One of the ways I get prepared for something epic like hiking the Appalachian Trail or starting a business is to gorge myself on every shred of information I can find.
I take classes.
I give the internet a reason to exist.
Here are a few things I've found particularly genius this week:
1. Put your camera some place accessible and carry it EVERYWHERE.
Take it to the privvy, down to the stream when you're going to collect water, even into the grocery store when you resupply. The moment you don't have it is the moment a moose comes nosing around.
You can get pouches like this that attach to your shoulder strap so your camera is right where you need it and where you'll use it.
2. Exchange cameras with another hiker when you're doing something challenging or fun.
Going through Mahoosuc Notch, fording a river or climbing up (or, even better, down) the Webster Cliffs--things could get memorable here or anywhere along the trail. Getting pictures of yourself along the trail will enhance your walks down memory lane later.
3. Things to put in your bounce box:
- Extra ziplock bags.
- Town clothes--so you don't have to do laundry wearing a sleeping bag or a loin cloth.
- Extra earplugs
- Your favorite shampoo, conditioner, essential oils.
- Extra journals, if you have a favorite.
- Extra Thru-Hiker Foot Balm
Speaking of journals...
4. Keep your journal handy all the time, too.
Even if you don't think of yourself as a writer, write it down. Write often. Write bullet points of the day's highlights--where you slept, who you met, how you felt, things that happened, how many miles you hiked.
5. Connect with people before you start.
Start getting to know your fellow thru-hikers now. Trail Journals lets you see when and where people are starting. Get to know them now so when you meet on the trail you'll be like old friends.
For mentors, look to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. They'll send you lists of people who've already done what you plan to do and who are willing to give back by sharing their knowledge with us wannabes. They even keep lists of specialty hikers--women, hikers over 50, hikers with dogs, ultralight hikers, LGBTQ hikers. You name it, you can find a mentor.
6. Hike Naked Day is an option.
It's also illegal, so keep that in mind when you decide to strip off your skivvies on Summer Solstice.
7. Downhill and Downstream
Not that you'll get lost in the woods, but it has been known to happen. If it happens to you, remember "downhill and downstream."
8. Never quit when it's raining or when you're going uphill.
9. Blisters are NOT a rite of passage.
Stop the second you feel ANYTHING weird going on with your feet, even if you're just 40 feet down the trail.
You won't want to take off your pack, your boots, your socks. You won't want to root around in your pack for bandaids and moleskin. But you'll be sorry soon enough if you don't.
Blisters don't have to happen. Seriously. They don't have to be an AT rite of passage.
To be really good to your feet, massage them at night with my Thru-Hiker Foot Balm. Happy feet/1
10. Start stretching now.
Whatever your training plan for getting ready for the trail, hips, calves and shoulders work better under trail conditions when they are loose and flexible.
Stretching and foam rolling are key long before your feet hit the dirt. And the rocks. And the mud. And the acorns.
Implement. (Here are some videos to get you started.)