Redtail's Rules of Thru-Hiking

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Thru-hiking really is its own little world. When you set foot on that trail at the border, you enter a zone where your expectations, by and large, need to be chucked out of the window. (Since you don't even have any windows out there, your vocabulary and idioms probably need an overhaul, too.)

I learned a lot of things while out on my thru-hike. The following is a list of nuggets of wisdom that I compiled over the course of the trip. Some are funny, some are sobering, but all of them try to condense down to a pearl of profundity one of the many adjusted expectations that helped me keep hiking with a smile on my face.

(To find out a little more about the background of each one, you can read the annotated version.)

The Rules

  1. (The Dead Man's Hill Rule): The worst is behind us! [Day -700]

  2. Any time someone quotes you a distance left to hike, double it. [Day 15]
    1. If you're "almost there," you're not. [Day 15]

  3. No amount of preparation, planning and diligence can substitute for pure dumb luck. [Day 19]

  4. The foot pain will be with you, always. [Day 26]

  5. Ten miles of hiking with one landmark is longer than twelve miles with three landmarks. [Day 27]
    1. Ten miles of crappy tread is longer than twelve miles of good tread. [Day 27]
    2. Ten miles of bushwhacking is longer than anything. [Day 27]
    3. ... Except for the ten-mile descent from Mather Pass. [Day 93]

  6. Cultivate kindness in the world; sometimes strangers are all that stand between you and nightmare. [Day 34]

  7. "Don't take life for granted." [Day 34]

  8. God, in His infinite wisdom and love, has put upon this green earth several million insects whose sole purpose in life is to kamikaze into your eyes, ears, nose or mouth. [Day 36]

  9. Redtail's Rule of Towns: Anyone you say "You probably recognized me as a hiker ..." to, didn't. But everyone else did. [Day 39]

  10. "I consider 'on time' to be when I get there." [Day 49]

  11. Dirt on your body grows exponentially based on proximity to ground. [Day 50]

  12. It's always darkest before the fireworks explode in your face. [Day 51]

  13. "Waterproof" means water-resistant. "Water-resistant" means nothing. [Day 63]

  14. Avoid those restaurant jelly packets. It never ends well. [Day 85]

More to come ...

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