Original posted on The Trek May 13, 2017
When you remove yourself from society and throw yourself in the wilderness for 6 months or so to attempt a thru hike, a lot goes out the window. This includes:
- Standard Hygiene – Unless you lug around heavy baby wipes and deodorant, embrace every water source, or unless your sweat smells like rosewater (Let me in on your wizardry, por favor).
- Beds – Unless you have the heaviest, largest air mat that could hold two of all nature’s creatures in a great flood.
- TV/Movies/Internet – Unless you’re one of those people investing extra money to enjoy such privileges. If you are, screw you. Just kidding! Can I join you in your tent to watch the new “Orange is the New Black” when it comes out?
- Fine Dining – Unless you are a master forest chef who should stop being so selfish and cook me some food too, because I’m stoveless and I’m secretly dying inside. Or if you’re like me, and are too broke to afford fine dining in the first place.
This is just a small list of what you miss out on, therefore, conversations are limited to few else.
Now this is a topic that rolls strong with the punches in the beginning, then slowly gets winded and out of breath, only to be revisited when you run into section hikers and flip floppers who are just getting started on their journeys. I’m not a gear head, so whenever I’m asked about my gear in general, I barely can remember its full name, let alone how many ounces it is, or what material it’s made of. However, most people can’t stop talking about how many pockets their pack has, how lightweight their tarp tent is, how many holes their sleep mat has accumulated, how I should be using Guthooks instead of AWOL’s guide, or how tiny my pack is (it’s quite impressive how tiny my pack is, I must say). There’s also the many shakedowns that occur in the beginning until everyone has left the realm of 38-50 lbs. where they stop resembling pack mules and look more like experienced hikers.
Once that hiker hunger kicks in, gear loses its flavor and you start craving actual flavor (because trail mix, Ramen and tuna ain’t cutting it)! You dream about all the options you have in town. How many tacos you’re going to eat. How you can eat a whole large pizza to yourself (cross that, make it 3 pizzas). How you’re going to put that Chinese buffet out of business. Once you get there, you see the waitress carry off someone else’s unfinished plate and have to stop yourself from waving her down to let you finish it (or you beat her to it). You haven’t eaten fast food in 7 years, but you give in, because you earned those 2 Big Macs, 2 large fries, 20 McNuggets, 3 McDoubles, and a McFlurry. You see a half-eaten donut on the ground or laying on the top of a trash bin and don’t hesitate. You don’t recognize yourself anymore.
#3 THEIR PHYSICAL CONDITION
Every day hurts. You adjust, but you wear your battle scars like badges of honor. Blisters are popped and counted. You share how you failed to catch yourself with your trekking poles 3 times in that rocky area and show off your scraps and bruises. Knee braces are purchased. Moleskin and bandage tape is exchanged. You also start to become very fascinated with your transition since leaving society. Guys compare beard hair, girls compare leg hair. It is debated who is the stinkiest. If you can’t tell, then it’s probably you, by the way. You can’t tell tan lines from dirt lines because it doesn’t seem to wash off. You share with your new friends that you have had a bad case of diarrhea and aren’t sure if it’s Noro or Pabst Blue Ribbon mud butt (hint, hint: it’s the PBR). Over time, you’re stunned at how much weight you’ve lost, because you can’t seem to stop eating everything in your food bag out of boredom (plus, you’re unreasonably hungry). You look like a greasy vagrant and you couldn’t be more proud.
- Miles – The most they’ve done. The least they’ve done. How many they plan to do. How many you should be doing (hike your own hike, pal)!
- Terrain – False summits, the rocks, the lack of rocks, the climbs, how much downhills suck, how much uphills suck.
- Weather – How sh*tty it is out. how beautiful it is out.
- Beer – Do I really have to delve into this one?
- Wildlife – Bear encounters. Snake encounters. How many gnats have Kamikaze dived into your eyeball. How mosquitoes want to eat your face. How you woke up with a spider on your face and out of reflex, flung it across the shelter only for it to land on another sleeping hiker (this has happened to me 3 times, at least. I’m sorry, guys).
- Their Next Hike – “So… where is everyone headed next year?”