Picking up the pace…and settling into a beat


I have now entered the fourth state of my Appalachian Trail journey: Massachusetts. Home to one of my life goals (running the Boston Marathon), one of my favorite movies (The Departed) and my good friend Tasha, who climbed Katahdin with me to start this journey.

As the mountains get smaller, it becomes easier to go further each day. 2 days ago I walked my longest distance in one day (30 km). The next day I beat that again (almost 32 km). I try not to get too crazy too fast though, and am taking a “rest” day today (18km) to help my muscles rest and recover from longer days.

trail routine

Now that I’ve been on the trail for almost 8 weeks, I’ve settled into a good routine for my hiking days. Below is a typical trail day.

5:30 a.m.: the alarm goes off. Get up, get the bear bag, go back to the tent.

5:30-6:30 a.m.: preparation for the day. Have breakfast (currently in rotation chocolate breakfast essentials (similar to a powdered Up and Go for Australians) and poptarts). Put on hiking clothes. Pack the tent. Check the map on the FarOut app for the proposed end point for the day, possible points for breaks and other highlights, and the location of water sources. Summer being almost over, this is done with my headlamp on.

6:30 a.m.: quick stretches, turn on my Garmin Inreach (tracking beacon), start of the hike.

After 1 hour: brief stop, drink water, check map.

After 2 hours: more substantial shutdown. Take off your bag, eat food, drink water, check the map. Currently in rotation for snacks (I have lots of snacks throughout the day, rather than lunch and small snacks): Clif bars, Luna bars, Metrx bars, Pro bars, Cashews, Butter m&ms peanut, peanut butter cookies.

Sometimes I move the time of my breaks to enjoy a nice view or to take a break in a refuge. Otherwise, I alternate the above breaks throughout the day while hiking.

Once in a while I listen to music or a podcast, especially if I’m having a rough day. Otherwise, I just let my mind wander in nature.

Between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.: return to the campsite/refuge. I like to be done by 6 p.m., so I have a few hours of free time to let my muscles relax before bed.

At camp: Take a protein bar and an electrolyte drink. Set up a tent if you are tenting or set up an air mattress if you are sleeping in a shelter. Put on camp clothes after a “wash” with wet wipes. Prepare and eat dinner (currently in rotation: freeze-dried meals, macaroni and cheese, ramen, instant mashed potatoes, flavored rice and salami). Hang the bear bag an appropriate distance from my tent or place it in a bear box, if available. Make a daily entry in your journal, read a little, then sleep (usually around 8-8:30 p.m.).

It’s definitely a simple life on the track. I guess for many people the day above seems pretty boring, but I appreciate the simplicity and beauty of life on the trails.

Onward to more adventures!

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About Robert James

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