Day 48. Today was a pretty standard day, so I’m going to write about something a little different that seems relevant now that I am in my groove and hiking on my own terms everyday. Since today felt pretty average, putting in 20+ miles and a couple side adventures, I thought I would describe my daily routine. A Hello Neiman / Sharkbait “day in the life” if you will …
6:00am – Wake up from the sounds of other hikers packing up. These are the “early bird hikers”, but I’m not one of them, so go back to sleep.
7:30am – After a few more bouts of sleeping / waking, I give in to morning and get out of bed. Most nights are spent in the hammock, so the first thing I do is break down camp. I like to have my quilts, tarp, and hammock all packed up so everything is in its stuff sack before breakfast. This makes it easier to pack and go right after eating.
8:00am – Breakfast time. I untie my bear bag from the nearby tree and pull out the gallon ziplock bag of one day’s neatly organized rations. I setup my stove and boil 2 cups of water for coffee, then nosh on my pop-tarts, cereal bars, or other cold breakfast foods while sipping coffee to wake me up.
8:30am – Typically the coffee has worked its other magic by this time, allowing me to do the day’s business at the shelter’s privy (better than a hole in the woods later).
9:00am – After reviewing the day’s itinerary, end-goal, and side adventures for the day in my Guthooks App and AWOL Guidebook, I set out on the AT. I like to have a general idea of where I’ll stop for water, lunch, etc. so I’m not pulling my phone out every mile on the trail.
9:30am – Hopefully I have phone service, as I try to call my wife on her way to work each morning. Being on the west coast and working late hours, it’s pretty much the only time that works for both of us. I try to check in everyday if I can, and like to hear what is going on back home.
10:00am – About an hour into the day’s hike, I start snacking. I pack 3 snacks in my backpack’s side pocket so I can grab and eat without stopping. Candy bars, trail mix, and dried fruit typically make up the morning snacks. I have about one per hour, until lunch. After each snack, I can physically feel the momentary rush of energy in my feet. That’s pretty neat.
11:00pm – By now I’ve probably drank all my water (I only carry 2 small 700ml bottles now), and fill up at the next stream I see. I like to have full bottles going into lunch, and get a bit anxious when they are both empty. This is silly though, as I pass creeks and streams about a dozen times a day. There is never a shortage of available water to fill, but your mind doesn’t always believe it. Since my water purification is treating with Aqua Mira drops (chlorine solution), I need to wait 5 minutes between mixing the solution and pouring it in my bottle. I use this excuse to take off my pack and have a mini break while eating a snack.
1:00pm – Lunch time. I try to time it so I can eat lunch at a major landmark. Either a shelter with a picnic table, a mountain summit with logs to sit on, or a waterfall if I’m lucky. Most days, one of these is readily available. Lunch is typically tortillas with filling. Either meat, cheese, tuna, or peanut butter. I also have something salty/savory, and fruity. Goldfish crackers and fruit snacks seem to be common these days. I typically see another hiker to have lunch with, but not always.
3:00pm – Its about now that the energy from lunch wears off. I’ve hiked between 10 and 15 miles and fatigue is starting to set in for the day as well. I typically turn to upbeat music or my book on tape to get me through the last few hours.
5:00pm – There is always some major landmark I’m looking forward to each day. Part of the morning’s planning is to pick it out. Let’s just assume this is the time I see it, even though we know that’s not always the case. It can be a lake, river, summit, unique view … or the past two days, a roadside market/grill. It’s easy to pass these things up, as they are usually a side trail and cut into your official mileage for the day, but they are worth the stop. I’ll take a break and eat my afternoon snack (energy bar), while taking in the views around me.
6:30pm – About the time I have a mile left to the shelter. This is the LONGEST mile of the day. It never fails, like a watched pot trying to boil, every minute ticks by slowly and the end never seems to come. I’ll also fill up water too, as I like to go into dinner with full bottles.
7:00pm – My destination is finally reached! I stroll into the shelter or campsite area and immediately setup my hammock. They say you should eat first, but I don’t want to lose a good camp spot to whoever arrives next. If the weather is rain or snow, I’ll opt to sleep in the shelter, but I never like that decision as I sleep very poorly (if at all).
7:30pm – Dinner time. Most of the hikers are done with dinner and laying in bed by now, so I quietly boil my water. Earlier on, people stayed up late chatting, but it seems less and less so as the days pass by. Dinner is a big meal for me, comprised of noodles, rice, or beans. The dinners I send in my resupply boxes are quite gourmet, compared to the instant potatoes or ramen you typically see. I’m super thankful to the people at MRE Depot for sponsoring my mealplan with their freeze dried meats, as eating dinner is the highlight of my day. I’ll admit, I like the jealous stares I sometimes get from others, and will often share or trade a dinner with anyone who inquires about it.
8:00pm – After cleaning up dinner, I repack my food bag and hang it in a tree. There used to be bear cables at shelters, but I haven’t really seen many since the Smokies. This is probably why most other hikers stop hanging their food around this point in their thruhike. On really rainy/snowy days, I’ve been lazy, but 9 times out of 10, I hang it.
8:15pm – After dinner, I brush my teeth, change in to sleep clothes, and crawl into bed. Hopefully in my hammock, but on rainy/snowy days … you get the idea. Have I mentioned lately that there have been WAY too many snowy days?!
8:30pm – On some nights, we build a fire. About once a week these days, which is typically when the inhabitants of the shelter are friends or it’s an especially cold night. I like the campfire days, but it can be tiresome too, as I’m exhausted from the day. With or without a fire, it’s considered “hiker midnight” as soon as it gets dark, so anything done now is done quietly.
8:45pm – Whether around the campfire, or in my bed, I write my day’s blog. It doesn’t take long, about 30 minutes or so. Most of us write in a journal, read a book, or do other things on our phones to unwind around the same time. On warmer nights, if the trees allow visibility, I like to stargaze a bit too. I’ve loved that part of camping all my life and rarely miss a good chance to stare at the night’s sky in awe. All in all, this is a collective personal quiet time for everyone.
9:30pm – By now I am in bed and hopefully asleep. Before passing out, I’ll do some foot and toe stretches, then message with friends and family if there is service. After passing out, I’ll wake up once or twice during the night, but less so if in my hammock. It’s usually a pretty restful sleep, and then I’m ready to go again in the morning!
Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!
- Start Mile: 593.4
- Start Time: 09:30
- End Mile: 617.6
- End Time: 19:15
- Miles Hiked: 24.2
- Miles to Go: 1573.3
- Lodging: Wapita Shelter