Friday, April 15, 2016

Soon I will disappear into the desert

This morning, I prepared two postage boxes bound for my first couple of stops along the PCT.  As I threw in last minute goodies, I let my mind drift off to the ambiance of the towns, how I will feel when I arrive and what this whole adventure has in store for me. It’s one thing to say you are hiking the PCT, it’s another thing to do it.

            I’m no stranger to long distance hiking.  I know the weird aches and pains, like the one that plagued my foot’s arch near Twilight Lake two years ago as I made my way through Washington State on the PCT. I know the chafing, the rashes, the cravings for salad/bread/dairy, the loneliness that comes from missing friends and family and the mental challenges that, in general, come with this kind of odd, body-taxing endeavor.

            Yet, California is a different beast. I’ll be walking for roughly 3 months through a state home to Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United State and Yosemite National Park, known for it’s massive granite walls and rich John Muir history. I’ll be passing through the home of active scorpions, ticks, pit vipers, tarantulas, tarantula hawks (wasps), mountain lions, and black bears.  I’ll be walking in downpours, in hot sunshine, in lightening storms, sideways sleet and slushy snow. I’ll be crossing creeks and rivers up to my thighs, and shivering as I lay in bed each night. I’ll be using a dirt hole for a toilet and a rather uncomfortable ultralight camp pad for my bed. I’ll be crossing brown desert hillsides, meadows filled with cow dung (and those who created it), pine tree-laden peaks and long stretches of boring forest service roads all in the name By now you might be shaking your head and wondering how someone could possibly conceive that as  pleasurable, or even slightly enjoyable. Enter hikers. To quote Jimmy Buffett, “we are the people our parent’s warned us about.” 

            It will take me under three hours to fly from Seattle to San Diego and nearly 4 months to walk back home. During this time, my busy brain will be buzzing and, as always on long hikes, I’ll solve the world’s problems, find a cure for world peace, and come home with a zillion new ideas to change, improve and re-create the “you-name-its”.  

I realize there is some chance things may go sideways.  Even the best laid plans  sometimes have a way of curling under their own weight. But I intend to put my best foot forward (literally and figuratively) and give it the ol' college try.
It’s nearly a week until I set sail. May the forest be with me. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

3+ amazing tips that will eliminate blisters!

Ahh, those stinky hiker feet! We’ve all had ‘em and we’ve all suffered the consequences of having to share a tent next to someone whose pigs are oinking. But it’s not just the unpleasantry of the wear and tear on the olfactory system that can cause vexation (afterall, the essence of trail-toe, is, well…to be gross and honest…better than some aromas). No, it’s usually not the offensive smelling tootsies that will ruin a trip, but rather, the bulbous welts that arrive on the toes, heels or foot pad after miles and miles of trail-schlepping with a backpack. Blisters are a real buzz kill, but did you know, they are a fairy easy thing to prevent?  Here are some awesome bulbous-blister-busting-bursting tips!

A wise person once noted, that three things together cause a blister:  Moisture, Friction and Heat. If you eliminate any of those three things, you won’t have one.  Sounds easy right?  Sure. 

1)    It’s getting’ hot in here, so take off all your…socks: The second, and I mean second you feel a hot spot (known as a slight skin discomfort or annoyance) stop immediately and take your socks off. Let your feet dry out and then slap some moleskin or or athletic tap on the effected area.   Don’t hesitate to do this, even if you are very early in the hike. If you are stubborn or incredibly goal oriented, this will be really hard for you. I speak from experience, where my headstrongness has led to hobbling ((fist shake)) .

If you are on a multi-day backpacking trip, stop every couple of hours and let your feet air-out. Heck, even if it’s a long day hike and you are blister prone, air them out at your destination. If you read this article and can only take away one thing....yep, this is it!

2)    Rub a dub, dub:  Chafing or agitation can turn a foot into the oyster-creating-a-pearl scenario. All it takes is a grain of sand or grit to find it’s way in between your toes and before long your nasty little pearl is born. If you experience any rubbing stop immediately and take off your shoes.  If you are near water, plunge your pigs into the creek and do your best scrub-a-dub. Tip toe back to a good perch and wait for your feet to dry completely.  You might also keep some wet wipes with you if you are travelling in a dry landscape to perform a similar cleansing.  

If it continues to happen, you may have ill-fitting shoes. Sure, they looked cute in the store, and maybe even had a nice “clop” when you strutted around the footwear department, but the struggle on the trail is real, Betty. Always buy your footwear with more wiggle room than you think you’ll need.  If you are mostly a fair weather hiker, you’ll find that warm days and/or lots of walking will make your feet swell and thus, cause rubbing where you thought there was none.

Who says feet aren't pretty?!
Another tip...have you tried trail running shoes?  If you are someone who is still in the antiquated mindset which screams “I must wear big boots because I have bad ankles,” it’s time to reconsider. Some scientific math wizard with too much time on their hands decided that every pound on the foot equals five on the back. Sure, I buy it.

Trail runners are lightweight and designed to limit pronation (twisting) on rocky, uneven surfaces- in other words, they are made for trails and for you! They are much lighter than boots, allowing you more control of your feet and their placement which prevents ankle rolls. Unless you have serious bone or joint maladies, your ankles WILL adjust to them, it just requires a little training.  Before I started using trail running shoes, I too was skeptical.  Back in the day, I had sprained, strained and twisted more ankles than I could count, so I was justifiably worried that these were not the solution for me. Trust me, your ankles and feet will figure it out as mine have.

The fabric on a trail running shoe is much more forgiving than say, a stiff boot or mid-ankle hiker, so rubbing is just less common and blistering potential is diminished.

Getting used to them before you head off on a long backpacking trip is the key.  AND…don’t forget the trail running shoes' trusty companion- the trekking pole! The trekking pole is a good way to keep your posture upright and prevent stumbling when the going gets rough, literally. Interview any long distance thru-hiker and you’ll find that all of them go the distance sans big, clompy boots. Give trail runners a shot, hot-shot!

3)    Come on let’s sweat, SWE-AT!: That one took you back to the big hair days, huh? Now, where was I. Right…sweaty pigs. If you are someone whose feet are always miserably hot, hot hot, you are likely prone to getting blisters. Wet feet not only feel turr-ible, but they are also much more likely to spring a welt than feet whose light moisture can be wicked away with a sock. Here’s the good news.  There’s hope for you my bi-ped perspiring peeps!  
      A sock liner, or a sock that is tight to your skin can work as the preliminary moisture shortstop, as if it were a second skin. Slide that sucker tightly under your regular sock and wa-la, it's as if you've grown a dermis layer!  Or try this…a company named Wright Socks, has created a sock that has two layers built-in to help with all of the above. It’s a slippery little stinker that slides on comfortably and prevents blisters by doing its job of eliminating all three blister-creating elements.  They are so sure it works, they offer 100% satisfaction guarantee.

You could also try wool socks which have crazy-beautiful natural wicking properties and can even make those with hot hooves, happy.   Get out there and as always, thanks for playing.