So, us southern boys have to trek around in the swamps, the streams, the bogs … who uses an indoor track. Bunch of sissies. While I was waiting for my Mother-in-Law to finish her senior sneakers class I had a brain storm … hey what the heck – why not utilize the time wisely – I’ll walk around the elevated indoor track while I’m waiting. Off I go at a good clip wearing my nice polished Nunn Bush loafers and thin dress socks. Small track, lots of laps … probably between 4 and 5 miles. Grinning because I’m lapping everyone … hmmm these folks don’t walk so fast. I tried talking to a few as I passed em and finally realized they were out of breath … it was a group of folks with heart conditions who walked together as a group every day. Yeah, thats me the speedster … out walking the heart attack squad! Do these type of things ever happen to you – you’re all puffed up and feeling like the king of the world only to either trip in front of the beautiful Miss you were trying to impress or something else that just brings you up short. Makes you realize just how insignificant and stupid we are at times. Well long story short. I got home, changed into something a bit more comfortable and went barefoot around the house … I immediately noticed something was wrong … it felt like I was walking on a pebble. Just like tripping and looking the fool … it hit me. Ahhh, you idiot! I stopped and began rubbing the bottom of my left foot … didn’t take me too long to figure out that I had a huge blister rising up on the bottom of my foot between the big and hammer toe. I’m talking quarter sized and filling with fluid at a good clip. The really funny part is that I have an 8:30 appointment with my podiatrist to clear me for the PCT … I’ll not only have to share with her the difficulties of the last few weeks and my mule headed approach to getting ready but that the trip is postponed due to idiocy and now look at the bottom of the my foot … see what an experienced hiker does when he’s trapped in the city! Well, at least she’ll have a good laugh.
I’ve gotten some difficult news and wanted to take this opportunity to share it with my friends and fellow hikers. We train for months, we purchase our supplies, we’re all ready to go but sometimes; life just hands you some lemons. Preparing for my 2018 thru-hike of the PCT (kick off Feb 1) what seemed like a couple of minor injuries have snow balled into something more serious. Everyone around you says slow down, take a few days off, but do you listen – Doh no! What started out as some minor aches and pains i.e. some lower back pain, an old arthroscopic knee surgery, and some tendinitis has blossomed into some serious arthritic and inflammation issues. My knee is all swollen, my hip is killing me from 8 mile walks with a 70 lb pack – of course at a fast pace – carrying too much weight (you moron … my inner voice chastises me) – why wait for things to get back to normal? So I’m here thinking about the beauty that will have to wait until next year for me to soak it all up. Well at least I can get back to my blog … post up some nice stuff and of course – hide from the Mrs – she is the most supportive lady in the known universe but she’ll only listen to so much whining. She’ll be giving me a swift kick in the pants and tell me to get busy and quit moaning and groaning. She may even accompany me on a pity hike … a few miles with a day pack and sleep out under the stars and take the opportunity to get in some good bonding time. I don’t know about you but there is nothing more peaceful under a beautiful night sky than the quiet and soothing balm of a night breeze and a moon-lite or star filled sky. If things heal quickly enough – I may skip the desert section and start up a bit higher in the lower Sierra Nevadas. If not, there is always a N to S adventure. I have my heart set on a S to N thru hike and I don’t know that I can work my head around such a drastic change. I have everything from campsites, mail drops, rest days, breaks with the Mrs etc etc … its all worked out. It will take weeks to do all that again for an altered plan. I’ll keep up the postings and can take some time to post up good navigation basics using all the latest gadgets on the market, as well as, doing it old school. So for now I’ll go soak all the war wounds and plan the site updates. Take care; I’ll be watching all your posts, tweets, pics and will keep an eye on the weather, the news and the trail rerouting … I’ll keep in touch wishing every minute that we were doing it together. Go, PCT thru-hikers … every hike begins with a step. I hope you hit the magic lotto at Campo and get an early starting number, find all your water caches with jugs full and food from the trail angels waiting for you to turn the corner and find them. A special shout out to Warbler & Hot Lips … tweet this ole fart on occasion … maybe we’ll meet at Kennedy Meadows!
Every thru-hiker, trail rat, day hiker or just plain walker will be glad to sing you a virtual opera on the subject of blisters, corns, callouses, nail problems, planar faciitis. Just ask them and you’ll get an earful that could be the beginnings of a good blues song. I’d like to share some of my experiences and in some small way try to influence your hiking decisions. To me, IMO, the 2 most important things to a hiker – YOUR FEET – every journey, sojourn, thru-hike or a simple walk around the block employs these two marvelous and highly complicated contact points … where the “rubber meets the road” so to speak. I’ll list some of the more important issues concerning the health and care of these puppies and hope that you come away from this post with one thought – I need to take better care of these body parts. We can begin with shoes, I have another post on here about what I consider to be the best hiking shoe on the market but like every aspect of hiking we all have our favorites. Planar Faciitis; stabbing pain in the arches of your feet. Nothing to take lightly. If you develop this symptom – get to a Podiatrist.
The best treatment is injections into your arches; the best prevention is to utilize the 1/10 oz band the Dr will give you to stretch out your heel tendons etc by placing the band around your toes with your leg straight out and pulling the band which will flex your foot. If you develop this malady – trust me you’ll do your exercises religiously. Now, to the real nitty gritty; suffice it to say that your shoes need to have EXCELLENT arch support, they need to be the RIGHT size and most importantly – you need to keep them DRY. Here is a weird option but one I never fail to utilize; deodorant, yes just plain old unscented men’s gel deodorant (apply it liberally to all areas of your feet where you develop blisters etc) It will keep your feet drier and provide lubrication and prevent rubbing in the problem areas. Nails – keep your toenails trimmed – they will bend over and cause you so many problems you’ll be glad you took this advice.
Blisters – when you apply bandages around or on your blisters “tent” the bandage by putting the sticky ends closer together making the center puff up and provide a cushion for the blister. Another great homeopathic remedy is to brew “green tea” – allow it to cool then soak the blistered areas of your feet – it will allow the blisters to drain and heal. These are just a few of the problem areas we encounter. My primary remedy is to visit a Podiatrist – regularly. Their tips on how to trim your nails properly, how to use the proper arch supports and attachments is invaluable to a lifetime of successful hiking. I personally visit my Podiatrist several times a year – certainly more than my primary Physician. Here are a few tips and some readily available devices for making friends with your feet and toes.
Lets go over the items left to right. First, a good “professional” arch support; not a dollar store one … they range about $20 bucks per foot (not length) or so and are properly sized, cut and have the necessary pads applied by your Podiatrist to ensure your foot plants solidly on the ground. The pads are the white items applied to the bottom of the insert. Before using a good insert I would wear out a pair of shoes in a matter of weeks even when not hiking – wearing out the rear outside edges long before the rest of the shoe had developed signs of wear. The middle items are from top to bottom; a hammer toe sleeve – the toe next to your big toe – it slides over your hammer toe and prevents your big toe from riding over the top and side of your hammer toe which develops some very nasty blisters if your feet are so inclined. The bottom item is a silicone spacer that does the same thing as the sleeve but gives more distance between the toes. It is applied by sliding your hammer toe into the hole and putting the rounded area against your big toe. The far right device is placed under your hammer toe and the adjoining toes by slipping your hammer toe into the loop and pulling it loosely to hold it in place. Its great if you develop blisters on the ends of your toes. Remember the three devices on the right need to be removed before you go to bed at night. They can twist around when not in your shoes and cut off the circulation to your toes. A secondary and very important aspect of your visit to a Podiatrist is to have your callouses trimmed – VERY important. Callouses build up over time and when your feet get wet crossing a stream or the rain starts to fall … the callouses have a tendency to peel off … right down to the bottom layer of your skin – OUCH – and you no longer have the added cushioning they provide the problem areas on your feet. Treat your feet kindly, massage them with pure coconut oil (in its pure form coconut oil liquefies about 76 degrees – it should turn into a liquid when you place it in the palm of your hand. Rub it in and allow it to soak in. I don’t mean buy some coconut moisturizing lotion – but it in its pure form. So, in closing … use your deodorant to lubricate your feet – use pure coconut oil to keep your skin moisturized, include your legs if you like to wear shorts – visit your Podiatrist regularly. Apply bandages, devices, etc with the advice of a professional. After all, we all go to the professionals for advice on what tent to buy, what stove to use … the list goes on … use the same thought process concerning your feet. After all, they are going to carry you to some of the most beautiful, secluded and quietest places on the planet.
I’d like to take a few minutes to just gab about an issue that is near and dear to me. I’ve worked with the homeless predominately over the last 6 years and have found it to be some of the most rewarding work (volunteer or otherwise) that I have ever done. My wife and I have had the opportunity to work with multiple groups of teenagers including attending a national conference on the homeless, as well as, taking groups to some of our island neighbors in the Caribbean. Since then, I’ve never looked at homeless folks in the same light. Ironically, as hikers, we sort of take on that aura as we travel about. The longer we’re on the road … the more folks look at us and treat us as if we’re homeless. They tend to walk around us giving us a wide berth! Hurricane Irma provided me with the opportunity to open up “Faith Cafe” and to provide some of Tampa’s homeless with shelter, food and some company. As you can see, my striped pjs were the bomb and I had a blast cooking up some good soup and making sandwiches. This post is not about me, I’ve included some of this background material so you can judge for yourself the authenticity or veracity of what I am about to say. The homeless; a group of some of the most marginalized and overlooked folks on this portion of the planet. In years past, the church (and many service groups) provided our society with outreach programs that addressed many of the needs and concerns for those temporarily without food or shelter. Combine that with the vast numbers of veterans returning from tours in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afganistan … combine them with the advent of laws that have forced many institutions to release people previously held because they were unable to adequately care for themselves, the start of Federal food stamps and subsidized public housing and of course the dwindling numbers attending churches thereby reducing the funds available for public outreach; more and more folks are falling through the cracks. You hear a great deal of “get a job” and “God helps those who help themselves”. I for one am here to say BAH … assume the folks you see are HIKERS … just off the trail and in need of the visit from a nice “Trail Angel”. Don’t judge … just help where you can.
A note to let everyone know that its been an uphill battle getting power restored, feeding the homeless, and clearing up the debris left in the wake of “Irma”. I’m sorry its taken so long but I’m back up and running and will get right on your comments, adding new content, and generally flapping my gums to hear myself think. There are always hikers that have little experience and less common sense but thankfully I haven’t heard any horror stories in the wake of what could have been a virtual reboot of this fine state. The islands, well they haven’t fared as well and my hope is that you’ll join me in donating to the American Red Cross. There is so much to do and so few willing to stand in the gap.
Sometimes we act like little kids. Its the happiness that a hobby or interest should bring to you. After receiving a nice sale item from REI the Dash 2 – I had to set it up in the front yard. I have several tents but was wanting something that gave me a bit less leg room and a bit more rain fly and ease of assembly. The price was right, its certainly adequate in the heat and rain as I had both on its inaugural outing. It was hot, lots of flies, and it poured almost all night. I was warm and dry. The rain fly works great and gives you ample room to protect your backpack. I really liked the 1/2 moon entrances on both sides. This tent has since had a few modifications and the newest version is “Quarter Dome 2”. I sleep on a fold out pad, as well as, a blow up – inside a sleeping bag. I was snug as the preverbial bug in a rug. Ez to setup, ez to take down and ample room for two folks as long as you’re both not over 200 lbs. There is much to be said for an light tent. What you sacrifice in durability you certainly make lighter. up for in weight. Compared to my previous 2 man (I have to have a bit of room – can’t do a one man – I like to stretch out) this tent was 1 1/2 lbs lighter. That is huge in packing weight. That’s 2 days worth of food, extra clothing, the list is only limited by your needs and imagination. So pack light … get it on sale and happy trails.
Hikers generally follow a trail or path that has been trodden upon to the point of developing a bare path of clay or sand or rock. Yet the beauty that surrounds them; often within inches of the most well traveled path, is breathtaking. When I think about the billions of years it took to bring about such beauty and to find it growing where it may never be seen; the diversity and complexity of this island home takes my breath away. It feels like I am an intruder, a visitor that has stumbled into Eden. When I think of the people that have passed this way; some days, some years, some millennia between their passing … I cannot help but feel responsible for the preservation of this fragile Earth we call home. Although nature has shown itself to be resilient to our presence I fear we will overwhelm even the complexity of life that exists today. It is my fervent prayer that someday we, and I’m talking species, may adopt the hiker’s creed; leave no trace. I don’t know that it is even possible for us to reign ourselves in and place our needs second to this whirling blue ball but I do know that if we do not; nature will reclaim it for us and specifically from us.
Those of us City Slickers get to enjoy a myriad of hiking opportunities. The photo I took this morning is a good example. Tampa is blessed with one of the world’s longest contiguous sidewalks. At 7 miles it weaves it way adjacent to Bayshore Blvd and walkers, runners, hikers & bikers are all treated to Tampa Bay; a mere foot away. Sometimes its crowded, mostly its sparsely populated with folks of all fitness levels. Backpacks, fanny packs, headphones, bicycles, bottles of water and occasionally a dog on a leash. Its brutal backpacking in the heat of the day, absolute bliss in the early a.m. and twilight hours. Along the path are fitness stations where you can do pull ups, chin ups, sit ups, etc. Once you begin the journey to oneself you will find that there is no limit to the possibilities that surround you. There is discovery amidst even the loudest of NYC’s streets. If you take the time to look for them … the avenues that will provide you the opportunity to train and to succeed in your goals surround you, you just have to look. We all don’t have a place like Bayshore; what we do have are opportunities waiting to be discovered. You can start by looking on the websites for the city you live in for hiking opportunities, sponsored walks, runs and local clubs. Reaching out is not diametrically opposed to “hiking solo”. Its a term that is easily misunderstood. “Hiking Solo” means that you and only you can define your path. You can ask all the folks in the world … its your feet that you put in front of each other. You walk the walk. If I can succeed in only one thing on this entire site … my hope would be that it will motivate you to go out your front door. Find a rhythm that matches your fitness level and strike out. Its not the destination; its the journey. They are all different; all filled with adventure; all filled with a greater sense of peace and harmony with yourself and those around you. “I like to move it move it” Madagascar 3