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Suggestions for Senior Thru Hikers

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Quote Originally Posted by Coosa View Post
What I've learned as a Senior Citizen as I prepare for a Pre-Thru Hike ... hiking the North Half of the AT starting next month ...

1- Get your physical and talk to your doctor ... and a Sports Medicine Doctor like I have will do what he must to keep me active ... IE ... Steroid/Novocaine shots in my knees ... After I hike this 'half-a-Thru' he's talking about a referral to an Orthopedist and getting shots that will replace the meniscus missing in my knees. I have arthritis in my knees and my lower back.

2- Carry Giardia meds and hope you don't need them. Carry a Lyme Aid Kit ... you mail the removed tick and a fee in and within 3 business days know if you have Lyme Disease. Even take something for constipation, just in case.

3- Take a vitamin supplement. [I'm also taking 50 mg B-1 daily to keep bugs at bay.] Eat your greens when you go into Restaurants. Get enough protein. Using a protein drink before bedtime is a good idea ... 30 grams of protein is optimal for muscle recovery.

4- Do research on foods high in calories and low in weight so that when your Hiker Hunger kicks in you'll know how to carry the most calories for the least weight.

5- Don't get stressed when reading trail journals ... It's really easy to get panicked when you read about the house and car sized boulders slick from rain and snow in Maine ... and 18" of snow ... Retrain yourself to focus on a simple single goal at the end of the day ... don't dwell too much on the 'big picture' until you get to Baxter State Park.

6- Make a conservative schedule and be prepared to be flexible. If you need a Zero Day or a Nero Day and it's not scheduled ... take it ... If you're feeling super and have the time to make it to the next campsite/shelter ... go for it. Throw out the schedule ... it's for your resupply person, anyway. This is your hike. You are in charge. There's no time table other than getting to Baxter State Park before it closes. IF you find you're going to run out of time ... or IF it's just too hot or humid where you are ... there's nothing 'wrong' about Flip Flopping. Shuttle to Baxter State Park, hike Katahdin and then hike South to where you got off. It's your own hike, after all.

7- Know that you will be hiking 3 to 5 day hikes interspersed with resupply points ... be they groceries or mail drops ... and you can thru hike with a minimum of mail drops if you so desire. You're not expected to carry enough food and water for all 2200 miles. You'll be near 'civilization' for most of the hike.

8- You actually can avoid expensive town stays with some planning ... stealth camping or campsite just before a Trail Town, going in for laundry, shower, resupply ... and hiking out to next campsite or stealth camping. There are places where you can shower for a small fee. You can take a Nero day and do your laundry LNT style while on the Trail. Or use an inexpensive campground and take Zero to do your laundry there. [WhiteBlaze has articles that may be helpful with Hike Planning.]

9- I took a tip from Warren Doyle and started hiking with a full pack ... slowly at first ... 3 miles three times a week and he suggests 5 miles one weekend day. Then adding 2 miles every two weeks. You can be 'in good trail shape' within 10-12 weeks. And it doesn't have to be hiking up and down mountains. You're trying to get your body prepared for carrying your pack ... it's pretty much in the legs ... not injure yourself before your hike.

10- Use Poles ... Youtube has videos on how to correctly use trekking poles.

11- If you have a smart phone, use Google Drive to create off-line files you can refer to. I've got my schedule, my list of resupply points, list of rates for Hostels, list of stealth camps in Maine, list of high calorie/lightweight foods I like and know I'll eat, list of shuttles, and AWOL's AT Guide on mine. [The ALDHA Companion can be downloaded to your Smart phone too]

12- Know that there have been countless others who are older than you and not in the best physical shape who have Thru Hiked and made it all the way ... even with those huge boulders in Maine and Presidential Mountains in NH, and rocks [I hear it's not that bad, just tread carefully] in PA. If they can do it, so can you. And remember the Tortoise and the Hare? It's okay to hike your own personal pace. It's not a race. Make your hike enjoyable. Make it personal, make it yours. You're not competing with anyone else. Unlike the 'real' world, the AT is not a competition.

“Why, an Indian would die laughing his head off if he saw the Trail. I would have never started this trip if I had known how tough it was, but I couldn’t, and I wouldn’t, quit.”—Grandma Gatewood, 1955, on her first of three thru-hikes.

13- Make up a mantra that you'll use to pep yourself up when things get hard.
Hard climb: Wow, that was worth the view.
Hard downhill: Turn around and say Wow, I am a downhill hiking machine.
Day of rain: Ah, liquid sunshine. Think I'll do a 'spit bath' before bed.
More than one day of rain: Great, there will be water available at the springs.
A dry spell: Well at least I don't have sopping wet shoes to hike in.
Getting to a Road Crossing and Trail Town: Wow, that didn't take long.
..... You get the idea. While on the Trail, you'll come up with more of your own. Write them down in your journal ... who knows, they may turn into a poem or a song.

14- Expect hard days. Expect awesome days. Write about the Awesome Days in great detail. Write about the hard days briefly so you don't dwell on them.

15- There will be days when you think you want to quit ... when you 'know' you want to quit. I had one of those in 2009 and I regret quitting. If I knew then what I know now, I would have take a Zero day or two to recuperate and more than likely completed that 500 mile section hike. I had pushed myself ... still too goal oriented I had made my hike a competition ... and I was exhausted. I nearly broke my leg and with my 'all or nothing at all' personality, I talked myself off the Trail.

16- There is an excellent book entitled Appalachian Trials Zach Davis which talks about the trials and the mental preparation for a Thru Hike. I recommend it for your Library. Blog Here Zach's personal Blog here

17- Do your "lightweight" gear research before you buy your gear so you don't spend money replacing gear.

18- Practice your night time and morning ritual before you get on the Trail. Learn how to put up and take down your tarp, tent, hammock in the rain and in the dark. Learn your knots. Practice your breakfast and dinner rituals. DO NOT go to bed without eating something ... that's why I have my protein drink. No matter how tired I am, I can mix it with water and gulp it down.

19- Go as lightweight as your comfortable with. Remember that it's your fears that cause you to carry too much weight on your back. At the same time, be sensible and carry what you need. Use your mail drops to mail yourself cold weather clothing and be willing to use a Bump Box for items you don't need 'now' or mail back to your resupply person any clothing or gear you know you won't need.

20- Plan to replace some items ... shoes wear out, insoles wear out. Put it in your budget. Send your shoes back to Mountain Crossings for their collection or to some other place which collects old shoes.

21- ENJOY YOURSELF. Through it all ... have a good time. You'll undergo great emotions on this hike. Live in the present. Laugh when you're happy, cry when you're overcome with beauty beyond your comprehension, overcome your fears, gain new insights, get wet, get cold, get sore feet, know that you'll hurt at the end of the day and sometimes when you get up in the morning, be spontaneous. But most of all, enjoy yourself.

These were written as a post for other Senior Hikers as much as for me. Especially number 21.


Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.