Trekking through the Adirondack backcountry is arduous; so much so that it’s a wonder it’s even considered a recreational activity. Whether you hike well-worn trails or bushwhack unbroken wilderness, the effort requires a massive amount of energy. It leaves you thirsty, sweaty, and bone-tired. After trudging many miles, most adventurers just want to stop and take a break for a while. There is nothing wrong with that; you earned every minute of it.
Resting is a natural part of the outdoor experience. After traversing for a few hours through the Adirondack backcountry’s dense forest and lakes, streams, bogs and blowdown obstacle course, even a super-hero would need a break once in a while. Taking a break displays neither weakness nor laziness; They are a necessity and provide the opportunity to recharge – the more grueling the adventure, the more rest breaks are necessary for recovery.
There is more to taking a break than sitting on your butt. There might be a snack, a drink, or a chat with fellow adventurers Rest breaks are important for the health of your feet too. Just pulling off those sweaty socks during a break helps reduce blisters. Just be careful to direct those stinky toes downwind from your hiking compatriots or suffer their wrath.
The frequency or duration of rest breaks varies with the hiker, the length of the trip, and the season. The ability of the trip’s participants is potentially the most important factor determining when and how long to rest. Consider this while selecting hiking companions or suffer the resting consequences.
Some are strict about taking breaks. These goal-obsessed individuals tend toward having every minute accounted for, even scheduling free time. These are the kind of folks who put “have fun” on their weekly to-do list. Thru-hikers often follow a strict schedule, with breaks at regular intervals, timed to the minute, all in an effort to squeeze the maximum miles from a day.
Some thrive on strict break scheduling, but I find it a tedious chore. A visit to the backcountry is an opportunity to throw off the shackles of a busy life, why bring an itinerary?
I know taking a break isn’t free; it costs momentum and progress toward the goal. In the colder months, evaporation can make you chilly, or hypothermic. In warmer months, sitting around makes you an easy target for biting insects and cuts short more than a few hiking breaks.
My own resting behavior in the backcountry often runs contrary to common convention. Instead of fewer and shorter breaks, the opposite is often true. On my own, I take the time to enjoy my surroundings. I usually stop, shed my pack, have some water and eat a snack. Since I’m typically solo, chatting is a rare treat. My gear stands in for a companion, but the conversation tends is mostly one-sided and dull.
Observing the wild as it goes about its day is one of the rewarding parts of trekking through the wilderness. During a break in hiking (and its consequent movement through the forest), the quiet returns. The birds begin singing more enthusiastically, small mammals emerge from their burrows to scurry the forest floor, and occasionally a larger one may wander into the area.
Seeing that is worth sacrificing an artificial deadline or two, is it not?
Photos: Above, a perfect resting rock on Jay Mountain in the Jay Mountain Wilderness; middle, a esting site at Hidden Lake in the Five Ponds Wilderness; and below, a resting spot on Lot 8 in the Jay Mountain Wilderness (photos by Dan Crane).