Some of the greatest adventures in our lives begin with a question. We sense something missing in our lives and ask ourselves what it is. We feel a desire to head out of our comfort zone and ask ourselves why. We may even wonder why we are wondering why. SmartWool Fan Field Tester Maija Le had been asking herself some of those very questions. So she decided to push aside her fears and tackle the biggest challenge of her life: hiking the Appalachian Trail. Solo. With two dogs.
“Why do we hike? Why do we take time away from our ‘everyday lives’ to explore? Why do we tear ourselves away from the people we love? Why do we choose to challenge ourselves in such immense ways physically and mentally? Why do we throw ourselves into the middle of the unpredictable? Why do we make ourselves vulnerable to Mother Nature and all that she is? And why on earth would I see it as the most amazing opportunity I’ve ever given myself,” writes Maija.
The answers, she discovered, were as numerous as the questions. But what she’s discovered after several months on the trail is clear: a greater sense of self, an emerging confidence, an appreciation for nature, how to adjust your agenda while hiking with dogs and even what to do when you meet a rattlesnake.
Now with over a month of hiking under her belt, she’s realizing that every day is an opportunity to learn even more, and that learning starts even before you set out for the day. Some of the best lessons are learned through the mistakes you make on the trail. Mistakes like:
1. Underestimating the snap of a tent pole. If you are sleepy in the morning while taking down your tent, please remember the power behind those bad boys. Careless handling could result in a quick slap to the face, and I assure you that is no way to wake up.
2. Carrying only enough water until the next water source. Everyone will tell you this and you will still do it. There is even a page in AWOL’s guide that reminds you of it while out hiking. At some point you may find yourself waterless and far from the next source. When your dogs are looking at you like you’re about to win the worst dog parent ever award, remember you were warned by everyone. Lucky for me people are awesome and trail angels do exist.
3. Carrying way too much food. There is skill involved in resupplying most efficiently. When you reach your resupply location with a couple days of food remaining you will remember to never do it again. Food is heavy. Really really heavy. I would suggest eating a large meal before resupplying to help with this.
4. Not carrying enough food. Alternatively you may find yourself eating spoonfuls of peanut butter for dinner if you underestimate your increasing hiker appetite. Peanut butter is good, but not that good.