- Cut your nails
Do it sooner than later. Even slightly overgrown toenails can become a problem. Don’t wait until the last day, in case your trim injures a nail or toe.
- Wear your shoes
Start wearing your shoes everyday now for some amount of time. Your feet will feel more comfortable on the day of the walk and they will adjust to them.
- Time is more important than miles
Walkers often talk in terms of time walking rather than the number of miles. You should feel comfortable walking at a 3.0-3.5 mph pace. At this point, if you can’t get out for a long walk, just being on your feet is good practice for walking.
- Choose your fanny or your back
Walkers often prefer using a hiking fanny pack that goes around your waist like a belt but is light, has padding, pockets and bottle holders for water. Weather conditions and the supplies you choose to take with you may be the deciding factor between which you choose. There are many light backs and sling packs to choose from too.
- Remember water in and water out
We are never more than an 1 hour or so from a source of supplies and bathroom. In this walk, however, there should be port-a-john's and park facilities but because this walk is early in the season, sometimes they are not available. Be sure to drink along the way, even before you get thirsty to stay properly hydrated. We pass some stores, gas stations and fast food restaurants, but the Canal walk is running at times close to communities and roads but often far away from facilities too. We should be able offer some basic supplies like food, water and Gatorade along the way at our stops or where the trail crosses roads. Stay with a partner. There will be planned stops but if the group pulls ahead you’ll have plenty of time to catch up.
- Carbs are your friend
Regardless of what type of diet you may have followed in the past, this is no time to avoid carbs. You should bring energy foods such as granola, power bars, fruit, pasta, and even candy (avoid chocolate that might melt) with you to munch on a regular basis. I like to take homemade granola or the old standby hiker’s “gorp” which is a mix of dried fruit, nuts, and M&M’s. You’ll be burning off calories in the many hours of walking. While there are a few places to buy a lunch, for this walk, our timing makes it inconvenient to do so. Best to bring a sandwich for a small protein meal along the way, or stick to carbs for the duration of the walk, getting your protein after you are finished.
- Hats on
Take a hat you are comfortable with to provide some protection from the elements like a chance of rain. The trail is mostly in treelined areas but there are places where it opens to the sun. A baseball cap or brimmed hat works best.
- Block the Sun
At a minimum 30-SPF. My preference is a sport sunscreen that’s 50-SPF. Apply before you head out and reapply once during the event. It’s best to take a small trial size with you or borrow from someone along the way.
- State of the socks
Current wisdom gathered from recent practice walks is to use a cushioned sock with Coolmax or very soft Merino wool. A good sock liner can lessen friction, but is not required. Lubricate feet bottoms with Glide, Vasoline, or talc. Bring an extra pair of socks for a possible change along the way, especially if you are going beyond 25 miles.
- The way we walk
Most of the sections of the this part of the East Coast Greenway we will be walking are a nice gravel "hard-pack" path. There is probably less than 10% walking on other walks or roads. And the route is almost 100% flat. The medium-hard tow path is a good surface for walking. However, to our surprise, several walkers last year noted blisters or other problems along the way. My suggestion is to wear shoes and sox that combined will provide some cushion.
- See the Light
We had to add this one because we did not anticipate how dark the towpath can get in the later hours. Sunset is about 7:30 p.m. at the time of the Great Canal Walk in early April. That leaves the possiblity of walking for two hours in the dark along a somwhat narrow trail. While the end of the trail is in New Brunswick, the towpath at this point is isolated and dark running parallel to the commercial area. If you plan on walking the last sections, please take a flashlight and/or headlamp for your comfort and safety.