This blog post is for people looking to do a thru-hike of a long distance trail, a CDT section hike, etc. It will is rambling, incomplete, and uneven – I am not trying to make a comprehensive guide, just pass on some thoughts. If you found this blog post as part of your thru-hike preparation and have any more questions, feel free to contact me. The topics are written in no particular order, and range from completely technical to philosophical.
DISCLAIMER PLEASE READ:
Some of the following advice I am about to give is very inappropriate and potentially dangerous for people who are interested in more traditional backpacking. It is also quickly invalidated by winter or serious shoulder season weather. I DO NOT recommend you read this as a guide to transition from hiking to backpacking. Many of the things I am about to write will strongly contradict traditional (and well-founded) advice. Compared to other thru-hikers, I am relatively cautious and conservative; compared to a weekend backpacker, I am insane and foolhardy. Thru hiking in deep remote wilderness is a very different mindset than vacation backpacking, and requires risks that I would not normally recommend.
Philosophical: Should I do a thru-hike?
I just want to get this one out of the way: I do not recommend thru-hiking to a general audience. Most people would not enjoy it. I especially do not recommend thru hiking the CDT to a general audience. Think about what, exactly, you want to get out of this hike.
I want to connect with nature
That is a wonderful goal. Go do a month long section hike where you are walking 10-20 miles a day. When you walk 20-30 miles a day, mileage which is often necessary to close gaps in water availability or beat the oncoming winter, you will be endlessly on the move from sunup to sundown. Some days you just have to really pound out the miles, and will spend a lot of time staring down at your feet. You will blaze past valleys and mountain peaks and hardly remember their names. You will be so tired on a daily basis, that you will resent and refuse small sidetrips to interesting features.
I want to travel and see new places
That is also a wonderful goal. Go on a roadtrip where you spend a few days hiking/camping at different areas around the country. Buy a one-way ticket to Bangkok and see where you go from there. You will see incredibly beautiful things and places on a thru-hike, but there are much more time-efficient ways to meet your goal of seeing new places.
I want to become a more balanced person by finding myself in the woods
That is a great goal as well. Go on a week long mountain retreat and work on meditation exercises. Talk to people wiser than you. Do not expect to find this from thru-hiking. The way to be satisfied with life is to have a careful balance between pleasure and discipline, between work and relationships, between drudgery and joy. There is NOTHING balanced about thru hiking. On the trail, you binge exercise; in town, you gorge yourself on food; once you have the opportunity to sleep, nothing will get you out of a soft bed. Your relationships and professional goals are set on the back burner for months. Living between extremes like that does not efficiently teach you how to find moderation. The truth is, the habits you learn and pick up during a thru hike might not help you navigate our current society; in fact, once you have had that experience, it might be very hard to go “back”. I met a lot of people on trail who have essentially become career thru hikers and have yet to integrate back to a more traditional lifestyle. This truly is the path for certain spirits, but for most, it can’t be sustained beyond a few years. On my end, the protagonist in a hero’s journey goes into the wilderness to gain wisdom, he does have to come back to society to complete the journey. The wise sage wandering endlessly in the desert is a very important supporting character who can pass on knowledge to others, but he is not the hero of the story.
I have an itch. I feel a desire to walk the length of the country in the middle of the wilderness. I can’t shake it, and all I think about is how to make it happen. I fantasize about the sun setting over the mountains. I fantasize about walking for hours in the rain. I want the beauty. I want the brutality.
Now we’re talking. Thru hiking is a niche activity and is absolutely perfect for those who have this specific drive.
Generic thru hiking advice:
Lightweight backpacking philosophy:
There are plenty of good articles out there about lightweight backpacking, so I won’t hammer the point in. A major philosophical difference between traditional vs. lightweight backpacking is how you plan for conditionals. In a traditional mindset, you add items in your pack to handle the “what ifs”: What if I am stuck somewhere for a day, and run out of food? I better bring more. What if temperatures are much colder than predicted? I better bring an extra jacket. What if there isn’t a lot of water? I better bring an extra liter. What if a strong storm comes through, even though weather is normally good this time of year? I better bring a heavier, stronger tent.
In the lightweight mindset, you consider these “what if’s” and think really hard if you actually want to fill your pack with all those “what if” items. Every item in your pack WILL slow you down, and in the lightweight mindset, your ability to just hike out of a bad situation is sometimes your strongest defense. If you can confidently hike 30-35 miles a day in a pinch, you have a greatly expanded ability to get to safer conditions or even to a road if necessary. As long as the consequence for not having that item is not severe, often you will decide to not bring it, and tolerate the consequences. What if I run out of food? Well, I will be hungry, but I’m not going to die because I am in good shape and otherwise healthy. What if temperatures are much colder than predicted? Well, I might have to pack my things up and start walking to stay warm. It will be unpleasant, but I am used to doing that. What if I miss a water source? Well, I will be thirsty and I might have to wait till dusk to walk. It will be uncomfortable, but not dangerous. I will bring an extra half liter instead of an extra full liter. What if a strong storm comes and rips open my lightweight tent? Well, you should have chosen a more sheltered location for your tent. But in the unlikely event that happens, you might have to just get up and hike through the night.
Unless you have a personal chase team (I met a couple who did, it was an AWESOME way to hike, and their chase driver was having a great time too), or you are crazy like Anish and walk into town from the trail, hitchhiking is mandatory. There is just no other way around it. Smile and wave like crazy. Wave at people as they are driving away from you (they sometimes change their mind). Know it might take 2 hours to get a ride. Don’t lose faith; this is not a very efficient mode of transportation, but someone will eventually pick you up. I suggest you start paying it forward now, and consider picking up hitch hikers you see on the road. I started doing it once I knew I wanted to thru hike, and knew I would rely on it.
How do I handle long resupply stretches?
There are a lot of 100+ sections between resupply points. My longest was about 170 miles, through the Wind Rivers. That was a challenging section. I ate every piece of food I had, and several people I know ran out. Here is how you make it through longer sections:
1) Hike faster and longer. The faster you hike, the fewer days of food you need. If you can turn a 110 mile resupply section into 4 days, then carrying food for that length of time is not a big deal. The faster you hike, the more frequently you hit towns to make up for lost calories. Avoid the temptation to carry much extra – maybe enough food for one extra, hungry day. As long as you don’t have any underlying health problems, you will be fine for a day without food, and perhaps learn a valuable lesson about planning better.
2) Plan on being a little calorie-deficient. Make up for it in town. I ate about 3000 calories a day, probably burned close to 4500, and ate close to 5000 calories a day in town. I maintained my weight at a healthy level after a sharp initial loss.
3) Low pack weight. Even if you are strong and fit, there is an enormous difference between starting your supply leg with a 40 lb pack vs a 30 lb pack. Every pound on your back matters. The less you carry, the faster you go, and the faster you go, the less you need to carry.
4) Don’t carry food that has under 100 calories/oz.
5) Weekend campers have a lot of food with them, often way way more than they need. Same with RV campers and hunters. Strike up a casual conversation with who you are and what you are doing. At some point, you will get a response like “wow, what do you eat?” When they ask you this, say something along the lines of “oh haha, mostly crackers and candy bars and instant potatoes. I can’t really carry enough with me to stay comfortable, you know, I just have to wait it out. Did I mention that all I’ve had to eat today are poptarts?” Sometimes, they will offer you food. Act shy and surprised by the offer, give a polite token refusal, and then graciously accept whatever they give you with many thanks. It is your responsibility to either carry enough food or tough it out yourself, but I think this is valid because these folks often carry way more food than they can eat.
Do not ask for food from your fellow thru hikers, unless you have a very very generous trade in mind. It is better to go hungry for a day than ask for this type of help. Your self reliance and independence on the trail are sacred.
Being a solo woman
As a solo woman, you will get a lot of people asking “oh.. are you alone? If you were my daughter…”. Single young men do not get comments like this on a regular basis; if they did, I might not resent it so much, but these types of comments are very directed at women. I got this comment from people on the trail, and well-meaning people at home. I really try to be patient and understand that these type of comments are meant in a good way, but it does help that they normally come from men, and normally in a patronizing tone.
I do take words of wisdom and advice, but only from people who know what the hell they are talking about. If people at home are trying to tell you that you cannot do this hike because you are a solo woman, don’t listen to them – listen to people who actually have experience. Imagine an ultra marathon runner getting training advice from someone who is doing a couch-to-5k, and you will see what I mean. It might sound arrogant, but that is a legitimate comparison between me (someone who successfully crossed 2600 miles of deep wilderness solo on foot) compared to someone who has never camped out of sight from their car. I will tell you who is not bothered by the “safety” of solo female hikers – other thru hikers, national park rangers, elk hunters, national forest employees, hunting guides and horse packers. In short, people who actually know what they are talking about.
But seriously, as a woman you are more likely to get a ride into town rather than be left stranded on the side of the highway, are (probably) slightly more likely to get into “trouble” in town, and will hold your weight at a more healthy level when compared to a man. You also will likely need less food for your bodyweight, and will need a more warmly rated sleeping bag than a man would. Maintaining basic hygiene is also more difficult, both because you might have to deal with menstruation at some point (most women stop menstruating while doing high mileage hikes, some don’t), and you are much more susceptible to UTIs. I kept meaning to ask a doctor to prescribe me a full course of antibiotics that I could carry with me just in case (getting to a medical clinic can be very hard on trail), but I was too exhausted and disorganized to ever make the appointment before leaving. You might want to do that. I suggest carrying 3 pairs of underwear for sections without daily access to good wash water. Let the inside of your underwear get exposed to as many hours of intense sunlight as possible, such as tied to the outside of your pack or laid out during breaks, because strong UV radiation has antimicrobial properties. Carry a bandana for cleaning up after urinating. Men, if you see a bandana tied to the outside of a woman’s backpack, do not absently play with it (yes, I have seen this, did not have the heart to tell him)! This is about the extent of differences between solo male and female hikers, other than comments and skepticism about your suitability to be out there.
What is the water situation like?
Guthook is the most reliable way to keep track of water sources, and I cannot recommend it enough. A lot of the time, you are walking above your water, so it can be an issue. There are a lot of 15-20 mile carries in Montana/Idaho, which can be rough in the heat of July on steep mountainous terrain. While it can be spread out, the water is mostly good. The stretch just north of Yellowstone is surprisingly dry compared to the immediate surrounding areas, so watch out. The red desert is about 15-25 miles between water sources, but when you hit water it is normally good spring water fenced off and tapped by BLM. There are a couple of notable and flavorful exceptions (dead cow in water).
The driest stretch might be the alakli flats in Rawlins->35 miles south, where the water is saline and undrinkable. The section going through el Malpais is probably similar, but I did not walk through it. I was nervous enough about this section to bypass some of it in a car, although my later experience in New Mexico makes this type of carry not seem so bad. Colorado, with a couple exceptions, has plenty of nice tasty spring water. In New Mexico, I probably hit one or two water sources a day (20-25 miles between sources). I took a wetter New Mexico route, though – the path through El Malpais is very long and dry. In middle and southern New Mexico, you will be drinking out of cattle troughs, or out of ponds with cattle peeing in them. yum. Most of the time you can get the pump turned on and have access to fresh ground water, but not always, so make sure to carry Crystal Light so you can have plausible deniability in what exactly you are drinking. Any water source labeled as a farm pond or tank is normally just nasty sludge, and I normally discounted them as serious water sources for planning purposes. There were only a handful of times on the entire trail I was really forced to drink rank-ass water (although plenty of times I drank murky swampy water). Sometimes if I really thought the water was unappetizing, I would drink all my remaining good water, and fill up on the yucky water, and hope I could reach my next water source without needing to drink the yucky water. Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t.
middle and southern montana can be dry. The carries are not incredibly long, but the terrain is rough and you will be exerting yourself pretty hard. Hence, a 17 mile carry can be substantial in this area.
Northbounders: be careful about water as you are leaving Yellowstone. You go from having to cross a stream 1,205 times a day through the winds and southern yellowstone, to suddenly a very dry and possibly hot stretch in northern yellowstone. I ran into water trouble in this segment and crossed some NoBos who were starting to get nervous about water. Just be prepared for a dry stretch suddenly in northern Wyoming.
Southbounders: Be careful as you leave Benchmark Ranch. The water situation rapidly goes from water-fat to quite dry, and you will be traveling over rough terrain in the heat of July. The Bob is very wet, and you may not realize you need to expand your water carrying capacity immediately once you leave Benchmark. I know someone who vomited from heat exhaustion in this section (heat wave), and someone else who ran out of water and had to lay down and sleep until evening. He was so water-crazed that when I told him the spring he was about to get water from had a dead rat in it, he flatly said “I don’t care” and drank 2 liters unfiltered. Both were experienced thru-hikers, but were caught off guard by the transition.
In general, do not look too closely at the collecting culverts for Springs, as they tend to have dead rats, squirrels, and birds in them. This is also why I recommend filtering most of your water. Out of sight, out of mind. If you are the type of person who never filters your water, I probably can’t convince you otherwise, but at least bring an eye dropper of bleach for when you have to drink out of a pond with a dead cow laying in it, pretty please??
How do I handle long stretches without water?
I would say that before you are trail-hardened, worry about a carry longer than 10 miles, unless it is on very easy terrain. Once you have adapted and are in-tune with your water needs, don’t worry until the carry is over 20 miles. I very rarely carried more than 3 L of water with me at a time, and then I only did so for fairly short periods of time before stopping for the night. I really think you are going to start crippling yourself if you carry more than 3L, and it is normally not necessary to carry more, even if it is 25 miles to your next source.
WARNING: this advice is for people who have adapted to hiking and can routinely walk 20+ miles in a day WITHOUT over exerting themselves. This is potentially terrible or dangerous advice to someone who does not have that level of fitness or experience. Here is what you can do to stretch your supply:
1) Every time you come to a water source, camel up. Eat some salty snacks, and drink at least 1 L; if this is your only water source for the day, drink 2. Flavor packets will help the water go down more easily if you are having a hard time getting through it. Your body is pretty good at getting rid of excess, and if you are not overexerting yourself hyponatremia is not likely to be a problem. If you stay well ahead of dehydration, then if you screw up and get in trouble, you at least have reserves. I was better hydrated in the desert than anywhere else along the hike as a preemptive measure.
2) Do not drink from a hydration hose. I know this sounds crazy, and maybe it is, but sometimes you want water just because your mouth is dry. If you become accustomed continually having water in your mouth, you will feel like you need more. In contrast, if you train yourself to drink once an hour, you will be able to better differentiate between a dry mouth and actual thirst. If you carry too much water, you will be tired much more easily because water is heavy.
3) Eat your water-greedy food at water sources. If you want to make it 30 miles today and you come across water at mile 20, and it will be another 20 miles to the next source, go ahead and cook at mile 20. Drink while your are cooking, drink after you have finished eating, and then pack up. Let’s say this is 4pm. You probably only need 2 L to make it comfortably to your next source, say at 11 in the morning,. I personally go through about a gallon on a moderate-temperature, high-effort day (this includes cooking water) so if I drink 2 L when I stop, and carry 2 L with me, I can easily get my gallon a day without ever carrying very much.
4) If you realize you might be getting in trouble, just stop and go to sleep in a protected area until it is cooler. Your water needs will be much, much lower at night. Similarly, you might decide to hike the beginning of a long dry stretch in the dark to lower your water needs.
5) Always be on the lookout for an opportunistic water source during a long carry. If a random person in their truck offers you water, take it. Pay attention to the area, and you will recognize that certain types of plants are only found near water. Continually scan your surroundings for those plant species. Tall grass in the middle of sage brush? Little purple flowers and lush green grass in the high peaks of Montana? If you see them, go investigate. Metal culverts, large industrial tires, windmills, solar panels, and oddly-placed power lines are all potential water sources. If you see a small area fenced off in a circle in the middle of nowhere, that is a very good sign that there is a spring inside the fenced area. If you are on a well-marked trail and see cairns leading off into the woods, it could be a sign there is water that way. In the desert, you will largely be drinking out of springs or wells tapped to supply cattle with water.
6) Do not rely on caches for your safety. I have saved weight by using known water caches, but I only relied on that cache if I had a solid backup plan in case it was dry (example: if I got to that cache and it was empty, I had identified a reliable off-trail water source a full mile away. It would suck to have to walk that far, but it was an acceptable risk to save water weight).
7) Have a reliable water report. The Guthook apps are incredible for this because you can get more reliable updates on which wells are broken or working.
8) When you plan out a long water carry, have a few what-ifs planned out. What if this water source is not there, and it’s 30 miles to the next one? Sometimes in a really bad situation like that, a solution might be to cut over to the nearest road, and wave your empty water bottle to passing cars. If there is any traffic, someone will probably help you. I don’t ever advocate relying on other people to rescue you. You need to be fully self-sufficient, and have backups planned. But, sometimes you make a mistake, and this is a potential option depending on where you are.
A note on dehydration and hyponatremia
Let’s compare the symptoms of dehydration and hyponatremia:
Dehydration: Increased thirst, dry mouth, tired, decreased urine output or dark urine, headache, irritability, muscle cramps, dry skin, dizziness, few or no tears.
Hyponatremia: Nausea and vomiting, headache, confusion, loss of energy, irritability, muscle cramps and weakness, seizures.
These conditions have significant symptom overlap. One of these conditions is solved by drinking more water, while the other is made worse by drinking more water. Hyponatremia can kill faster than dehydration, and once it has seriously started you can’t really fix it in the field. Don’t endlessly encourage someone who is feeling crampy, fatigued, and dizzy to keep drinking water without considering hyponatremia. It is possible to over drink.
Make sure you have salty snacks, and consider adding a little bit of salt to your water. Some people take electrolyte tablets. I sometimes took electrolyte tablets, but mostly ate a lot of plantain and banana chips.
How hard is the trail, actually?
The physical difficulty of the trail varies a lot. There are long stretches where you are walking over gently rolling terrain on dirt roads, and there are other stretches where you are walking up and down very steep mountains with no tread. The general consensus is that the CDT is much harder physically than the PCT, and easier mile-for-mile than the AT (in terms of pure physical effort). By the time you have your trail legs, you will be doing miles on terrain that would be unfeasible and potentially dangerous, for a person in good shape who has not had that degree of trail-conditioning. That being said, the average human who is relatively young (under 40) and has few underlying injuries can adapt to this level after a month of hiking; someone who is in good shape and in their 60’s can adapt to this as well ** I have been reminded, since initially writing this, that I have falsely imposed an upper age limit on the CDT; I revoke this statement. I do not have any upper age limit for the CDT to comment on, for someone who is strong and in good shape!!! My “under 40” comment was meant to be inclusive,and say that you can go from couch potato-to-trail in fairly short order!**
In my opinion, a major difficulty of the trail is not the sheer elevation gain/loss, but rather the unpredictable nature of the trail quality. Unlike the AT and PCT, the CDT is very poorly maintained and poorly marked in some areas, and is not friendly for human hikers. You might look at your map that you have 10 miles to hike and 3000 feet of elevation gain, and figure that will take you ~4 hours and you will do it by lunch. This plan can be quickly thwarted when you realize there are 50 downed trees along the way, and about a mile of this trail has been overtake by 6ft high willow trees. Now it takes you 6 hours instead of 4, and you are worn out. These types of small setbacks happen continually, are not apparent when you read your map, and can be very frustrating. The trail can also be very terribly marked in places, and this can lead to a lot of time loss. For example, your are walking along a well-defined path, and the CDT suddenly turns left into an overgrown-trail on flat ground with no forewarning and the trail you are on keeps going.
How cold is it? What type of sleeping bag do I need? How much snow is there? What snow gear do I need?
2017 was a rough year for snow. The NOBOS hit enormous snowpacks in Colorado in late May and early June. The Winds remained unpassable for a long period of time. Many NOBOS ended up roadwalking large parts of Colorado, and those who did walk through the southern San Juans all have death-defying stories. The SOBOs faced high snow levels in Glacier National park, even at the low elevation Chief mountain start, well into June. I started June 15 and would have had a hard time starting much earlier – there were 10 miles of 3 ft deep snow over Piegan pass, with some exposure. There was still a good amount of snow in the Cirque of the Towers route in the Winds when I arrived in mid August. For me, microspikes made a dramatic difference between fearful misery and calm confidence on snow. I am more skittish about traversing steep snow slopes than other people are, and most people will say you don’t really need snow gear. Well, I found that I needed it, so that is my experience I am sharing with you. I hit the San Juans in mid-September, and got forced off the trail into Silverton due to a nasty snowstorm. While I tried to continue my hike in the San Juans after the storm was over, I found that the combination of snow + low temperatures from a cold front, + threat of a second storm coming exceeded my gear and comfort level, so I decided to abandon the remaining San Juan route and hitch to Pagosa Springs instead. I opted to take the Platoro reservoir alternate to avoid the second snowstorm, which was a good thing because quite a bit of snow fell at higher elevations on Sept 22. The threat of snow remains because the same mountain chain extends down into northern New Mexico. Once you descend to Ghost Ranch, you are mostly safe from snow on a SOBO hike as long as it is not late November!
I took a 20 degree quilt with me, and a mountaineering grade sleeping pad, and was happy temperature wise. I was too warm during the heatwaves in Montana. The coldest it ever got was in the high teens (I carried a tiny thermometer with me), with the coldest temperatures coming in Northern New Mexico. The first freeze came in August in the Winds. I was happy even at 18 F in my 20 degree bag, but women especially might need a lower rated bag to feel comfortable at these temperatures. I camped next to another woman that night who had a 0 degree bag, and she was uncomfortably chilled whereas I was toasty and snug in my 20 degree quilt. It really depends on your metabolism. I think 20 degrees was probably the most common bag used.
Animals? Should I take bear spray?
I carried bear spray from Glacier to South Pass City, as there are now grizzly bears in the Winds. I saw two grizzly bears, one waaay too close up; they both behaved well, and casually moved away from me. There are black bears pretty much the entire trail, except for the red desert and long stretches in New Mexico. Most thru hikers do not hang their food in black bear country. This goes against pretty much all advice on the subject matter, but there is a tradeoff between the theoretical danger of a black bear coming for you food, and the fact that you are exhausted at the end of each day and hate the task of hanging your food. I gave up hanging my food around south pass city. I don’t recommend it, and I do know of at least one person who had a black bear eat their food, but it would be hypocritical for me to admonish him since I was doing it too.
I was very happy to have my bear spray when I was chased by three enormous livestock guardian dogs for 30 minutes. I was also happy to have bear spray when a moose boldy sauntered into my campsite and walked right up to me, despite my protests (I managed to shoo her away, but she had broken my personal space bubble). Be very careful when you enter flocks of sheep – the dogs do not like it if you bother the sheep.I called the district ranger about my experience, and he said the type of aggression I encountered was unheard of and unacceptable, so I might have just been unlucky. Never, ever enter a flock of sheep if you have your own dog with you. The livestock guardians should know that humans are to be tolerated, and in principle should let you pass, but they might try to kill your dog because that is their job. In general, feral dogs are the animals that have always scared me the most in the backcountry. I have backed down from doing hikes in Virginia because I could hear them baying and snarling in the distance.
There are moose from Glacier to South pass city, and from the colorado border almost all the way into New Mexico. They are quite thick in Colorado. They have no fear. None at all. You and a group of moose may peacefully share the same space for a while. As the season gets later, they get bolder. If they get ornery, they will chase you. Watch them carefully and give them lots of space.
Yes, there are rattlesnakes in New Mexico. Yes, I still recommend you wear low-top trail runners. Don’t reach your hands over rocks where you can’t see what you are grabbing, and be careful around wood piles.
A lot of the time, the CDT will put you up on an exposed ridgeline in the high mountains for prolonged periods of time. This is exactly the type of terrain where you do NOT want to be for thunderstorms. Your odds of getting hit by lightning are massively increased when you make a habit of spending long hours at the top of bare ridgelines. Part of your daily planning should include how likely you are to run into a severe thunderstorm on exposed terrain, and what your safest course of action is if that happens. In short, you are much more likely to hit thunderstorms in the afternoon in July/August than in the morning, so sometimes you are able to plan your days so your ridgewalk is in the morning. Other times, it is really not possible to do this. In the event you will be spending a prolong period of time ridgewalking in the late afternoon, try to have an escape plan or low-elevation route outlined. If the weather starts looking bad, and there is a way for you to walk at a lower elevation, do it. Sometimes this will mean dropping down 300 feet in elevation and walking parallel to the trail. Other times, this might mean waiting in a sheltered location for a storm to pass. Normally they will move on in 20-40 minutes. Try to camp in areas where you are decidedly NOT the tallest thing around. My common tactic was to camp about 500-1000 vertical feet below a pass in a bowl-shaped valley. Unfortunately, you may find yourself in a situation where an escape route is very treacherous. Then you are really in a pickle. I would take my chances with the lightning, personally, rather than rolling off a cliff. If you are caught in a storm in a flat open plane with very few tress, like in the red desert or New Mexico, just screw it and avoid the trees altogether. It is better to avoid trees altogether, rather than be near any isolated ones.
After a certain point, you just have to hope it’s not your day to get struck by lightning.