I wrote about the strong call of the wild sparking the need for a backpacking trip a few blog posts back, and now just over a month later I am less than fifty days before setting foot on the trail I chose to explore.
In realizing just how fast my next backpacking trip is coming up after I had decided that I “never wanted to go backpack again” and somewhat spontaneously decided to do this trip makes me a little nervous. Was there a particular reason I felt this way, or was that just the exhaustion and battered feet speaking? Am I going to somehow f— this trip up and want to go home early? Will I get eaten by wolves or have to fight off a bear? So many ‘what if’s?!’ playing through my mind trying to psych me out.
It’s not that I don’t doubt my ability, because I don’t think the distance is going to be an issue. It’s only 11km to the campsite, on a relatively flat trail winding through rainforest and beach. I’ve done this distance in a day with enough ups and downs, stretching what should have been 11km to 18.5 km after all was said and done. I just need to learn from my last backpacking trip and not make those same mistakes again to make life on the trail a little more enjoyable.
So what exactly were those mistakes?
I wasn’t mentally prepared for this at all. A backpacking trip with a 30 pound 65L bag (or however heavy my pack was) walking for hours on end isn’t exactly a walk in the park. You get tired faster, you get sore in places that have never hurt before, things start to chafe, you get scared, the weather changes, there are challenges, you get in your head and doubt yourself and your abilities and why you are out there.
I need to understand that while this may not be a technically difficult route, it is still going to pose a wide variety of challenges. This will be my longest backpacking trip so far (three days as opposed to one and a half) and I need to prepare for the worst and not let fatigue, fear or the challenges get the best of me.
UNDERESTIMATED THE TRAIL
I had thought that I researched my last backing trip thoroughly, but I read more trip recaps than studied detailed topo maps. Oops! The map that I had bought wasn’t the best for the hike either. I also missed reading about the opportunity of skipping many kilometers of pointless up and downs which would have saved my feet and a bunch of time! (Who knows, maybe I would have been able to make it if I took the flats instead!) I definitely took them on the way back once I realized that was a short cut!
This hike I am going on also has a shortcut, but can only be passed at low tide – I will need to learn about tide charts so I don’t get stuck somewhere at high tide (or worse, get swept out to the ocean). And if we get unlucky and have a rainy day, the forest will be slick and on the beaches we will be fully exposed to the elements. (I also need to see if I can track down where exactly the “warm springs” are!)
LACK OF PREP AND TRAINING
I had never wore my backpack before my trip other than fitting it at the shop (Just two and a half weeks before my trip) and as I was packing it up at home, never mind carried that much weight on my back before. (It was pretty much a Cheryl Strayed in Wild moment when she puts on her pack for the first time in the hotel). I usually just use a day pack with some camera gear, but that is about it, so this was a big change. Also, I never hiked up and down plenty of hills like this before – just relatively flat land or a steady incline. I should have ran stairs prior to this to get my feet and legs used to hills and inclines.
For my upcoming trip, I haven’t been training as hard as I should have been. I have gone on a couple hikes recently and will be doing a bunch more in the coming weeks. I also need to implement a post hike recovery plan so the next day isn’t so painful. Begrudgingly, (as I cannot stand doing nothing all day) I did plan our second day to be more of a chill day and just day hiking from our camp to help recovery and fatigue. (Hello hammock and ciders!)
I do also need to get some west coast specific gear (A breathable rain jacket and rain pants, dry bags, and a ultralight tarp) I LOVE a nice rainstorm when I can stay dry, so here is hoping we don’t get a downpour but if we do, I will be prepared. (Thought I was done with buying gear!)
I don’t really need to pack more than two pairs of clothes (I could probably do with one but just incase I get my outfit drenched, I would love to have dry clothes) so I need to be mindful that I am only packing the essentials even though I am bringing a few “luxury” items (a comfier pillow than my inflatable ultralight one, a hammock, and a couple of ciders to enjoy in the evening) that will take up precious real estate in my pack.
During the last backpacking trip, I brought breakfast, lunch, supper and snacks, which obviously makes sense – one needs to eat! But I found that I didn’t want to stop for a full on lunch break and would rather use that time photographing and recording video along the way and eating more sustaining snacks throughout the afternoon to keep my energy levels up throughout the day. I also need to bring coffee and chocolate.
Last but not least, I NEED to take care of my feet better. I started getting hotspots on my feet just before a big climb. It was getting late, started to pour, and we still had many kilometers to go so I had decided to suck it up and ignore them – bad idea!
I need to use thin liner socks under my actual hiking socks to add an extra layer of protection, use body glide and reapply if needed (this stuff is AMAZING!) and take care of hotspots before they blister. (I might be allergic to adhesive, so I need to be REALLY careful that I don’t need to bandage or tape up my feet)
In knowing that these were the primary components of failure, I can better prepare and equip myself for what I know my failing points are and get better on each backpacking trip with more experience. This next trip is probably not going to be all sunshine and rainbows – hell, its on the west coast – apparently there’s no sunshine there! But at least I will be somewhat more prepared than my last backpacking adventure. Still slightly uncomfortable, but that is how we grow. I cannot wait to step foot on a remote island off Vancouver Island and spend a few days with the salty Pacific ocean breeze blowing in my hair!