A lot of people often asked us what a typical day was like for us, and while it did change somewhat over time, we basically kept our routine the same for the whole trail. Our goal was to always stay consistent, so that we never HAD to do big mileage days to make up for not being consistent. We were never overly worn out, as we just kept it steady eddy, and if we were really tired, there was always a flat, shady spot along the way to afford us a nap.
We usually woke up to my watch alarm, just because if we didn’t use an alarm, I’m not sure if we would have ever woken up in time to get in any good miles before the heat of the day (a HUGE factor for most of California and some of Oregon). The sun dictated to some extent when we got up, but on average it was around 5:30 to 6:00am, which at this point just sounds nuts to get up that early. But it was pretty easy to get up that early when the sun is coming up and you don’t have curtains/blinds to close on your tent to keep the sun out. And our favorite time of hiking was from 6-10am, as it was calm, cool in temps, beautiful, less crowded (especially when we were near towns or trail access points), and just a great time to hike for us.
We got pretty efficient at getting ready in the morning, and it usually took us 25 minutes from the time we got up to when we were hiking. We’d eat a clif bar or such just to tide us over until our first snack break, which was always much awaited.
We got a bit made fun of by No Car for our method of hiking, as we hiked in “shifts”, anywhere from an hour and a half to two and a half hours, depending on how heavy our packs were. We’d take snack breaks for about 15-20 minutes (I’d time them of course), and then around 10-11am, we’d eat a huge carbo-load meal of pasta and take an hour break. We’d cook about a pound of pasta, and then flavor it with our spice kit and parmesan cheese. We found that we needed the most calories in the morning in order to load up for the rest of the miles for the day. This meal would last me for a good 12 miles until I needed another snack.
After the lunch break we’d hike a few more shifts, with snack/pack breaks sprinkled in, and simply hike until around 7:30-8:00, or basically sunset, until we found a flat spot that either had water or to which we’d carry water.
That was our day…pretty simple and full of just walking and eating. We didn’t like to pick exactly where our destination was each day, as it varied depending on how we felt, what the terrain was like, where the water was…it wasn’t until about 4:00 when we knew about how many more miles we’d get in for the day, and if we should shoot for a data point in the book that said it had water. It was all about the water on where we finished, as it meant we didn’t have to carry water for that night and the next morning. Amazing how something so simple as water really dictated where we slept, ate, and what miles we walked.
Once we picked a flat spot around sunset, or made it to our destination for the day, I’d set up the tent while Optimist cooked dinner (Mac&Cheese, beans and rice, lipton noodles…), and within an hour of finishing, we would eat, have our “home” set up, have water ready for the next day, and would already be in our sleeping bags, ready to call it a day and let our tired bodies rest up for the next day’s hike.
We didn’t have this typical day the entire trail, as in the beginning we ate breakfast first thing before hiking (Ramen noodles, or noodle bricks as No Car termed them). But over time, as we got more efficient with our time, hiked more miles, figured out our food resupplies…we got it down to a good routine where we could easily cover 25-30 miles a day, still have breaks and cook twice a day, finish before dark, and still have some down time before falling asleep.
Though it sounds like we had quite a structured, rigorous schedule, we often went by how we felt, as we never really had a deadline of when we had to finish the trail. It wasn’t until the last 10 days that we had to hike a certain mileage each day, as we bought plane tickets home from Seattle. Walking in shifts helped me mentally break up the miles, and really helped me get through the miles when I just plain old didn’t feel like walking. But when things happened by chance, like people offering up a cabin for us to stay in on Hyatt Lake in Oregon, we weren’t about to turn down the cabin and say, “Sorry, I’ve got two more shifts to put in before I can be finished for the day.”
To sum it up, I’d say our days were typical because we stayed consistent in the daily effort we’d put forth, yet they were never typical, because we were always seeing new things, meeting new people, and leaving the day to chance for every new experience that came our way.