April 15, 2018
Because my food bag had sun-dried tomato oil all over the inside, I had to clean it all up and reorganize my food. I told Ghosthiker and Sparky to go on ahead and I didn’t see them again until 6 miles up the trail, giving me more space and time to stop for restroom breaks. At one point along some sparsley-wooded switchbacks, I stopped for a long break because my foot was hurting pretty bad and I felt sick from the UTI. I managed to take a moody selfie by balancing my phone on a stump. Someone told me landscapes are nice, but they aren’t seeing enough photos of ME in trail. Well, okay, then.
We camped at mile 293.8, at the last access to Holcomb Creek, I think. It was a nice sandy spot with lots of level places to camp. We did over 17 miles and ended the day at about 3:30pm, which is pretty good considering how late we got started and how moderate my pace was. I was feeling really hungry so I made a huge pot of ramen and added some dried veggies, seaweed, and Thai spiced cashews from Trader Joe’s. I love those things, but the whole dinner ended up being too much food for me and I had to pack some of it out with me. Ugh.
Sitting in my tent later, I could hear Ghosthiker and Sparky talking about mileage, about how we’ll hit mile 1000 somewhere in the Sierra. I felt my stomach drop a little. We were only just getting close to mile 300; mile 1000 seemed so very far away. It was as if the magnitude of what I was doing finally hit me for real and I just sat frozen in my tent for a few moments.
All the miles we’d hiked so far were supposed to be the easy build-up to the Sierra, but I’d been having so much trouble with my feet I could hardly believe it was actually going to be getting much worse. That day I’d started feeling pain in my left foot at the base of my arch, just like the right one, as well as a piercing pain in my left leg below my knee. Ghosthiker said it may be the start of shin splints and I should try and take it easy while hiking. I was beginning to realize that I was probably slowing down my new trail family, and it was not a good feeling. What was wrong with me? I had the right shoes, according to other hikers. The Altra Lone Peak’s were supposed to be golden, and I had good insoles, too. I was covering hot spots with Leukotape and lancing and draining existing blisters, letting them breathe at night and covering them in the mornings.
Sometimes I would look at my feet and think, this isn’t so bad. They don’t look that much different. And then I’d remember that I still had over 2300 miles to go. Can I do this? Can I stick it out? I didn’t know, but I was damn sure going to try. I’d spent far too many months with my brain wrapped around this hike, and to not complete it wasn’t even on my radar at that point. Blisters would heal. Even if I had to endure them for the next 5 months, I’d live. I didn’t have a choice. Did I?
While sitting in my tent stewing over these things, a sudden, loud voice broke the silence of the woods. “Hiker trash! Hiker trash!” Then he laughed merrily and called out, “Happy anniversary!” By the time we unzipped our tents and looked to see who it was, he’d gone. Weird.
My morning ritual as of that day was as follows: wake up either on my own or to my alarm. Sometimes hit snooze once. Or twice. Release the air very slowly from my sleeping pad so as not to wake anyone with how obscenely loud deflating a sleeping pad can be at 4:30am. Lay there waiting for my mat to flatten, remind myself that I do actually have to get up and hike. Ugh. Try to move and stretch my feet and ankles while my pad is deflating. Pull my day shirt into my bag with me so it’s warm when I go to put it on. So stinky. Put on my headlamp with the red light so as not to wake anyone with its brightness. Use the light to check for critters outside my tent door. All clear, QUIETLY unzip my tent so as not to wake anyone. If my food is near, set up my stove under the rain fly and start heating water for coffee. While it’s heating, get out coffee and Carnation breakfast packets, spoon, unfold my collapsible cup, take necessary vitamins, all the while keeping a close eye on my stove so I don’t set my tent on fire.
Make coffee. No exceptions, ever. Set coffee cup in pot cozy with lid to keep it warm while I change into my shirt. Drink coffee intermittently while I do stretches, put all my things in their respective pack pockets for the day including chapstick, lotion, hand sanitizer, toilet paper for the day, snacks, and so on. Set anything I’m done with outside my tent, to keep things tidy. Drink more coffee.
Remove sleeping socks and inspect feet. Do I need to lance or cover any blisters? Probably. Remove food bag and anything else from contractor bag which is inside my pack and pack away my sleeping quilt and liner. Once that’s done, put on whatever hiking pants I’m wearing that day and choose hiking socks, either Injinji toe socks or thick Darn Toughs. Check for critters and remove as much sand as possible from shoes and insoles (we’re still in the desert). Clear as much out of tent as possible and then clear myself out.
By now Sparky and Ghosthiker are either getting ready to hike or are already putting on their packs to leave. They’re so fast in the morning! I’m such a slug. I disassemble my tent quickly and pack everything into my bag. Pull it on – so heavy – and start hiking.