August 7, 2022
Over the past month I have been reading a lot about fast-packing and thru-hiking. I stumbled upon a lot of information, but the best article was by Andrew Skurka. He presents a wonderful cost/benefit analysis of how to hike a fast thru hike. With my own time constraints and while hiking the Smoky 900; I want to prepare hiking in this manner. One point that stuck with me was “Be a tortoise, not a hare. The more influential variable in determining Rate is Hours Hiked, not Hours Hiked Per Hour. A fast rate of travel leads to faster fatigue, more discomfort (because it’s not as natural a stride), and increased stress and strain; plus, time savings can be easily offset by the need to take longer and more frequent breaks. I will hike fast when I really want to get somewhere—like a campsite before dark or a PO before 4pm—but I avoid it otherwise. When I need to put in a long day, I find it more effective to walk at a comfortable, controlled, constant speed—simply for more hours.”
On the Boulevard Trail, I put this into practice, planning on hiking the 16 miles to and from my car without stopping and at a constant rate. From Newfound Gap, on a gorgeous, cool Sunday, I set out northbound on the AT. For 2.7 mainly uphill miles, the trail jumps large boulders and climbs Mount Ambler. Prior to Icewater Spring Shelter, the southern terminus of the Boulevard begins in the shadows of Mount Kephart. At the southern terminus the trail descends slightly before ascending Anakeesta Knob.
Just past the knob, I got thirsty, and made sure to not stop, but grab my water bottle and drink while walking. It was a good feeling, my muscles stayed moving and felt better. As went up towards LeConte, clouds formed, enveloping the mountain. LeConte feels like it has its own weather system, different from the surrounding peaks.
Without stopping I made it to the summit and since I had already hiked that portion of the Boulevard, turned around. I greeted people and welcomed the sun shining on my face. As I was getting back to Newfound, the sky opened up and a torrential downpour started. As I got back into the car, I felt tired, but wonderful. 16 miles in 5 hours. I didn’t trail run, but I hiked at a good, smooth rate.
Total mileage is 16 miles.