Sunday, October 19, 2014

Reality Hike 102: The Surprising Truth about 8,750 Miles: 10/19/14 - 2038.7 to 2055.1 Miiles

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The route continues following Route 12 through a densely forested part of eastern Idaho. It still follows the Lochsa River. 

The road appears safe enough if a person is carrying a pack. It does not appear safe for pushing a cart. I think bouncing the push cart forward to Missoula, Montana from Lewiston or Clarkston would be a good idea.

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I’ve been exploring whether a reality hike is possible. It is close enough to impossible that the hiker will need a structured plan to make it. I arrived at a surprising answer after exploring and testing different plans.

Walking options

Option 1: No days off

8,750 miles is 24 miles a day for a year. For option 1, the road walker needs to walk 24 miles every day for 365 days. The problem with this option is it leaves no margin for error. There are no zero days and few people can maintain this sort of schedule. The miles must match the fitness level or long term fatigue will start after about seven days.

Option2: One day off a week

In this case, the walker would have to walk 28 miles each walking day. This would take about seven to eight hours.

This option allows the walker to choose days off based on weather or other considerations.

Option 3: Take each day as it comes and walk what you can

This would be the most favorable option, except for one problem. The route starts in Pueblo, Colorado. The optimum start date is from March 15 to April 15th. Within a few days, the walker will be passing through the Wolf Creek Pass. This is also the time for bad snowstorms. In other words, the walker needs to check the weather for the next week and scoot through during a period of good weather.

Then there is the desert starting in Utah and continuing all the way through Washington. About 1,700 miles of hot desert or prairie. Except it doesn’t start getting too hot until about June. In fact, it will likely be pleasant weather until mid-May and doable until about the first week in June. The walker can’t count on getting fit on the road as a slow start will put them in the desert when it is too hot.

Option 4: Cyclical Walking Schedule

Use a cyclical walking schedule to walk between 23 and 33 miles a day with every seventh day off. This will help the walker get fitter on the road by alternating stress, rest and recuperation. It’s possible this walker could complete the hike in 10 months as may increase their fitness more rapidly along the way. They could either increase the length of all the days or increase the short days and leave the long days the same.

This option will likely require about four months more of training.

All of these are possible!

I had a revelation in the past few months. Time on the feet is more tiring than time walking. I discovered this by using a Fitbit Zip pedometer which tracks light, medium and intense activity. My fatigue level depended more on the total time on my feet than how many miles I walked during the day. I typically spend about six hours a day on my feet, which is close to how much time I’d have to spend walking on a reality hike.

All I have to do is train the right muscles to walk for six to seven hours a day and I’m ready! Oh, what do I do with the other 16 to 17 hours? Stay off my feet!

How to start

I know you aren’t convinced yet, but at least know I’m convinced. You won’t be convinced without the knowledge that comes from doing.

The first step is to start walking. Much depends on where you are physically, but the same general rules apply to all. Do not walk into fatigue. The whole training program depends on never feeling fatigue. When you need a day off, take it!

Do not walk with even minor pains. I’m talking about pain in the feet, knees, back, or anyplace else it can evolve into a chronic injury.

Speed isn’t important. Speed will come with miles and it doesn’t need coaxing.

How long will training take?

Realistically, I think it’s best to plan for two to two and a half years of structured training. Many physiological changes need to occur. These can’t be rushed.

What is the surprising truth?

Anyone who works an 8 hour day on their feet is expending more effort than needed complete this hike. The reason they can’t do it is they have trained different muscle groups. In other words, a reality hike is possible!

I felt surprisingly lethargic yesterday even though it was a low mileage day. I think I would have felt better if I walked more miles. This morning's 5.1 mile walk was easy. My stride rate was over 130 most of the time. 

I'm not looking forward to skipping my morning 5.1 mile walk tomorrow morning. Maybe I'll go even though the schedule says not to. Perhaps there is a base mileage I need to walk everyday.


  1. I have lots and f questions. Why do this, why that distance and duration, where are you going to sleep and how are you going to get enough calories and water to sustain you?

  2. It started as a 10 day motorcycle ride, but then I sold the motorcycle. The motorcycle ride only required touching each of the states, and it started and ended in a different point. I didn't like that sense of incompletion.

    This is the shortest route I could find that is reasonably safe to walk

    On the surface, this hike seemed impossible to me, too. Now after studying it for several years, I see it is possible. .

    I'd bring camping gear and sleep outside most nights. There are plenty of places to stealth camp as the route avoids big cities.

    There are only two sections where water is an issue. Both are 75 miles long. This is a common section for cross-country hikers and they usually do these sections in 2 days. Most cross-country hikers use a pushcart.

    I've found my caloric requirements don't increase as I increase mileage. I hypothesize my body is becoming more efficient. I seem to have leveled out at a caloric need just under 3,000 calories a day regardless of the distance. This was a surprise to me, but it's not without precedent.

    Most people walk at 65% efficiency. Kenyan women walk at 85% efficiency while carrying water or firewood.

    With the push cart, water won't be a problem. There will be many times where it will be 40 or 50 miles between water sources, but that's only a day or two. I'm planning on carrying 3 gallons of water a day. However, I've also found my water needs have decreased as I get in better shape.

    The one year limit is driven by the weather. The timing avoids the times with the severest weather in different parts of the country.