Is your morning ritual simple, with a few additions? Two sugars? An extra pump of sweetener? Or is your order more complicated such as, "Trenti iced coffee, 12 pumps [sugar-free] vanilla, 12 pumps [sugar-free] hazelnut, 12 pumps [sugar-free] caramel, 5 pumps skinny mocha, a splash of soy, coffee to the star on the siren's head, ice, double-blended!" Those pour souls who not only have to take this order, but the pour souls that also place this order... who hurt you?! Well, we will take ours straight out of a skinny pencil like packet or from a plastic bag. No heat, no additions, just caffeine on the go for us please. As we shake up our water bottle in the morning to activate our brew process, we take a tentative sip, and taste yet to be dissolved powder chunks, bitterness, and acidity, it tastes absolutely perfect! It tastes like trail, it tastes like miles, it tastes like a crisp morning in the mountains. Our morning rituals have evolved over the years on trail, and even though we still do not like to admit it, caffeine in the form of powdered coffee greets us to each new day. It is simple, it is raw, and it is complex, just like the trail we find ourselves on. Caffeine on trail is a blessing and a curse. We had fought it for years, but now see it as a addition, a benefit, a luxury. Click brew, shake up your bottle, and take the journey as we devolve into the clutches of caffeine!
Walk with us through Caffeine!
Before we get too heavy in metaphors and too deep into how we have evolved as a hiker over the years to utilize caffeine wisely, we do want to put in a quick disclaimer. We are not saying drinking coffee on trail is a bad thing at all . Far from it! This is our personal opinion around caffeine and our personal journey into realizing it is a benefit when used properly on trail. That is the disclaimer we wanted to address before moving forward. Just like anything in life, when there is balance, and when there is conscious thought, many things can become a tool, a piece of gear in your pack.
The first 2 years that we began hiking, 2016 and 2017 respectively, we believed coffee on trail was not something to be used. We believed that it was untrue to the experience, and became a crutch that we did not want to have to rely on. Our thoughts were if we became dependent on coffee in the mornings to get us out of camp, it would not be our internal drive, our internal discipline enjoying the crispness of an early morning. We did not want to become dependent on an outside source for our internal energy and thoughts. Yes, we know it is irrational, yes we know it is a weird thought to have, but honestly we were quite weird when we began hiking....okay full honestly we are still very weird. We had many assumptions and many beliefs about trail that have turned out to be untrue over the years. We believed that if you listened to any music or podcasts while hiking it was untrue to the experience. It took us all the way until the Great Basin on the CDT, 6000+ miles into our hiking career, to break us of this habit. You trying singing the same song for hours and hours and even days and days while being baked in heat and nothing around you besides the sporadic cow and the more prevalent "nothingness." We still to this day have some tinges of regret around this that the Basin "broke us", but again it as irrational feeling that is displaced, so we replace it with balance and conscious thought.
We say "nothing" but the Basin had everything!
When we began the CDT back in 2018, we began to utilize caffeine, albeit infrequently. It was not yet a regularity in our resupply kit. We would maybe drink a coffee once per section. If we knew we had an especially rigorous day ahead, or had just experienced a multitude of rigorous days behind us. We enjoyed it, a cold morning shake, and then being able to sip for the first few hours as we ate miles for breakfast along with our coffee. Yet our mindset was still, well hurt, that we let ourselves reach this point. It felt as if we were cheating on the trail with a mistress by the name of coffee. She enticed us with her promise of energy and her promise of warmth. It was a shameful and dishonorable stain upon who we were. Yes, again we are weird, our thoughts our strangely our own, yet it hurt nonetheless. We had an internal hurdle to navigate and it was up to us as well as the poor ears of our trail families to work through it.
Moving into the year of 2019, coffee and caffeine had become integrated into our resupply. Now we would carry (1) coffee packet for (1) day. Each morning our ritual became, wake up, open a coffee, and pour it into our pre-designated water bottle. Pack up camp, shake, and begin our day. We had proven to ourselves it was not a crutch back in 2018. We had proven to ourselves that it was a benefit to our enjoyment on trail. Or at least we had rationalized all of this. Our mistress was now a part of our everyday lives. Yet, the connotation in our brains began to shift. Caffeine was no longer a mistress to be shameful of, caffeine was a friend. Again we know this metaphor is a weird one to compare coffee and trail to, but it truly felt in the beginning as if we were cheating trail and just as importantly cheating ourselves and our own values when we drank coffee. It took miles upon miles to see that this was untrue and that what we had weirdly believed caffeine was to be shameful of, when in fact it was a friend to be embraced. Embraced in a proper and defined embrace.
We will not go into 2020 too deeply, because we told the story already. Caffeine is a part of our resupply now, a part of our thru-hikes. From when we shunned it completely to when we implemented it infrequently to it becoming a daily ritual, like all things in life it took a journey to reach its "final" destination. Looking back we are happy with the progression it took. Through the progression we could see all stages of how it affected our hikes and our mentality.
The conclusion that we have come away with in all these years? Caffeine/Coffee on trail is a benefit and adds enjoyment to a thru-hike. It is still extremely wise to always be conscious of your intake and not let your body and mind completely rely on it. Yet, when embraced as a friend and embraced as an addition to your hike, it is incredibly pleasant. Every so often as we continue to hike we will still pick random days in sections to go without caffeine. Why? It gives us the opportunity to continue to check if we are adding it to our hikes, or if it is adding itself in without any permission. Those early mornings continue to drive us, the crispness in our bodies and minds propel us, the internal drive continues to wake us before our alarms. The trail continues to embrace us with love, the mountains continue to beckon us forward with their siren calls, and the path in front of us continues to hold mysteries that only unfold around the next turn. So, we heed our internal drive and our internal love for trail as we pack each morning, no longer shameful or dishonorable to add to it. The trail is what you make it, and this is the way we have chosen to. So, we smile and shake our single packet of coffee into our cold water bottle, as we brace for that first sip of not yet dissolved chunky powder, and begin our journey onto trail embracing the knowledge that we have found balance.
With weird metaphors abundant and coffee being packed into our go-bag as we speak,
P:S: Adventure Bound just released our most recent Podcast! Go over to our Interview Page to listen now or click the picture below. Listen to questions that were from the perspective outside of the common thru-hiking community questions. Questions that made us stop and think, and we loved every bit of it!