Monday, September 3, 2012

Post Thru Hike FAQ

Since being back, it has been so fun to talk to family and friends about our experiences.  My dear friend and former roommate Kori emailed me a list of questions and I've added some that we are frequently asked.  This would also be a great resource for future thru hikers- I loved reading stuff like this when I was preparing!

What was your favorite thing about the trail? In no particular order: the fun people we interacted with, TOWN, being outside all the time (except when it's bad weather...), trail magic, the hospitality of people in town and in hostels, and working on one singular goal every day. And the culture! I love love love the culture of the Appalachian Trail. I love how it brings all different types of people. I love how it makes people be a little kinder and a little more generous. I love that once you are a thru hiker or AT fan, you have an instant network and family.

What is your least favorite thing about thru hiking? Not being able to be clean.  It's amazing how quickly after a town day your clothes feel dirty again.  Five minutes after getting back on the trail fresh and dry, the feeling of sweat and humidity takes over and all cleanliness is lost.  The strong scent of laundry detergent will forever be one of my favorite smells because there is nothing better than opening your clothes bag to clean clothes. It only happens about once a week- because after one day, the clothes bag will never be the same. Also, day hikers smell really good

What did a typical dinner look like? The ones I read about on the blog were usually purchased in restaurants in towns, but what did you do in between? Our standard dinners: instant mashed potatoes packets (never got sick of them! Ever!), Kraft macaroni and cheese (no butter or milk, obviously, just noodles and the powder), pasta sides, dehydrated refried beans with rice and tortillas, cous cous, dehydrated soup or chili, anything else we could find that was "just add water".  Lunch: tuna packet (we tried to grab mayo packets from grocery stores so we could add that to tuna), crackers, tortillas with peanut butter and/or nutella, sometimes bagels, sometimes something like Chips Ahoy cookies, etc. Snacks: Chewy bars (dipped in peanut butter, sometimes), Nature Valley bars, cheese, and protein bars. So many protein bars. Clif bars, Powerbars in all their varieties, Luna bars, Zone Perfect bars, Balance bars. These are usually 200-300 calories and 10ish grams of protein. Oh, and breakfast was always 3 packets of oatmeal.  Unlike most thru hikers, we cooked every morning.

How much did you have to spend weekly for food?  Did you buy healthy fresh foods? Was it expensive? When researching for the hike, I read in a few places to budget for $10 per hiker per day. That sounds a little high, but not too far off. Thru hikers eat a lot! As much as I would love to pack fresher food, those items tend to not keep for more than a day and are too heavy.

This answer would be different if you spoke to someone who did mail drops. We purchased our food along the way, which I found to be a much more manageable plan.  I knew so many hikers who thought they would do mail drops the whole way and had to go out of their way to pick up packages only to have packed too much, too little, or had gotten sick of what they had packed. I would, however, recommend having someone at home who can mail you things as you need them. When my parents came to visit, they brought a  box of food we had bought in bulk as well as refills for our toiletries. They also sent us dehydrated refried beans periodically because we couldn't buy them in the store. We found that the resupply options in Maine were a lot more expensive because the area is more rural.  Buying food from general stores with prices 2 or 3 times more than normal is no fun. So other than Maine, grocery stores are readily accessible from the trail and offer everything you would need for a resupply.

Your hair is getting longer!! I liked watching it progress through the pictures. What are you going to do with it? Is Beau keeping his beard? It IS longer. When I got back, I got it cut to get the mullet look to go away, but I'm now growing it out. I do miss my short spiky hair! Beau is most definitely not keeping the beard. It is now back to a normal trimmed length. :)

One benefit to having short hair that I was not expecting was being able to manage it without conditioner.  Many of the places where we showered did not provide shampoo and I almost never had conditioner.  I washed my hair with hand soap, camp soap, and a couple times bar soap. That would have been terribly annoying to do so with long hair. I had a friend with long, thick, curly hair that carried a little bottle of conditioner for these occasions to keep her hair from becoming a rat's nest.

Meet any new life-long friends? Absolutely! Before Beau came on, I met a couple young solo female hikers that I stuck with.  We were also with some fun groups at random points in the trail and really enjoyed their company.  It's been fun, since we've been back, to friend other hikers on Facebook and share photos.  We will probably go to Trail Days next spring and hopefully catch up with a few of our favorite people.

What did you miss the most while you were on the trail, like food, home comforts, people, or activities? We really got our fill of what we craved while in town.  Almost every town had a full grocery store, so a lot of times instead of going to restaurants we would load up on stuff we normally don't get to eat, such as ice cream, yogurt, chocolate milk, chips and salsa, and fruit. I missed horses and running. Hiking with a pack is so cumbersome and I missed being able to run freely. Beau wanted to ride his bike. I also missed normalcy- having a routine of going running or to the gym, showering, running errands, etc. When we would see day hikers, I always thought to myself, "They get to go to their car in a few hours! And go home and shower and relax!"

Did you ever want to quit? Actually, no. I never considered it.  I had put too much into thru hiking that it never seemed worth it to me to end early.  There were plenty of days that I just didn't "feel like" hiking.  But aren't there lots of days where you just don't' "feel like" going to work?  It was always better at the end of the day when we had put in miles and felt good about our effort for the day than when he had to cut our miles short.

Beau would probably answer this question differently.  In the first couple of weeks, he had a hard time adjusting to life on the AT. Physically, he was new on the trail when everybody else had been hiking for a month.  Mentally, he had not conditioned himself to be prepared for day in and day out hiking. After just two weeks or so, he had figured himself out and was ready to rock and roll.

What's your next big adventure? And don't say getting jobs. What's your next exciting thing in life you're looking forward to? Getting jobs is an adventure! :) We certainly aren't planning another long hike.  Beau started school last week and I'm starting my job (still at Don's Johns, but this time in the accounting department) tomorrow. I am thinking I'll do a marathon next spring, and Beau would like to try to start enjoying running.  We feel like we have always been in a state of transition ever since we got married.  Maybe one day we will be able to have a normal life and normal routine. But it's fun to be able to pick up and do whatever we want. 


  1. great post! while i don't ever plan on doing the hike ever, i liked reading about the little things you had to deal with. like washing your hair with hand soap.

  2. great answers!! seriously, you're my hero - way to get it done!!