"You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself into one." ~ Henry David Thoreau
1) Know your terrain. The guidebook I brought with me labeled the hikes I wanted to do as "strenuous, very strenuous, strenuous, and strenuous." More than one of those hikes had altitude changes of 1000 feet within a mile. Sure, 20 miles a day doesn't seem terrible, but doing that while you're practically walking down the side of a cliff is a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad idea.
2) Know your weather. I went during one of the coldest few days of the month, so I over prepared by bringing lots of warm clothing, a tent, a heavy sleeping bad, tons of food, and a tomahawk I won by having the greatest mustache in a restaurant. It also added a fair amount of weight to my bag, which helped add extra pressure to my knee, and combine that with the terrain, and I was pretty much asking for trouble. Especially with cold weather. I spent a good portion of that night shivering and wondering if sleeping in freezing temperatures might end up being my last mistake, but luckily, it wasn't. Still, pretty freakin' dumb.
3) Know your limits. I'm a victim of this one, most of the time by over and underestimating my limits. I often feel the need to test these limits, and so far I have a 100% success rate of coming out alive and better informed, but the fact of the matter is, sometimes you need to list everything out and seriously contemplate whether or not it's a good idea. Freezing temperatures, a seriously long distance, being over prepared, a known knee problem, and steep declines all lead to what is a very poor plan. But, I was at least smart in one case, and that is having the number of a cab company and enough money to bail out if need be.
All of that aside, I wouldn't trade it for a moment. I captured some great pictures, which I'll probably upload soon, and I still can't think of a better way to have welcomed the new year. Now that the half marathon has been crossed off and I'm not planning on finishing the marathon goal until the end of the year, I hope to finish the rest of the trail in my state by the end of the year as well. And next time, I'll be more mindful, and have an even greater appreciation for the beauty of nature in solitude.