GUEST POST: On Hiking Slowly by Myra “Wonder” Kincaid

Oh! do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch.

Jane Austin
Taking your time to hike a thru-hike allows one to enjoy all the little things.
Highly organized “Wonder” with her throw-away suitcase filled with resupply boxes ready to send south. Her goal was to avoid long stops in town that would slow her down.

I met Wonder in Bellingham, Washington, when trail angel Karl picked her up at the bus station. She’s an engineer and approached walking the PCT with an organized mind – and a few month’s worth of resupply already boxed, stamped and ready-to-ship in a throw-away suitcase. I was impressed and knew I needed to step up my game! We hopscotched the entire thru-hike and she finished one day ahead of me. I was most impressed with her self awareness when it came to managing the distances.


I sit in the grass about ten feet from the trail, eating dried fruit. My shoes and socks are off, letting the heat and moisture dissipate. Suddenly, another hiker comes crashing by, sunglasses on, earplugs in, head directly forward. They don’t see me in my bright red shirt and pink hat. It is as if I am wearing camouflage.

This scene repeated many times a day, during the five months I spent on the Pacific Crest Trail. 

I am not a fast hiker. I have been dreaming of a through-hike for over ten years, but I was unwilling to leave my job which had a fantastic vacation plan. For many years, I contented myself with shorter adventures, but my dream of through-hiking lingered.

Finally, I was laid off and I had my opportunity. But I had to go southbound. The southbound season is short and I knew I would have to move quickly if I wanted to beat the start of winter.

I prepared a spreadsheet as I planned my adventure, and discovered that I would need to average twenty miles per day, far beyond my typical daily mileage.

Could I even do it?

Going fast or going slow does not change the need for the thru-hiker's need for massive amounts of calories.
Going fast or going slow does not change the need for the thru-hiker’s need for massive amounts of calories.

My body feels impossibly heavy as I stand and start packing. The next shuttle leaves in twenty minutes. I check my power-bank. Once again, it is only half full. I will have to ration my phone usage. A motley crew of  backpackers lay splayed on the grass staring at me in disbelief. One has already told me I am crazy for not taking any zero days (rest days).

But I have only hiked 15 miles for the day. I know that if I don’t keep going, I will have to do 25 miles another day to make up for it.  Twenty-five miles is at the limit of my abilities.

No. It is for the best if I head on. I look longingly at the snacks and goodies on the lawn, but my stomach is too full to hold anymore. The shuttle driver curses as he hefts my bag. I will be doing my eating on the trail.

Taking your time to hike a thru-hike allows one to enjoy all the little things.
Taking your time to hike a thru-hike allows one to enjoy all the little things.

I am very concerned about overuse injuries on this trip. I have two friends who both developed overuse injuries while attempting the Appalachian trail and had to end their hikes.

So I feared pushing myself too hard. I knew that any injury taking more than a few days to heal, would pretty much be the end of my hike.

On days where I get over-fatigued or things hurt, I stopped for the night. No 30 mile days for me. Still, I had a spreadsheet of target mileage to reach each day. I stayed on track by keeping my town stops short.

 bundled up like a muppet in the snowy Sierra. Not choosing to hike "ultralight" has its benefits.
Myra bundled up like a muppet in the snowy Sierra. Not choosing to hike “ultralight” has its benefits.

I crunch through the snow, belting out Christmas Carols at the top of my lungs. Snow and water drip down my jacket. I have plastic bags on over my socks to keep them dry. I look at the trail and see that there are no foot-prints. I have the trail to myself. No one will hear me sing. Indeed, everyone else is huddled in their tents just trying to survive. Because it is snowing and they have no pants!

Ultralight backpacking is all the rage in through-hiker circles. Which means people hike without “heavy” things like pants, food, or water in order to walk more quickly.

One girl told me she would hike overnight to reach town, because she had eaten all of her food.

During a steamy 19 mile, 7,000 foot climb up Mount San Jacinto, a young man came running up the mountain past me dripping sweat. He was running to reach the water source at the top of the mountain, since he had only packed a liter for the day.

In the desert of Southern California, the distances between water sources were long and took strategizing – or running.
In the desert of Southern California, the distances between water sources were long and took strategizing – or running.

It is sunny as I approach Bear Lake. My chest feels warm. My arms and legs relax. My eyelids close halfway. The lights sparkle off of the leaves and flowers and rocks. The world becomes a dizzying Kaleidoscope of beauty. My pace slows to a crawl. Even the lure of pizza cannot hurry me now.

I have been overcome by state of bliss as I have been many times on this hike. On this day, I am grateful to be slow. To hurry through this day would be a crime. 

I never went fast during my through-hike and I never hiked over 27 miles in a day. My average hiking speed was approximately 2 miles an hour, but I compensated by hiking longer, typically starting at 5am and finishing around 7pm. I did finally take one zero day, due to a second snow-storm in the Sierras.  I finished my hike one day after my original target date.  

Hike your own hike! It doesn’t matter how you get there, as long as you do!

Wonder at the Southern Terminus only on day shy of her planned finish date. She bought a swanky skirt to celebrate her accomplishment and even put on makeup for the pic!
Wonder at the Southern Terminus only a day shy of her planned finish date. She bought a swanky skirt to celebrate her accomplishment and even put on makeup for the pic!

Published by alison young

Alison Young is the Blissful Hiker, a voice artist and sometime saunterer. 📣🐥👣🎒

Reader Comments

  1. A great story here. To each, her own. “Wonder” knew herself well enough to prepare properly. I imagine it takes some folks a few weeks to figure it all out. . . like maybe “pants” were something that should have been considered!

  2. Way to go Wonder! What a great post! I met you at Vista Creek in Glacier Peak Wilderness and brought you your fuel cannister. You hiked your own hike….I was just a few days behind you, I left Sonora Pass on the afternoon of the 9/28 snowstorm. Cheers!

    1. She is a “Wonder!” and you too Toast, really affected my hike. I had taken a seriously wrong turn and was exhausted when you showed up and made me howl with laughter. Thank you! (maybe a consider a guest post at some point? )

    2. No worries. I definitely remember you Toast. I think you stayed about a day behind me for most of the trip.

  3. Have you ever noticed how slowly little children walk. Ok, they have short legs but in fact they are stopping all the time to look at things. As an ultra runner I covered huge miles. The resultant exhaustion was satisfying but one dimensional – I didn’t see anything but the few yards in front. Not until hiking the JMT when my companions forced me to slow down and take in the surroundings. An epiphany. It takes longer but so what? How do you use the time you save moving more quickly? Wonder’s blog encapsulates it so graphically.
    I walked some of the last leg of the PCT with Ali. Carried 4 litres of water up San Jacinto, drank the lot

    1. I think Wonder would appreciate our planning on that day. What a fabulous one, one of my favorites! And still time to snack, take pix of tarantulas and enjoy the gorgeous rock outcroppings before arriving at a frozen stream and cowgirl camping!!

  4. You’re a Wonder. . . and you have Arriven ! Finished one trail and begun another.
    It’s a joy and delight to follow your journeys on all days, in all weather !

    1. YESSS! thank you so much, Micki. I just had a quick convo with Wonder and she mentioned hiking THREE Great Walks in New Zealand, one in non-stop, spitting rain. She’s a trouper!

  5. Alison, what you are doing with these “guest hikers” is exellent. I look forward to the next. Thanks!

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