April 26, 2018
The next day we awoke to the sound of a rooster crowing. We’d been warned to keep an eye on the rooster that roamed the property freely, that he was known to attack people when provoked, and also to keep our food safely in our tents or put away somewhere where the chickens couldn’t see it because they WOULD try to get it. Growing up on a farm, I know what it’s like to have to watch your back when there are roosters about. They’ll wait until you’re back is turned and then attack, scurrying over and taking a flying leap at your legs, talons extended, aiming for the backs of your knees so they can knock you down to their level. Then they go for the head. Monsters.
Well, I was prepared. That rooster must have smelled a challenge when I arrived because he zeroed in on me and started casing my tent, prowling slowly back and forth from a few yards away, waiting for the right moment to strike. Fool. I had one eye on him the whole time I was putting up my tent. Alias was watching him, too, amused by this little face-off. As soon as I turned my back to reach for my tent stakes that little bastard lunged, but I was faster. I spun around and gave him a swift kick in the ass, not enough to hurt him but enough to send him half-flying in the opposite direction.
“Fuck off!” I hissed. Alias laughed
That rooster never bothered me again.
That zero morning I examined my feet. The recurrent blister on the ball of my foot, the one that had been causing me so much pain, was about the size of a nickel. I’d made the mistake of popping a large blister my very first night on trail. I say it was a mistake because I’d been completely ill-advised on how to go about it. I’d used a pair of nail clippers and simply clipped right into the bubble of skin, releasing all the juices and then clipping all the dead skin away and leaving the exposed sore. At least I’d been smart enough to sanitize the area first. After that horrific experience, I’d been hesitant to lance any of my blisters unless they got really big, opting to cover them with Leukotape and pray they turned into calluses instead. This only worked some of the time. I’m not sure what I was reading online that lead me to NOT lance my blisters, but there you have it. Lesson slowly and painfully learned.
450+ miles has taught me a lot about blister care. That morning I knew I couldn’t walk another step on this enormous blister clinging to the bottom of my foot. I’d been limping terribly for the last few days and Mrs. Saufley looked very concerned whenever she saw me, and for good reason.
“You should really stay here a few days and let that heal up.” She advised more than once.
I should have listened to her, but I didn’t want to get left behind and I certainly wasn’t going to ask my group to stay for more than a day. I gathered some antiseptic wipes and a large bandaid from the first aid station, sterilized the affected area and the needle I’d be using, and went to work. The nice thing about lancing a blister the correct way is that it really isn’t supposed to hurt when you insert the needle. That should have been the clue that I was doing it wrong before. Oh well. The fluid that drained from my foot was clear, even if there was a lot of it. Good sign. I’d pitched my tent near a nice hay bale, so I sat there in the cool of the morning and let the blister drain and air out before applying antibiotic ointment and the bandaid. Since I wouldn’t be hiking, I was gonna give the Leukotape a break.
There are people here who know me who I don’t entirely remember meeting. More than one person said they heard about me from someone else. What does that even mean? They watch me hobble around and seem to think I am deserving of my trail name, and when they see my blister, or what’s left of it, they seem concerned that I’m still hiking and impressed that I’m even walking. It’s kind of flattering, to be literally called a badass, in a good way. I’m not used to that. I don’t feel like a badass. Mostly I just feel like a stubborn fool.
That first morning before I set out to doctor my foot, coffee was in order. I became everyone’s hero at 6am when I successfully made coffee in the electric percolator. Apparently, nobody else knew how to use it. It was so strong and delicious. When you’ve been living on instant coffee and Carnation instant breakfast, a good cup of strong, freshly brewed coffee is like heaven. I found some mini bagels that had “FREE” written on the bag and ate three of them for breakfast, covered in the peanut butter I’d snagged from the hiker box at the Acton KOA. I sat in the shade and enjoyed these spoils while other early-risers partook of the coffee I’d made and the rest of the camp slowly came to life. It was a beautiful morning.
Ghosthiker, Sparky, Alias, Longstride, and I arranged for an Uber to take us to Santa Clarita, where we visited REI, Von’s grocery store, Chipotle, and a lovely little bakery. The employees at REI were super helpful. Because I was still married to the idea that the Altra Lone Peaks were the best thing for me (all the cool kids were wearing them and the interwebs swore by them, so…), I ended up going with a pair of men’s because they’d be a little wider than all the women’s sizes. They felt like clown shoes when I walked, but they were roomy and comfortable and would, theoretically, allow my feet to swell in the desert heat without becoming too constricted. This made sense since slicing open my other shoes had relieved at least some off the pressure, even if it didn’t seem to be doing anything for my blisters.
Because I believed that I was suffering from metatarsalgia, I thought new shoes would be just the ticket to finally putting my feet to rights. And because I was buying new shoes, I needed to also buy new Superfeet Green insoles. It hurt to swipe my card at the checkout counter, but I reminded myself that it was worth it. I’d have paid twice that if it meant fixing my feet so I could keep hiking (instead of limping). I may have also splurged on some gummy bears while I was there…
At Chipotle, I asked for extra of whatever I could on my burrito bowl. When you eat most things in a tortilla on the trail, the last thing you want to eat in town is anything in a tortilla. Although I did get a burrito to go. My bowl was literally a small mountain of grilled goodness and I ate every morsel and was hungry again in just a few short hours. There is no cell service at Hiker Haven, so I made sure to call home and chatted with my mom for a while during our time in the city.
Back at Hiker Haven, I soaked my feet in Epsom salts again and then reclined on the couch in the Hiker House. Someone had put on a movie, something starring a lot of SNL celebrities and with a little more crude humor than I typically go for. But I was exhausted both in brain and body and it felt good to laugh for a little while, in a living room full of strangers.
Ghosthiker, Sparky, and I ate dinner at one of the patio tables. We’d all gotten extra Chipotle for dinner except Sparky, who’d bought a whole rotisserie chicken at Von’s. Ghosthiker bought a bottle of wine for us to share and we were able to drink out of real wine glasses from the Hike House. Satyr sat somewhere nearby playing his guitar. It was wonderful. I went to sleep with a nice full belly and feet that weren’t constantly throbbing with pain.