Testing the Gear

Along with a few thousand other people, my friends and I put in for a permit to hike The Wonderland Trail, a 93-mile loop that circumnavigates Mt. Rainier. In a random lottery drawing, our names were drawn and we got the permit! Ever since we got the news a few months ago, we’ve been training. The hike will average just 10 miles per day, but with massive elevation changes and high likelihood of rain, even the most fit hikers are well-advised to plan and prepare for this kind of trek. We’ll depart late August and come back just after Labor Day.

Hiking the Roan highlands to reach the highest point of the Appalachian Trail this week.

To that end, I took 2 days/1 night off this week to hike 22 miles on the nearby Appalachian trial with two friends who will also go on The Wonderland trip. Out there in the clouds, we soaked ourselves with our own sweat (thanks to 90% humidity) and by day’s end our skin was salty enough for a horse to lick. But the clouds parted as we crossed the Roan highlands and grassy balds. I’ve hiked this stretch of the trail probably half a dozen times since moving to Western North Carolina and it never ceases to inspire. I feel so fortunate that it’s all less than an hour away.

The best part? Taking two full days off–no work at night, no computers, no phone–felt like an incredibly long time. When I’m not cramming my days with trying to learn new balance and new negotiations in my professional and personal life, time stretches out wonderfully. I’m aiming for more of this feeling in the future for both work days and personal days and telling myself it just takes practice, right? I practiced over-productivity for a long time and it got me far, but it cost something. Slow and steady, I’m trying to gain some of that back.

As far as the gear goes, most of what I have works top-notch for my needs, but I learned we’ll want a gravity-fed water filtration system (rather than a pump) for a group hike, and that I’ll need Trader Joe’s chili-spiced dried mango en masse to get me through. For trailside indulgence? Whiskey and a 1.5 pound crazy creek chair.

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