Hiker Hunger

Hiker Hunger doesn’t really begin until about four weeks in. Before that, I ate like I did on days I did long training runs (say, 20 miles and up): I could eat a lot, but usually only for one meal, and then I’d feel more than plenty full.

Hiker Hunger is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before. It’s a nearly-constant desire for food, and you can eat so much more than ever before. You’ll eat an enormous meal, and, at the end of it, feel merely “pleasantly full” rather than the “oh my god, I wish I hadn’t eaten that” that it otherwise would cause. Further, if you eat 1,800 calories at lunch at 12:30 PM…you’ll be hungry again for another huge meal by 6:00 PM, rather than wanting just a small snack (or dessert, if you’re like me).

On one day in Tehachapi, for example, I ate the following:

Hiker Midnight

Hiker Midnight is a special time of day.

By Hiker Midnight, most people are asleep in their tents, some for almost an hour.

By Hiker Midnight, you’ll rarely hear more than a whisper from hikers — it’s time to keep quiet.

As Hiker Midnight approaches, you’ll see hikers scurrying to get ready for bed, hear the puff-puff-puff of inflatable pads being blown up, see the winking of headlamps turning off.

About eight hours after Hiker Midnight, you’ll hear the whooshing of inflatable pads deflating, as the first sign that the new day of hiking is starting.

Every hiker on the trail knows all about Hiker Midnight, starting from about the second week — if not sooner.

Hiker Midnight is 9:00 PM.

Gettin’ Buzzed in the Sierra

One of the weirder aspects of hiking in the southern Sierra: about a dozen times per day, you’ll hear a really loud noise, look up…and, if the sky is clear and you look in the right direction, see a pair of F–16s blazing past really, really fast. (More often, though, you look up and see nothing at all, as they’re either too fast for you or behind a cloud.)

They fly low enough that sometimes they’ll be on the other side of a mountain, and all you hear is the roar of jets. Apparently there’s a military base near here that sends its pilots flying up here for training. I don’t know if that’s for a strategic reason or just because it’s really beautiful…but, either way, it’s definitely one of the odder things to experience out here.