May 4, 2018
Ghosthiker, Jennifer, and I spent a lovely morning chatting over breakfast and coffee, then it was off to the post office to get my package of shoes, mail all our resupply boxes ahead, and for me to mail a big box of unwanted stuff home and my new Altras and insoles back to REI. They were very cool about taking them back. While I’d been at the REI store in Santa Clarita the employee helping me insisted the shoes didn’t work or if my foot troubles persisted, to please contact them and they’d take the shoes back without a problem. I love REI.
I opened my box from home, tried on every pair, and sent back all but my Merrell Moabs. My feet have indeed grown, or perhaps just flattened out. The Merrells were a little tight but I thought maybe I could make them work. Ghosthiker and I would be slack-packing an 8-mile section of trail today so I’d use that time to test them out. Maybe once we reached the Sierra my feet would stop swelling and I wouldn’t need so much extra room in my shoes?
While we were busy repackaging things to mail, who should come walking up to us but Sparky and Oats! The trail angel they were staying with had lent them a car, so we all went together to Big 5 and then to Kohnen’s bakery downtown for early lunch. Then it was off to Wits’ End, where Dalton arranged for us to hitch a ride with their neighbor Dennis and his wife to the Willow Springs Road Trailhead. Ghosthiker had gotten off at this trailhead to hitch to Tehachapi, and I had these skipped miles to make up anyway, so we knocked them out in short order and Dalton picked us up at the Hwy 58 trailhead.
It was a very easy hike and the perfect opportunity to try out my hiking boots. Unfortunately, despite trying different socks, wearing them with or without insoles, and different lacing techniques, I knew by the time we reached Hwy 58 that they were not going to work. I was pretty saddened by the waste of time and money that had been used mailing all these shoes to me needlessly. I was also sad because I’d hiked many times in these boots and loved them, but now they no longer fit. Would they ever fit again? Would my feet ever go back to the size they were before? I had no idea. I asked Sparky later and he said his feet had grown a size and never went back, but of course, he never stopped hiking long enough to see if they would.
At least I knew for certain that whatever shoes I found at Big 5 would have to do. On the plus side, it was a really pleasant hike! All the blisters I’d lanced and cleaned the last two days – the big one and many small ones – were doing great and it wasn’t too terribly hot. It was my first slack-packing experience and I thought I could really get used to it! We hiked through wind farm for the first part and then a gentle climb and descent to Hwy 58. Not bad at all!
Rather than take us to Wits’ End, Dalton dropped us off at Big 5. Jennifer was at Albertsons already so she met us there. At first, we were all just browsing, but pretty soon Jennifer and Ghosthiker were both helping me look for shoes and sending employees to the back to look for different shoes in different sizes for me, and all I was doing was sitting on a bench trying on a myriad of shoe options. I felt like a kid with two moms working tirelessly to find me just the right pair of shoes. I told them they really didn’t have to help me, but they insisted. I think they were enjoying it. I ended up walking out of Big 5 with a pair of New Balance tennis shoes in extra wide, on clearance! It seemed too good to be true. I hoped and prayed they’d be the answer to all my problems, at least until I could get to an REI. It’s 84 miles to the next resupply point, so I’d have about 6 days to see whether or not they were really going to work.
Even though we’re still in the desert, we’ve moved beyond the “Southern California” section of Guthooks maps and are now technically in the Sierra section. I don’t quite feel like I’ve earned the right to feel the accomplishment that comes with switching to the next map since I skipped those miles from Hikertown, but it couldn’t be helped. I hoped the feeling of cheating/failure wouldn’t stick with me long.
When we got back got Jennifer’s home, I let Ghosthiker take her shower first and then I took a LONG shower, washed my hair really good, and shaved my legs. It felt like such a treat. It’s amazing how wonderful being clean can feel even though I’d barely been hiking lately. I hate being smelly. I don’t mind being smelly on the trail, but having BO while interacting with normal, clean people in town just feels disgusting.
Jennifer made dinner and margaritas, and we relaxed and watched TV with Scott while we ate. We put a small load of laundry into the washer and then Ghosthiker and I bid them goodnight. We’re both surprisingly tired for such an easy day, but I think Ghosthiker is really wanting some alone resting time.
Tomorrow we hike. For real.