I don’t even know what day of the hike this is. Let’s see, if we started on April 30th and today is May 11th… this is day 12. Almost 2 weeks on the trail, with only one zero day. We’ve hiked about 127 miles so far.
And my feet are screaming at me.
I have very few blisters, maybe three. They’re small and inconsequential. Those aren’t the problem. The problem is I don’t know what is wrong with my feet. I feel as if a hammer has been swung at them; from my toes to my ankle. Walking is the worst, and walking is the name of this game called Thru-Hiking.
They’ve been hurting like this for a few days, and it hurts more than my knee. I’m worried that I may have hairline fractures in my metatarsal bones (the bones between your toes and your ankles). They’re common stress fractures for thru hikers that carry packs heavier than their feet can handle. But I’m staying positive and hoping I just inflamed the tendons in my feet.
Currently we’re at a trail angel’s place in the middle of bum fucked Egypt, somebody called Mike (although Mike ain’t here). We think we’re going to take a zero tomorrow and see what happens. Maybe if I rest my feet for a day they’ll get better. That’s all we can hope for.
Oh, and we walked through a fucking mess of poison oak and ivy earlier today, and for a while I thought I was surrounded by poodle dog bush. It was not a good day.
I still hiked fourteen miles today.
Not bad for some fucked up feet.
As long as I didn’t fuck them up more with those fourteen miles.
If I had to pick any place for a cheap zero day, it would be this place. I spent at least 75% of my time in a cushioned couch swing, 10% napping, and the other 15% eating homemade veggie pizza.
A lot of folks showed up with similar injuries, and I spoke to someone who recently switched from the shoes I’m currently wearing. They said something about a rock bruise on the ball of their foot and the potential for bone breakage. They had switched to Altra Lone Peaks (I’m wearing the lesser grade Altra Superiors) and their feet had improved in just a day or so.
That’s it. I give in. My stubbornness can only go so far. Someone mentioned seeing an older pair of Lone Peaks in the hiker box, and I went to find them.
I don’t consider myself a lucky person, most of my circumstances are through hard work and good planning. But those Lone Peaks in the hiker box? They weren’t as old or worn down as I thought, and they were a men’s size 10.5. A perfect fit for my women’s size 10. They fit like they’re brand new and I instantly felt the difference on the top of my feet.
It’s now morning of the 14th day… 2 weeks on the trail… my feet aren’t perfect, but they feel so much better than they did. I’m optimistic for the hike out of here and into Idylwild.
My next challenge is figuring out my back pain, and I think I’m willing to switch out to a different pack at this point.
The Lone Peaks gave me blisters.
I just can’t win. Not only are my extender tendons hurting on both feet, but now I have a big ol’ blister by my big toe on both feet, and two on both heels. Blarg. I think my feet are too short for them, so my toes aren’t actually in the box. Also, they’re thick and my feet quickly turn into Hot Pockets. I’m back to wearing my Superiors again for the time being.
We’re in Idyllwild now, and have been for two and a half days. We overspent and got three nights in a lovely lodge (Silver Pines!) with Britney so we can all recover. Evan’s hips are hurting, Britney has hella blisters and knee issues, and then there’s me. Two days into our recovery and I’m still walking like my friends mother. Oh, and my back still hurts. It felt good yesterday, what gives??
At the time of writing I’m sitting in a little laundromat washing my clothes for the first time since starting the trail. They’ve been rinsed in streams and bathtubs a few times but this is their first real wash. I’m excited to have a blue fleece again, not a gray one. They let us borrow clothes so we could wash *all* of them. In the extra clothes bin, I actually found an outfit that resembles my normal ‘front-country’ look. I feel like a proper gender-queer POS again instead of a femme hiker. That’s a good feeling.
Also, taking a shower tonight won’t be pointless because I won’t be putting on filthy clothing.
Never underestimate the sliminess of polyester saturated with old sweat.
Let’s see… after this I’m probably going to hit up the local gear shop for new shoes. I’ll pay money this time!! It is imperative that I get this figured out. I’ve got KT tape on both feet/ankles to try and help speed my recovery, because I know that even perfect shoes won’t be much good if I’m injured still.
And then we intend to hit up the library to do some real blogging and crap, and then I need to find some postcards to mail. All else fails I’ll make some out of watercolor paper (this town has an art supply store!! GAAASP), or out of poptart boxes.
The plan tomorrow is to hike out I guess, maybe climb Mt. San Jacinto. We went to the movies last night and for just two and a half hours I forgot I was supposed to be thru hiking. Talk about immersive experiences. I’m struggling with my decision lately. Why did I do this? Why am I spending so much money? To destroy my body? What happened to that craving for adventure? I feel so weak to be hesitant to continue just because I hurt.
This is why trail towns are black holes. A vortex. You feel so good here, to be vacationing on your vacation, and you don’t want to go back to the pain.
But you have to.
Otherwise you’re just a bum.
Day 17, part II
I tried on five different kinds of shoes. If I could tip the gals at Nomad Ventures, I would have. I’m sure they put up with problem hikers like me all the time, but I could really see it in one of the clerk’s face every time I said a pair of shoes wasn’t working for me. I tried three different types of Altras–men’s and women’s–and two different La Sportivas. In the end I ended up with the latter, because amazingly they didn’t rub against my already throbbing blisters (seriously, I can’t even feel them now), and they immediately relieved some of my tendon pain. Score!
…and then I decided I should get a new pack as well.
Lets be honest, most problems hikers have with their body (feet, ankles, knees, back, whatever) boil down to one thing: their packs and their pack weight. My Deuter ACT Lite 60+10, while honestly very comfortable, was not doing me any favors at this point. I have to wear it so high up on my waist to prevent shoulder pain that I feel my rib cage being constricted. It gives me so much possible volume to fill that I literally cram it full. When I left Warner Springs last week, it weighed 43 pounds. FORTY-THREE POUNDS!!! The upper limit of a backpacker’s pack weight should be no more than 15% of their body weight at the most. Last I checked I’m 165, so I shouldn’t be carrying more than 25.
My base weight out of Campo was around 19. That doesn’t leave much room for food and water.
So, I threw all caution to the wind and picked out a ULA Circuit. The pack itself weighs 2.5lbs less than my Deuter. It fits better, it fits higher, and the frame will keep me from arching my back in a way that has caused my lumbar issues. I couldn’t believe the difference when I loaded it with all my existing gear and threw it on my back. It’s like I’m wearing nothing! Granted, I wasn’t carrying full water (maybe somewhere around half capacity), but damn.
I dropped nearly $300 on gear today, and walked out with just four items. The La Sportivas, the ULA pack, a new spork for Evan (the dummy was playing spoons with it and broke it in half. Don’t let him try and convince you that he was washing it. HE LIES), and a chocolate chip-peanut butter-banana Clif bar (the only flavor I accept now. All other bars are inferior and disgusting).
Sure. That’s a ton of money on two things. But these are big things. I honestly believe that these new items will make the difference between me getting to Canada or not. Hell, even just the next 100 miles.
I’m incredibly optimistic for the rest of this hike now, and no longer look at our hike out tomorrow with trepidation.
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