Mornings On The Trail

I usually wrestle with my inner thoughts before getting out of my sleeping bag. This doesn’t last long. Five, maybe ten minutes.


I don’t set an alarm when out on the trail. I simply wake up. I’ll check the time on my iPhone. Often I roll over and go back to sleep. If it is near 5:30am, then it is time. Not right away though. I need to contemplate things for a bit.


Hike your own hike. This is something I tell others, and myself, often. Do you prefer to hike until the late evening and sleep in? Then do that. It’s your time in the wilderness. Enjoy it your way.


I love being on the trail early in the morning. The leaves are still wet. The breeze might be a little chilly. There is solitude, and pleasant noises. Birds yelling for attention, maybe some chipmunks gathering food, and the occasional deer. Being out on the trail in the morning increases the chance to see wildlife.


But first I have to get out of my sleeping bag.

If the morning brings rain, then after I gather the will to retrieve my bear bag, coffee is brewed inside my tent

I can usually tell it is time by the shade of my tent walls. The sun is probably still an hour below the horizon, but brightness has begun to creep its way through the forest.


I’ll reach down inside my sleeping bag for my socks. When I sleep I do not wear my hiking pants, shirt, and socks. They are inside the bag with me. I like to put my socks on first. They are nice and warm. Then I unzip the rest of my bag and quickly dress. Even in the middle of summer it feels chilly in the morning above 5,000 feet.


My coffee is hanging up high from the limb of a tree inside a food bag. I don’t want any bears, or other critters, stealing it while I sleep. Talk about a tragedy!

The flame is lit, the sun is on the way up, and I wait for the water to boil. This was a shelter on the AT in Georgia.

There is a sound when propane is lit under a camping stove. On the trail, this is the sound of morning. It is not quite a hiss. Somewhere between a hiss and a hum. All I need is 12 ounces of water to boil. At altitude this usually does not take long. But it seems long. I have not had my coffee yet. As I warm my hands next to the flame, I look to the ever brighter sky in the background.


By this point, as I wait for my water to boil, I’ve probably packed a few things. Certainly my sleeping bag. Probably my bear bag rope and various other small items.

Next to a mountain stream, with the sun barely below the horizon, is a great moment for coffee

Once my cup is full of the pleasant brown liquid, it is time to pause. Enjoy the moment. Some of the forest birds have probably started up. A nearby hiker, still in his or her tent, might be stirring. I’ll hear an occasional owl in the distance. I might spend some time looking at my trail map, deciding where to stop for lunch. When I finish my coffee things will begin moving fast. So this is my pause time. It is an amazing moment.


And then things do indeed move fast. Deflate my mattress. Bathroom break, which usually means digging a hole. Quick breakfast snack, or maybe boil more water for some oatmeal. Pack up my tent. Everything is placed snug into my backpack. One more look at my trail map. Time to grab my hiking poles.


I’m not quite ready for my first steps on the trail. I need to check my campsite for anything I could have left behind. Did I pack all of my tent stakes? Did I leave a small paper wrapper from one of my meals?


Now I step out.


I can hear the scrunching of my steps. Branches swaying as I brush by. Sometimes there is mist descending from a mountain slope, other times it is already clear blue, though barely visible through the treetops. It is always solitary and refreshing.


And it is always my time.

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