Considering just the Appalachian Trail and New York’s Long Path, we’ve covered over 400 trail miles in the last few years. I’ve met people who have done more, but never as dayhikes. Our way is inefficient and frankly a little weird.
The Appalachian Trail is over 2200 miles long. Some people (through hikers) attempt to do it all in one go. They carry immense backpacks with camping and cooking gear, enough food to reach the next restock point, water purification, first aid gear, toiletries, spare clothes, bug spray, and probably more things I don’t know about. A through-hiker’s backpack can easily weigh over 30 pounds, which is a non-starter for us. Similarly geared but less ambitious are the section hikers, who do the camping and cooking but set out for distances that are time-bound, say a week or less.
As day hikers, we go home or to a hotel when we’ve finished a day. Real beds and showers are a plus, but driving (often in two cars, one parked at the day’s endpoint) can get annoying when the next section is further away. Ideally we meet up with interested friends who supply the second car, but this rarely happens.
Our dayhiking projects have a few advantages. The obvious ones are fitness, and goals to help us track progress. Unlike through hikers, we can stay home when it rains.
A more interesting and unexpected advantage is that it takes us to nearby places and shows us different views. When we’re in the car going almost anywhere these days, we say “we were up on that hill!” or “here’s where we crossed under the parkway.”
When we don’t feel like going far enough to add miles to one of our projects, we’ll do a short local loop hike. Even those now bring us to familiar sites.
When we go on vacation these days, it’s often to a major hiking destination. Our local dayhiking projects keep us ready.
A nice day in the woods is always relaxing. There are often surprising things to see besides the topography.