View Full Version : Your perfect balance between speed and smelling the roses.

09-19-2013, 17:06
I've always been fascinated by the challenge of covering high mileage in the shortest possible time. But as I get older I find I'm increasingly drawn to a more balanced experience which still includes challenging daily mileage as well as a bit of "down time". With that in mind I would like to know what each of you feels your personal optimum daily average would be for a challenging thru-hike which still allows for great evenings with good friends and time to enjoy the experience. We all hike or own hike, just curious.

My personal goal with the above criteria in mind would be between 100 and 110 days, fast enough to be a real challenge for me while still allowing for good times...:)

09-20-2013, 07:12
It will all depend on what what formula for enjoyment is. I have found that limit between enjoyment and work to be at about 35 miles per day sustained on Western Trails. I would expect that limit to drop to a 30 mpd average on the AT after which there would be too many trade offs.

09-20-2013, 08:50
One big issue on the AT, is that at that speed you won't have a "trail family". You'll be hiking alone or with one or two other similar-paced people. If that affects your enjoyment, it could be a big deal.

I hiked the AT in 106 days and was lucky to have a great partner on the hike. We enjoyed the trip tremendously, and never had even a single bad day. We met hiking the PCT and hiked the CDT together before tackling the AT. We actually increased our daily mileage on the AT. We never pushed the mileage or rushed through a day--it was just the natural pace we'd developed over the years.

A few advantages we saw to our faster pace were 1) saving money, 2) we "beat the heat" of the mid-Atlantic summer, 3) we skipped a lot of towns and therefore had a bit more of a wild experience.

The social aspect was still there--we met so many wonderful folks--but we never actually hiked with anyone for more than a few hours, or camped with anyone for two nights in a row.

There was plenty of "down time" at that pace. A 20 mile per day pace means about 10 hours of hiking and that leaves several hours of daylight on average for doing nothing at all or whatever you like--reading, contemplating a stream or your navel, etc.

09-20-2013, 12:37
Your perfect balance between speed and smelling the rosesFOR ME, it depends on lots of things and it seems like it somewhat changes regularly. I guess it partly depends on how beautiful and fragrant the roses are and how open I am to noticing that.

You may simply be fielding opinions on what others do but I'll add this. Decent question but no right or wrong textbook universal answer which IMO too many people seek. They want to be told and convinced of what to do what is right what is acceptable what to believe. And, there are many people always lining up to do that exact thing for them to influence them. Backpacking tends to be an activity that requires a good amount of independent thought, individualistic approaches, self reliance, and consequently taking responsibility for those actions; IMO, this is at the core of HYOH. Yet, some aspiring hikers haven't realized this yet. They are still seeking a guideline/plan/philosophy/process/method/etc telling them what to do this is how it's done. You have to be responsible enough to find your own way and with the consequences of those decisions.

09-20-2013, 18:37
I'LL BITE !!... Mind you this is coming from a lowly section hiker who sometimes hikes with numerous hiker buddies, so my "perfect balance" isn't so perfect when not hiking alone... and not my pace Although, I must say I would never be confused as a speed hiker, quite possibly a tireless hiker--but not a speed hiker. As with everything hiking, it depends on many different things such as the terrain I'm hiking , BORING surroundings is a sure fire way for me to hike with a more determined effort to just keep going till either something catches my eye or the inevitable water break is needed. If the scenery is one that captures natures awesome beauty then I will stop , snap a few pictures and may even decide it's a great place to have lunch, a little R&R with a snack break or make some excuse internally for seeking a respite. Tough elevation gains will slow me down , but as anyone who has ever hiked with me knows I hate to stop while ascending as I get into a good upward rhythm . Two miles an hour is my"steady as she goes" with an occasional gitty up in my step when I feel like my former young self , until my hike takes me to an overlook with views , anything picturesque that BECKONS for me to stop and take notice. Whatever others may suggest is the RIGHT way to hike , HYOH and stop and smell the roses when my beckon to be noticed...unless thats not your thing , then keep going .

09-20-2013, 20:37
balance in all things.the answer is unique to the individual and the experience.
for me it was hiking 20+ miles one day and 5 or 6 another. stopping once or twice during the day, or stopping every half hour or so,
every day different, open to whatever the trail gave me that day.
but im a section hiker with the luxury of not always having a definite time frame and distance to walk within that time frame.
without a time constraint, i feel no urgency to maintain a given daily pace. i plan my hikes with early exit options, should i decide to smell the roses a bit more.

09-20-2013, 20:38
17 miles is my goal

Wise Old Owl
09-20-2013, 20:41
You are from Florida right? pause for the
Mint julep (http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&ved=0CDcQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fen.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FMint_ju lep&ei=Ius8UtHCF_L_4AOdmID4Bg&usg=AFQjCNHk-wRC_c3mJZsQBSexZJSCAZAlzw&sig2=h7U3hOJeQYXLaO4SELJC6A&bvm=bv.52434380,d.dmg)

09-20-2013, 21:44
Some days you feel like walking a lot, some days you don't. It all depends. Weather is a big factor, terrain for sure. Just go with a pace your body is happy with and varry it as the current situation warrents. As I get older, I've learned not to try and keep up with the youngsters.

Wise Old Owl
09-20-2013, 21:46
ahh Almond Joy...

map man
09-21-2013, 10:10
With the shape I am in now I would shoot for a SOBO 130-140. Starting at 15 miles per day and gradually increasing that to 20 miles per day once out of Maine and New Hampshire -- a zero day thrown in every two or three weeks. Start on the Summer Solstice at Katahdin and finish the first week in November at Springer. 4.5 months would certainly not be a speed hike but would be quicker than most.

09-21-2013, 12:43
8-10 mpd is my average pace.

09-21-2013, 14:34
18MPD minimum in the south.

09-21-2013, 17:43
For me, a lot of it depends on day length. I'm not a fan of night hiking. I prefer to pack up in daylight, and to set up at night long enough before dark to find the water source, etc. Within those parameters, I'm good for hiking most of the day. Breaks are usually ten-fifteen minutes. If I loaf around for too long, I'm not inclined to get moving again. How far I can get in eight or nine hours depends on the difficulty of the terrain and my hiking fitness.

09-21-2013, 20:22
As others have said...depends on a few factors, but for me, generally speaking and when in decent trail shape...22-25 miles per day is about right, on 6 days of the week.

As for 'smelling the roses'...I think this is a myth, this usually means sitting in shelters for 5 hours waiting for it to get dark, or drinking in trail towns for 2-3 days (I've done plenty of both).

I find it amazing how many people claim how much they like to hike, but then at the same time criticise those who hike longer distances...for me the best thing about hiking is the 'hiking' part, I like to camp but I don't love it, but I love to hike.

09-24-2013, 06:21
You are correct, I was simply fielding opinions on the title subject.

09-24-2013, 08:01
...I find it amazing how many people claim how much they like to hike, but then at the same time criticise those who hike longer distances...

Yes, this is probably universally true. No matter your pace, anyone who hikes faster than you is not "smelling the roses", and anyone who hikes slower than you is not worthy of kissing your trail runners.

09-24-2013, 08:35
I sectioned the AT but have done a five week section previously so take this for whats its worth

I am a morning person and tend to get up and on the trail near sunrise. I can get a lot of hours of hiking in every day as long as I take a short break every hour. In the AM its easy to skip break but I find that it does make a difference. I usually set a daily goal for that nights campsite and also set a "stretch goal". If I hit my goal and not in the mood to hike, I call it quits but usually end up going for my stretch goal which is usually a couple of hours more hiking. Setting a primary and secondary goal is also good motivation on a rainy day.

I really dont look at miles as much as hours of hiking as the terrain varies so much. I find that setting a reasonable consistent pace and just hiking for longer hours per day ends up being the best way to cover overall miles. Generally on the days that I push too hard, I find that whatever I gained that day, I lose in the next day or so.

evyck da fleet
09-27-2013, 00:19
For me it wasn't about speed as much as endurance. Once I got my trail legs the key was to get up at dawn and hike until about an hour before sunset which left me time to socialize near the shelter before setting up my tent. I stopped to take a ton of pictures so I could smell the roses during and after my hike and selected my lunch and break spots based on where I wanted to stop at instead of a certain time. I also took lots of zeros(22 in 19 weeks) which allowed people I met and passed to catch up with me on my off days and gave me a chance to catch up to other people I met coming into town as they were leaving once I was back on trail.

09-27-2013, 09:21
Start early, end late, and at least in the summer you can get 25-30 miles in easily while still relaxing for breaks, vistas, lunch, etc. I hate camping, but love hiking, so this works well for me. :)

09-27-2013, 09:43
A twenty mile day is not much of a challenge for a well prepared backpacker, even at my age, which is 58. That being said, averaging 20 mpd, on a through hike is another thing altogether. Rain, injuries, boredom, temptations of towns, zeroes, neros, etc will vary widely from person to person. As a section hiker, I speak from limited experience, but my expectation for an enjoyable thru hike would be, much like yours, around 110 days. It would be challenging, by design, which would help to make it enjoyable.

10-02-2013, 09:49
I've always said that if I was a Vegas oddsmaker I would put my over/under at 99 days. I never hike fast (rarely ever hit 3 MPH) so I feel like I can "smell the roses" as I'm on the move. I also take lots of pictures so I stop frequently. Rolling into a shelter at 3 PM is NOT smelling the roses. You might be smelling something but it's not roses.

10-02-2013, 10:53
The answer kind of lies in what is your particular state of mind and/or physical condition each day on the trail. How well rested are you? How well hydrated are you? How do you feel that day? Tired? 110% good to go? Do you need to resupply that day? Trail condition & difficulty that day? Weather that day? Lots of factors involved. Some days I feel like pushing longer miles if it is a section of trail that I feel I just need to do the miles, no particular good views along that section.... some days I feel like stopping more for breaks, for views, to b.s. with other hikers I meet along the trail. Being from Florida, each AT or LT hike I do is a rare treat, not something I can just jump in the car and drive an hour to a trailhead for a dayhike. Each trip involves a certain degree of logistics and transportation planning, and not something I take for granted. I view my time on each AT or LT hike as a gift, and I don't try to rush it or waste it. I don't worry any more about trying to set trail age group speed records, it's too valuable a time to rush thru it. If I had rushed my LT hike this year, I would have missed out on so many really cool experiences along the way. But HYOH. The trails here near me that I hike often like the Fla Trail over in Torreya State Park I've hiked dozens of times, and now it's like a training hike, I set my stop watch and go for it. I can understand why some AT hikers would do the same if they are used to hiking the same sections over and over. HYOH and have fun.

10-03-2013, 09:36
"My 2 cents" on a question with no concrete formulaic answer: PERSPECTIVE IS EVERYTHING. Get from the trail what you seek. Note the above answers where folks views on the above issue have changed with experience and age. What a young person wants is not what an older might and weather, daylight, goal for total mileage in said amount of time vary. If I could come up with an answer - the closest would be Benton Mackaye's quote. He was concerned with the "alpha" / "goal driven" American mindset - that we would think of the trail as something to "conquer" and be more concerned with mileage than experiencing the trail. He wanted folks to "see the trail, and SEE what you see". Can you "see" it in a 35 mile per day glance? Some can - some cannot - and where and when you're on the trail matters. Not as much to see in the "green tunnel" than at other times :)

Just Bill
10-07-2013, 22:04
Fast enough to make it fun, slow enough to keep it that way.

Another Kevin
10-08-2013, 00:14
On my last hike, I found myself regretting that I'd done a couple of stretches way too fast. They were nice flat sections and I just motored through them. But these nice flat sections were up in the balsam forest, and I didn't linger to savor the fragrance of the balsam, search for late-season berries, or listen for the song of the thrushes. So most of the time of the hike was spent in the grubby rock scrambles where I can't go fast.

But that's uncharacteristic for me. My usual hiking speed is 'snail.' Even the 'too fast' bits were probably no faster than 'tortoise.' (I made only about eight miles that day. In my defense, there were also about 3500 feet of elevation gained and lost again, and a lot of the elevation change was in hands-and-feet scrambling. Think eight miles of New Hampshire or Maine, not eight miles of Maryland.)

10-17-2013, 13:33
Thanks for the input from everyone. It's a tough subject because the answer isn't objective, but there was some good insightful information and it's appreciated.

10-17-2013, 14:45
The optimum pace gets slower as you age, partly for obvious physical reasons and partly because the mature mind becomes more contemplative.

10-17-2013, 21:34
What I like most about your thread Engine is that you phrased your question in way that doesn't make one decide as if it's an either/or question. You see it as a balance. You can be a speed hiker and still experience smelling the roses! Nice job!