Close to our home was a popular hiking trail. It was perfect for getting my legs ready. We started off with no weight and simply walked the loop of the trail. We counted steps with our smart watches and noted the time it took to complete it each time.
Rain didn’t deter us from hiking as we wouldn’t have that option when we were on the GDT. If it was pouring rain, we would stay home, but a little drizzle was not something to hold us back. Our dog thought our dedication to walking was marvelous and wanted to point out every squirrel he could find.
Adding a Little Weight
As my legs became used to hiking the loop, I started wearing a backpack with a small amount of weight. My body immediately noticed the difference. My pace was slower, but I was determined to get my pace back up to what it was pre-backpack. We increased the number of days per week that we hiked and over time we gradually added more weight. Soon I was carrying ~30lbs over 8-10kms.
Trying an Overnight Hike
After walking the loop multiple times per week in both directions, it was time to hike a different trail. We settled on the the Boreal Trail in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan. While it was a relatively flat trail, it offered distance and pre-determined camping spots. We positioned vehicles at our entry and exit points and set out on our overnight trip.
As we hiked, I learned that I didn’t have any problems with climbing over fallen trees. What I did have issues with was the pack not sitting right on my shoulders over long periods. We would need to adjust my pack. I also learned what gear I didn’t want to bring with me when we hiked the GDT. This was also my first time drinking filtered water that had some unwanted guests in our filter. We found water sources containing fresh water shrimp and leeches. Yummy!
What are the Benefits of a Preparation Hike?
- Physical Readiness – By doing an early hike, I was able to get my body somewhat ready for what was coming. I say “somewhat” because I couldn’t replicate the mountain terrain. Doing a hike with weight over distance provided an introduction.
- Confidence – After we finished our hike in the Boreal Trail, I felt I was capable of hiking the GDT. I knew I wouldn’t be the fastest hiker, but I could carry my own gear. It gave me an understanding of my pace.
- Gear Check – A preparation hike helped me determine what gear I wanted to remove from my pack. I also noted what was missing. There was gear I hadn’t used before and learned to trust it, such as gaiters and bear spray.
- Adjust to Nature – Sleeping outdoors is different. It can be difficult to sleep when you hear birds, frogs, or other animal noises. It is also challenging at dusk or at night wondering if a bear is watching you nearby as you go to an outhouse or other private corner. A preparation hike provided the opportunity to settle my nerves and not feel I was going to get eaten if I stepped away from my campsite for a few minutes.
- Communication – A preparation hike when on trail with someone else is helpful to learn each other’s hiking styles and needs. My husband is an independent hiker. He likes having others hike with him for safety in numbers, but he doesn’t feel the need to stick close. I have a certain distance that I like to keep between us (although I have found that distance has been increasing). Having an initial hike before going on Section C gave us a chance to set expectations before venturing out.
Time to Hike
Completing a preparation hike will give you the confidence you need before going out on the trail. It gives you the chance to identify areas that need a little correcting or what is going to work best for you. While not everyone is going to need a preparation hike, who is going to complain about finding another excuse to hike?