Sunday, December 27, 2009

Puppy Pacing: Slow-Hiking the AT Section 1 Part 3

When hiking, pacing is of the utmost importance, the slower the better. My hiking buddy Tara and I didn’t prepare ourselves in any rigorous way for our first outing on the Appalachian Trail. We expected to do penance for our foolishness. We expected pain. To avoid our comeuppance, we decided to pace ourselves. Some of us tend to push ourselves needlessly and heedlessly. This is bad.

Out of shape people are likely to do themselves an injury carrying a third of their body weight strapped to their backs for 8 hours. To avoid such nastiness, it is important to have a plan, or an excuse. On our first trip, Raleigh was our excuse. He was the perfect ploy, a puppy with tender little paws. (Yes, that is him pictured above. We are “resting.”) In our great concern for his tootsie-wootsies, we took a long break every 45 minutes or so. We’d unlace our boots, take off our socks and get some air between our toes. I’d prop my legs up on the nearest log (gotta love logs) and rest my back on my pack. We’d take a few deep breaths and stare up at the undersides of the leaves and bits of blue sky. Scandalous, I know.

Yup, we shamelessly exploited said puppy’s tender young paws to our own advantage. And it worked wonders. We were hardly even sore the next day or rather I should say, we did not experience the expected agony. Thank you, puppy-pacing. I highly recommend this strategy to novice hikers.

But what if you don’t have a puppy? Well you can’t steal Raleigh and neither can I. Raleigh grew up, that is the problem with puppies. Now he’s working full-time as a guide dog with Guiding Eyes for the Blind. My buddy Tara is training a new puppy, but he’s going to grow up too.

If you can’t keep yourself steadily supplied with young pups there are other, though inferior, stratagems. Photography or drawing may also work as convenient trailside distractions.
Remember, to avoid unnecessary pain, you could prepare for your hike by building up strength and stamina or you can employ a device that effectively tamps down any overly ambitious tendencies you may harbor, like a puppy.


Dear Santa, next year I want a puppy for Christmas.


Yes, Santa reads my blog.

[Photo taken by Tara Schatz somewhere near Lee, MA 9/28/07 on the AT.]


  1. Hi,
    I read your post. It's almost as good as a hike for making me a happy camper!

  2. Santa, when you see Annie's request and bring her a puppy next year, would it be too much trouble for you to grab an extra one so that our dog can have a new buddy? Thanks.

  3. Puppies all around please Santa!

  4. My dog is not a good hiking procrastinator. In fact he likes to barrel ahead, non stop, full throttle. He is part "mountain dog" -lame excuse. I do not recommend hiking with him. He only stops for squirrels (for a second) then takes off in chase mode.He either goes fast or faster. I guess he wouldn't be a good guide dog either. Is my dog broken??

  5. Dear Erica,
    Let me assure you that you have nothing to worry about, quite the opposite actually. Your dog is a dog's dog. Next time he dislocates your shoulder at the sight of a squirrel, be proud.

  6. Love it, Annie. We hike today with Ocho in a cyprus swam in Virginia. I'm getting him ready for the trail. Unfortunately, he will be big and strong for our next hike, so we'll have to bring a kitten or something as well. Happy New Year.