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

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14 thoughts on “Day 25: Happy Easter, y’all

  1. Blackbird

    Hey Karma!
    This is a great post. You’re getting hiker insight!
    As I recall, there are privies in the Smokies.

    As to the foot troubles, taking a break every hour for ten minutes is key, at least for me. And by taking a break, I mean off the feet, on the butt, sitting. And you’re right, that’s crazy hard to do in foul weather.

    As to shoes, I don’t know what sort of shoes you’re wearing (Forgive me if I didn’t read back in your journal and you tell what you’re wearing on your feet, but I will read back, I promise.) I gave up boots years ago, before I attempted a thru hike in ’05, and it was liberating. I only hike in shoes with mesh, lightweight and well-ventilated. Moisture is the enemy of the callouses on your feet. If you’re carrying alcohol gel in your poop kit (you ought to be!) giving your feet a rub with that will help dry them out at night. No doubt you’ve seen people wearing the trail runners, Brooks, New Balance, etc., out there. If you’re no wearing them, do consider switching to them.

    Toenails serve no real purpose — let ’em fall off!
    I’m sitting here with a couple of black toenails earned on section hikes. It’s hiker style, you know.

    Your strategy for avoiding the hiker funk is a good one.
    Is your tent and fly seam sealed with Silnet or some such goop? I still don’t get why it flooded.
    Something touching the wall and the moisture wicked through? I dunno.

    Anyway, you’re doing great so far. Learning valuable lessons and banking that knowledge.
    The Trail will teach you every single day.

    Blackbird,
    1,732.3 AT miles
    GAME – 2005 to ?

    • Blackbird, thanks for the awesome advice! I’ll try the ten-minite breaks for sure. It has to beat my ‘no breaks at all’ system. 😉

      I’m in light hikers—basically trail runners with a slightly more robust upper. And good insoles. I think they’ll be perfect when it’s not actually snowing.

      The tent flooded because of mud. It was a freak thing. We had torrential rain overnight, and the ground got so saturated that two stakes pulled loose. Then the fly collapsed in one corner and poured the rest of the night’s rain into my tent. Another lesson learned—I won’t spend the weight on soft-groind stakes, but in wet weather I’ll brace the stakes with rocks.

      Congratulations on your hike! It’s such a wild ride….

  2. Do you need to have the glasses? Can you use contacts on the trail?

    I like the idea of taking more breaks. It seems like a smart idea that will likely help to keep your body stronger for a progressively longer amount of time since muscles and tissue need time to rebuild, and will rebuild stronger when worked over and over like this.

    • I got rid of my contacts a few years ago—they stopped being able to correct my vision, alas. People do wear contacts, but it sounds pike a nightmare to me. Your hands get covered with dirt and poop and grime, and the solutions are heavy. One woman had her contacts freeze in their case last week!

  3. Blackbird

    Oh, you don’t have to leave my comment up. I just wanted to touch base and encourage your direction toward hiker enlightenment.
    😉
    Feel free to email me: comfortable.shorts (at) yahoo (dot) com

  4. Hike at your own pace and don’t worry to much about the mileage right now. Your doing great!

  5. Shirl

    Enjoying every word! Go hiker girl! I speak for me, and others I think, so proud of you on this journey!🙏

  6. Hey, Karma– A certain someone clued me in that you were doing the AT a couple weeks back, so I’ve been lurking on your blog since then. Huge props for taking on this great adventure! Maybe when you get near or into MD we could get together for a little granola! Anyway . . . respect.

    • David, hi! I guess I know who the someone is, LOL. Just getting myself a little lived experience.

      Granola in Maryland would be lovely! Assuming I live that long. 😉

      Hope you’re doing well, you fabulous Norse demigod, you!

  7. Ruth Matrulla (Inchworm)

    The answer to your foot problems is a pair of Merrell Continuum sneakers and a pair of crocs for when you are finished hiking for the day. . They are not waterproof but they dry really fast. I find my feet stay drier than in waterproof boots because they are very light and breathable and they allow the perspiration to escape. I wore boots for my hike in 2006 and I too had hamburger feet. This year I had zero foot problems wearing the sneakers…..Inchworm

    • I tried Merrells and they didn’t fit my freakishly sized feet. Thanks for the suggestion, though. Particularly on the crocs. Mine didn’t make the final weight cut, but I think I need to get a pair.

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