Day 78: Lightning and thunder

Hotdogging at mile 660.8; mpd 8.47

Another short day, alas, but not as short as yesterday. But that’s to be expected, I suppose, coming back from town. Coming back from town is always like starting over. Backtrack took something like 10 zeroes, and he said being back was like Day 2 all over again.

Am I feeling better today? Yes and no. I wanted 17 miles, or at least 12.4. Most people at the Captain’s last night were chatting about whether they should do 25 today or stick to the usual 20. That gets under my skin, even though I try not to let it.

The best thing about the people who are obsessed with their big miles is that I rarely see them again. 😉

On the flip side, there was also one hiker there who’s routinely been doing ‘an easy 20,’ or 25 miles, or even 30. And now he’s frustrated and sidelined with bad shin splints.

Me, I don’t know. I’m trying for my 12 to 15. Any and all decisions won’t be made until Pennsylvania, which is home for me. At that point if I don’t have a prayer of finishing the regular way, I might look at a flip-flop. But the fat lady hasn’t sung yet. I just wish my feet didn’t hurt so badly! By the way, I’m going to stop saying that. Since the limiting factor on my daily mileage is foot and heel pain, the assumption is always that I hiked until my feet were killing me, then as many miles beyond that as I could force myself to manage. Otherwise I’d still be walking.

So. Last night at the Captain’s was a lightning and thunder show! One of the thunder blasts came only a second behind the lightning; the rest, though, were more reasonably distant. I was very worried about two things: One, were my trekking poles OK? They were on the other side of the creek with almost everybody else’s, and it sounded as though the water level had risen with the rain. And two, how the hell was I going to get back across that zipline?

Well, Coach helped me with the second, and when I was across, the poles were fine. Needless worry! Wish I could stop doing that. (Although I’m going to try to not be separated from my poles again. They’ve become like extra legs.)

I was hiking by 7:38. The morning was muggy and half sun, half cloud without enough of a breeze to keep the bazillion bugs at bay. We crossed a river early (a creek, technically), then it was up, up, up a steep incline through a tropical jungle. Water was plentiful in that area, and I drank a lot of it.

Whoever said the trail gets easier after Damascus was either teasing the newbies or misremembering. (Maybe they meant the trail was easier in Damascus!) Today was another rocky nightmare. The only good thing was that it wasn’t really a ridgeline—just a steep walk over tumbled rocks that were hell-bent on destroying ankles and feet.

At one point the trail passed a parking area. A wide tourist path led up toward Windy Rock, a lookout with a view. The trail itself split off to the right, went about a hundred yards, then turned left and rejoined the wide path. I laughed. What the heck was that about?

For the next three miles the terrain was better: basically a dirtwalk with an occasional rocky patch. But the sky gradually turned black. Thunder growled in the distance, getting louder and closer with each passing minute. The rain was coming. The question was whether I’d get the tent pitched beforehand. I couldn’t speed up because the trail was now sloping hard downhill.

When I got a mile from the shelter, the rain started. I spotted this passable clearing and jumped to get pitched.

Then, don’t you know, it only rained a little? But I still hear thunder in the distance, and I remember the lightshow at the Captain’s. I’m happy enough here. People are only a mile away. Worse comes to worse, I start fresh tomorrow but with a dry tent instead of a wet one.

No snakes today. Are the snake days finished?

Also, my FrankenPee made it through one day, but this is a problem. I can’t do a thing until I have internet. Then I’ll order a new Pstyle and have it shipped to my brother, overnight if possible. Then he can maildrop it to my next town location. I don’t think this can work out before Daleville (I haven’t had even enough of a signal to check my email, let alone have full online service), but maybe by Waynesboro. I’ll probably be doing a non-laundry stay in Daleville anyway, because I have to visit the outfitter. I’ve got a list of things I need. Presumably I’ll have internet there and can place the order.

I haven’t patched the pack yet.

It’s raining again!

And that, as they say, is that!

Tomorrow: Big ups and big downs.

Edited to add: I’m lying here thinking, and something’s niggling at me. It’s the math. Something about the math is wrong, something about the old 9-12-15 mpd. And sure enough, it is wrong! Those must have been generalities. Big problem! I need to get the mpd up to 10.5 in order to have a mathematical chance of finishing. Yikes. That sounds fairly impossible. Well… I’ll try new insoles or something, and maybe an Ace bandage. I have to figure out a way to squeeze a couple more low-pain (or pain-free) miles out of every day. I have to be able to do 15, or that’s that. Well… I’ll figure it out in Pennsylvania.








Categories: Appalachian Trail | Tags: | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “Day 78: Lightning and thunder

  1. Shari wb

    You just keep on going my friend! Each day for that day! I hope you find relief for your feet.

  2. Derek Vreeland

    No shame in flip-flopping or even doing half the trail this year and half the trail next year (if that works for your schedule in the real world). I do hope you find the right insoles to give your feet some relief.

    On a side note, Socks is coming to set up some trail magic just north of Buena Vista on Saturday, May 25 and she mentioned on her Facebook that she was hoping to see you. Where do you think you will be on Saturday? You may want to let her know on her Facebook here:

  3. The Postman

    Really enjoy your blog! Will be back on the trail at the end of August to finish my section hike to Harpers Ferry.
    A flip-flop sounds interesting. I think you are doing great what ever decision you make.

    • Postman! One of my favorite hikers! Every time I see a snake I think of you, since you saw one early on!

      Hope we cross paths again!

  4. Blackbird

    Hey Karma!

    Great progress.

    Don’t mind the speedy gonzales hikers — many of them will break before Virginia is done. Stress fractures and other such hike-enders. Nobody ever broke a bone hiking slowly.

    As for the agony of da feet, I do not recall you getting new shoes, um, ever. Maybe I missed it?
    If not, your shoes are DONE sistah. And when you get news ones, like in Daleville, be sure to use some good aftermarket insoles like Montrail or etc. I used the Spenco (green) hiker insoles for around 1,700 miles. The Montrails are good, too.

    I know you know stuff by this point, so forgive me if I sound parochial….
    You’re into the summer hiking mode now.

    By this stage of the hike, the terrain is not going to get any more difficult.
    Here’s the trick to high(er) mileage: Start hiking at dawn and have a robust meal for lunch, when you need that energy the most (the tired afternoon).
    If you walk for eight hours at two mph, that’s sixteen miles. “Twelve [miles] by twelve [o’clock]” is a technique many hikers use to beat the heat, but that’s for later, when it really gets hot.
    Right now you’re just in humid land.

    Anyway, long mileage means some technique: Walk for an hour, then take a 10 to 15 minute break OFF YOUR FEET with the pack off. Snack and drink during that break, then put the shoes back on, ruck up, and walk for another hour. If nothing else, this slow, deliberate walking routine will afford you 12 miles in a day over nearly any terrain on the AT. The days are long now — use that daylight.

    Use thin nylon dress socks in the heat. I didn’t believe this until I tried it and I still don’t, somehow, but ti works. They will dry fast, wash easily, and allow your feet to breathe.
    Hike deliberately, inexorably, not quickly.

    The distance will be a byproduct of the technique.

    New shoes and insoles, technique, lots of hours in the days now, ibuprofen at night, proper diet.

    • I got new shoes and insoles in Hot Springs. Taping the feet semed to help. I’m going to try some variations on that.

      It’s probably a support issue, I’m thinking. I do need to take more breaks, though. I’m terrible about that.

      Thanls for the tips!

  5. Beth

    Massage therapist, a swarthy, firm, young male massage therapist, That will take your mind off your um….uh…..feet, oh yea, we were talking about your feet. Prayers for healing and foot rubs. Beth

  6. I love your posts. Keep at it.

  7. Marge

    Remember when you showed me your Pstyle pic on line at RSL? Well, get a visual of me trying to explain what it is to a whole bunch of folks, now that it made your blog! No worries, no cares. You are being taken care of. Just walk….think tomorrow! LY

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