Accepting these realizations was a challenge.
I had to hurry
I wanted to get resupply stops effectively and quickly. Because of time pressure in the first place, but also because I didn’t like these stops. The sudden “change of world” interrupted my daily life on the CDT.
Time pressure was because I had only started at the Mexican border on May 7 and wanted to arrive in Canada before the first snow. So I planned the finish for September 15 at the latest. For the total distance of 4600 km, the daily average was 36 km. Resupply stops were included.
The next two snacks I took while walking. But at lunch I usually allowed myself a whole hour break. Of course, only when it wasn’t raining. So not today. I consumed my tortillas with peanut butter walking.
When the weather was dry, I sat down on my sleeping pad, took off my shoes and socks and made myself another coffee. I edited my next video episode and roughly set my goal for the day.
After lunch, hiking was easy, as the stomach was a bit fuller than after snacks. In the later afternoon, before dinner, it became tough. My constant hunger made my energy drop with each mile. Daily life as a thru hiker means being hungry for 24 hours.
After walking devouring my last snack, I planned my stop for dinner (in bear country always a few miles before night camp). I also tried to figure out a suitable campsite. With darkness as a deadline in mind. I hated night hiking, and especially in bear country I did it only in extreme emergencies.
Depending on the number of miles already covered, my dinner stop became shorter or longer. Often super short, because I wanted to reach my goal. Because one mile more or less per day means 180 km or 5-7 days on four months of hiking.
I boiled water, poured in the mashed potato powder and let it swell for a few seconds. That’s why I loved those Idaho potatoes on the trail, they cleared quickly.
If I was extremely hungry, I mixed in half a package of ramen noodles and there was my ramen bamen… a very filling menu. I spooned tuna out of the bag to go with it.
After eating, I brushed my teeth and prepared the food bags for the trees. Upon reaching camp, I didn’t want to handle any more food near my tent.
Let’s crush the last part
On the last miles before camp. I filled up all my containers at a water source. Because for various reasons I rarely camped near water.
The dusk caught up with me again before the night camp. In the meantime it was 20.30 o’clock. Finally I arrived and looked for a suitable tree for my food, put up my tent and crawled in. Done, just that I could do everything without a head lamp. I took off my smelly clothes and slipped into my sleeping bag.
Sleeping bag routines
In the phone I noted the exact day distance and got me a first overview of the coming day. No exact planning, but I wanted to know where and how I would get water. Daily life on the CDT is strongly time controlled by water sources.
The last thing I did was edit the video clips of the day. Only through ongoing editing could I upload my new episode directly at the upcoming resupply stop. Depending on the internet access an upload took forever.
In the meantime it was 22.00. 14 hours of hiking and one hour of video editing were enough for me today to fall asleep tired and satisfied immediately. Everyday life as a thru hiker always allowed me a healthy sleep.
Everyday life as a thru hiker becomes a routine
However, a very satisfying routine. One takes care of only the basic needs of life. A task that fills us humans with satisfaction. Eating, drinking, warmth, sleeping and moving… That’s all we need to survive.
This often makes it difficult to get back to normal everyday life. Having to take care of everything unnecessary and unimportant again let me fall into a post-trail depression after my first long-distance hike on the PCT. For weeks and months I missed my daily life on a thru hike.
Canada and the end of the CDT came closer every day
The thought of reaching the goal filled me with happiness and fear at the same time. I wanted to get there as quickly as possible and didn’t want to get there at all… what’s next? Will I suffer from post trail depression like after the PCT?
I hope you can now imagine what a daily life on the CDT is like. Are you also ready for such a fulfilling mission?
It is a daily repeating and fulfilling adventure. Always with a big goal in mind. On a long thru-hike (in one season, walking the entire trail) with no time for distractions but plenty of time for reflections.