Daily Archives: March 30, 2013

Day 25: Happy Easter, y’all

Miscellanea from the first leg.

Every one of these unplanned zeroes brings new insights. First and foremost, there’s something I want to try with regard to the end-of-day hamburger feet—that feeling after mile eight or nine that every step is on a bed of glass. It’s limiting my distance in a way that’s going to be significant if it continues.

See, I’m pigheaded. On my training hikes, I’d just pound through ten or eleven or twelve or twenty miles, then hit the car and be crippled all night. That’s fine for a sprint, but it’s just not working for the marathon. I think I’m going to have to (gasp!) take breaks. Even the fourteen-mile day was a deathmarch, with a one-minute gasping breather every half-mile or so after the pain got bad.

There’s this guy, Erik the Black; Erik has a great website with hiker tips. He laid out a whole schedule for breaks, which I conveniently ignored. I’m going to try it, though—or a modified version. The guy must be a beast. His ten-hour plan would take me seventeen hours on my Chihuahua legs. But it should get me to fifteen miles per day if it relieves the foot pain. And that’s all I need. (In my defense, stopping in this weather hasn’t exactly been comfortable. I think it’s warm enough now that I can force myself to do it anyway, if I make some changes to where my warmest gear is stowed, so I can pull it out quickly. And I’ll have to figure out how to stop when there’s no level place to rest.)

That’s one. Two is the injury report. My crap knees continue to be crap; I move like an eighty-year-old. But part of that is, oddly enough, my glasses. I think. I have very strong progressive lenses. To really see the trail underfoot, I have to look down at such an extreme angle that my back curves like a comma—and the weight of the pack knocks me off balance. That is, it’s a posture issue. And sometimes I fall. And that makes me more nervous with every step.

I’m going to play more with looking down, seeing the obstacles, then looking a few feet out and using my sense of balance. I did manage to get a second-degree black belt in a martial art that’s all about balance. I’ve been too fearful. I can trust myself more.

I’ve lost a few pounds and my collar bones are more prominent. I seem to have developed a sore spot where the pack is riding one of them. Have to watch that, and apply padding as needed.

Two of my toenails are black. That’s a hiker injury as common as blisters. They don’t hurt, so they’re like a badge of honor!

The chafing returns on frigid days with steep uphills. I don’t know why. Nancy Drew’s Aquaphor suggestion keeps it in check.

There’s a massive bruise on my ass! It doesn’t hurt, though. I didn’t even know I had it until I caught a glimpse after a shower.

That’s it for injuries. I don’t eat other hikers’ food, I try to avoid the shelters. I try not to touch anything in the repulsive privies, beyond the necessities.

Oh! Speaking of privies… I actually love that they’re out here. Composting outhouses in the middle of nowhere. Thank you, trail maintainers, for putting them up and taking care of them despite the fact that hikers trash them. You are saints! I’ve only actually had to poop alfresco twice; all the other times, my body’s been content to work on the privy-to-privy plan.

The Smokies have no privies.

Seriously, you force people to sleep in shelters but don’t install a privy? I’ve heard the areas around the Smokies shelters are poop minefields. I’ll let you know in a week or two. 🙂 And I’ll be watching where I pitch my tent (which you’re allowed to do if the shelter is full).

Forthcoming: The hike starts April 1. I can start my hike over any time I like. =D I knew I’d have the likelihood of zeroes at the beginning, what with the winter start, so I saved an extra grand in addition to my estimated hiking money. I haven’t used all of that. And I’d guesstimated 3/26 for my Smokies entrance. So I’m only six days behind schedule—which still gives me a September finish, if I get on track.

Smokies, here I come. Look: I can see the Shucksfack firetower from my window!

Edited to add: Blackhawk is staying one more day because of his cold. Hiker Paisley is staying one more day to heal up from a cold and a serious ankle infection that developed from a blister (she’s been sidelined for three days now with swelling). Slow-but-Sure (shown below) and her husband Bud (with the cigar yesterday, in front of the laundromat) are staying one extra day to wait out the rain. A bunch of other hikers are staying. But a lot of hikers are heading out today, including PopPop and the Postman. Some of them are planning to stay at the Fontana Hilton, which is a hostel or shelter (not an actual Hilton; it’s a joking name) right at the foot of the Smokes.

It’s funny, the dance of justification we play about taking one more day off. It reminds me of when you’ve been out sick from work, and you’re almost, just-about, very-nearly healthy—this pathological guilt-driven compulsion to explain why you need just one more day to make sure it’s really gone. “If I didn’t have this cold, man, I’d be going out today!” I’ve been doing it, but with amusement. I really don’t feel guilty at the moment. I want to go to the highest elevations on the trail under the best possible physical conditions. And the climb up into the Smokies from here is legendary for its awfulness.

Also, you’d think hikers are the laziest people on earth. This hotel has exactly two floors: floor 1 and floor 2. No lobby level. No mezzanine. Just upstairs and downstairs. And I’ve yet to see a hiker take the stairs. We’re jabbing that elevator button like freaking woodpeckers. And I totally get it. Nobody (including me) wants to walk ten feet if they don’t actually count. LOL.

Since I don’t have any fabulous hiking pictures, I’m showing you my Smokies food, the weather, the beautiful Slow-but-Sure, and the debonair PopPop. Have a happy Easter!

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Categories: Appalachian Trail | Tags: | 14 Comments

Day 24: Technicolor

I’m here at the Fontana Lodge. The weather is wet and dreary with a high chance of drearier. Discretion being the better part of valor, I pulled the plug on one more night. Get the cold better, let the various bumps and bruises heal up, and head into the Smokes when the lightning and thunder have passed—on April 1, a date of great personal significance.

Fontana Village is kind of cool, in a high-priced resorty kind of way. It’s barren now; the ice cream shop and pool are closed for the season. Sort of like the Overlook Hotel. For the most part, the walking dead in the desolate corridors are hikers. Just us and the massive boar heads on the walls. In general, the boars look happier.

So here’s the latest edition of As the Trail Turns. Slow-But-Sure and Because-of-Her are here. They were the fabulous couple from the Aquone Hostel who mailed my package for me. They were in a shelter…oh… three nights ago now? Had to be the night after the NOC. In this weather, people cram into those shelters like sardines. The sleeping bags are crushed together, ten people in a space built for six—honestly, the intimacy level is higher than in some marriages. Everybody snores, everybody farts, mice run roughshod over your gear, not to mention your face. So far, I’ve avoided sleeping in a shelter.

Anyway, three nights ago, this girl woke up in the middle of the night in the shelter puking her guts out. Turns out it was Risk-It, my roommate for the second night in the NOC. Her hiking partner took excellent care of her, and apparently they were heading back into the NOC to recover.

Risk-It started with two other hikers One quit after the Approach Trail, and the other quit at Neels. She said she’s been very fortunate to find a new group of great people. Get better soon, Risk-It!

So. This isn’t the first I’ve heard of this hiker plague that’s sweeping North Carolina. At Cody Gap I met Backtrack and Two Sticks. Backtrack got his name from all the back and forth he’s been doing, including helping two young hikers, one of whom is named Davy Crockett. Their gear was woefully inadequate for the weather; he got them into Atlanta to get other stuff. Davy Crockett and his partner were in the Wayah Bald shelter with me the night my tent flooded.

Backtrack had a bout earlier with the puke plague. He told me about it at Cody Gap. He was very sick, and said a bunch of hikers have had it.

Backtrack is here at the Lodge.

Also here at the Lodge are Blackhawk and PopPop. PopPop is 67 and this is his second thru. He’s talking about heading into the Smokes tomorrow, but Blackhawk Bob (who was a military pilot for 22 years or so and actually carries a humidor full of cigars) is probably going to convince him to stay one extra night. Bob sounds worse than I do, with the cold.

The Postman is here. He has a scab on his cheekbone. He took a bad spill and landed on rocks. He says he thinks he knocked himself out for a few minutes. Still hiking, though! He’s heading into the Smokes tomorrow morning.

I’m lounging in the fabulous resort laundromat in nothing but a puffy jacket and puffy pants. Even my socks are in the wash.

There aren’t any leads here, but everybody’s a character actor. (Below, that’s Bud/Because-of-Her smoking a stogey outside the laundromat.)

Just another day in the moving circus.

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Categories: Appalachian Trail | Tags: | 12 Comments

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