For as long as I can remember, upon arrival at the trailhead there was a standard ceremony of scarfing down a Clif Bar, donning the pack and getting out on the trail as fast as possible. Other than the brand or flavor of snack it seems most other folks follow this same tradition.
It makes sense in a way. After being cooped up in a car or hanging on to your scoot for a long drive it is natural to want to get moving. You’ve had all that time to think about the adventures waiting for you out there and now you’re like a horse in the starting gate, raring to go.
Last year, just past mud season, I was unpacking my bike in the Grafton Loop parking lot and munching a Clif Bar and noticed the one other guy in the lot was performing a similar ritual. We had time for a few cursory remarks about our plans before he took off at speed in the opposite direction I was headed. I finished my transition from biker trash to hiker trash and sped off the other way myself.
Something about that scene stuck in my head and still does now. Over the course of this past year I’ve been working on cultivating a different attitude at the trailhead. One of the keys has been bringing along a sandwich or two to replace the pretrail bar, but they are more than nutrition. They are a reminder to not rush through the stepping off process.
Slowing down that transition from off trail persona and getting the lion’s share of it done before putting on the pack can really change the way the first few miles of trail are experienced. Sections I’d walked a number of times before seemed a bit new because I was actually seeing where I was. By shedding that pretrip tension in the parking lot rather than taking it out on the start of the trail I find myself slipping into my deep woods persona much earlier in my trips. Since weekends are much easier to get away for than weeks that ability can be very useful. If I can have a day three mentality by the end of day one it is definitely going to be a great day two!
There is more than just sandwiches that goes into this plan. My favorite places to go are hours away so I’ve had to be more strict about getting out on the road earlier so I’ll have the time to relax at the trailhead. Still, a really good sandwich or two is enough to slow me down even if I am running a bit late. That thing that will make you slow down might be something else, but think about what it might be. Then next time you hit the trail take a few minutes to enjoy the experience before the adventure. Nature is patient and will wait for you on paths less traveled by