• Mary Anderson

What I Do in Town

I thought it would be interesting to share a town day. In the old days, when people lived rurally on the farm, going to town was a big deal. Town days are still big events for many long-distance hikers, though to be honest I find them exhausting and a bit disconcerting.

Sometimes I am eager to get into town. Each town signifies another section of trail completed, and so it feels like an accomplishment. I envision the food I will get to fill up on.

But each town also means that once again my pack is more heavily laden. Most towns require a long downhill walk to reach the road to get into them, and a substantial uphill climb going out. That newly loaded pack is really noticed.

My routine is really thrown off in town. I’m usually in bed much later than my 7:30 to 8:30 pm bedtime on the trail. I seldom sleep as well in town as I do on the trail. Sometimes I eat fairly well in town, but often I am so busy getting ready for the next section, or reluctant to walk the distances required to get from place to place in a spread-out town, that I eat food purchased from a grocery-store deli on the fly.

The first thing I do when I get to town depends on the size of the town and the availability for buying enough food to resupply. If I know it does not have what I need, I will have mailed a package to myself, often general delivery to the post office, though sometimes to a hostel or small store that holds packages for hikers. If I haven’t mailed a package to myself and I am staying in town for the night, I find a place to stay and settle in. Then I go to the grocery store and buy what I need for the next section, as well as food to eat while in town. I try to do some calorie loading, as it helps cut down on hiker hunger, though often I fill up on low-calorie fruit because that is what I crave the most when hiking in 90-degree days.

If I have to buy food, I repackage it. Then, whether I’ve bought food or mailed if from home, I get it all packed into my bearproof food bag.

If I am lucky, I am staying the night and have the opportunity for a shower, or better yet a soak in a tub once I rinse the worst of the grime off. Usually, while I shower I soap my clothes and stomp on them, using my feet to replace the agitator in a washing machine. Then, before getting out of the shower, I rinse and wring out each item. I hang these to dry before going to bed. If I’m not staying in town I skip the shower and clothes-washing, and I repackage while sitting on the sidewalk or somewhere out of the way in town.

I usually update my satellite device and charge what needs charging, such as my phone, portable battery pack, satellite device, and iPad. The last few towns I’ve been in, I have spent hours and hours gleaning information about how to get around the fires. After walking a few miles one way to get groceries, I walked a number of miles in the other direction to get to a store where I could buy a paper map. I also had to buy a new fuel canister for my stove. I usually wash out my water filter and do repairs on equipment as needed. In the town I am in now, I am in search of new shorts. The ones I have been wearing are barely fit to be rags and can no longer be mended. But it is Sunday and very little is open in Ennis, Montana, so I will wait until tomorrow to try the secondhand shop. I am lucky to have a place to camp on the lawn of a trail angel who lives about nine miles outside of town.

If I have the honor of staying with a trail angel, I am often up late sharing stories. I spend what time I can trying to polish the blogs I wrote on trail and get them sent off to be posted. By the time I am packed and ready to head back to the trail in the morning, I am usually exhausted from running around trying to get all my chores done. I always leave knowing there are many more things I wanted to do that did not get done. Often my first day out of town is a bit of a shorter hiking day. I need a nearo to rest up from town and get back into the rhythm of hiking.

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