Day 15: Devils and snow

RIP Baltimore Jack. Jack Tarlin–a thru-hiking legend. The Appalachian Trail lost a bit of its soul this morning. 😦

Mile 184.6
Highest elevation: 9050
Current elevation: 8450

First, some Idyllwild leftovers.

Skill tweaks:
–Sent a half-pound of stuff home, measured in grams. An extra phone cord, extra wet wipes, one OP (odor proof) sack, that kind of thing. Trimming every gram of weight and bulk. Dropped one pair of hiking socks. (I still have two.)
–I’ve been hauling 5 Smartwater bottles even when I don’t need 5 liters’ capacity. Dropped one bottle–max capacity between here and Big Bear will be 4 liters. The bottles weigh only an ounce, but I need to eliminate bulk, too. The bottles need to be much more of a variable asset. (And I still have one bladder.)
–Food. I’ve been carrying way too much food. Ideally, you pack exactly 2 days of food for 2 days, with an extra meal if you’re extremely paranoid, so you roll into town hungry and empty. I have 2 days of hiking to do, so I’m carrying exactly 3 days of food. (I’m still overly cautious. It’s a process!) Odds are, I won’t want to eat the food I have. That’s part of the suffering–you eat it anyway, because it’s only fuel. Deliciousness is for town.
–Trim, trim, trim!

Additional weight this leg:
–insoles, knee brace, OTC NSAIDs

Questionable things I’m still keeping:
–pack cover
–hard copy maps (which weigh a metric shit-ton, but safety. See earlier pants rant.)
–extra guylines
–extra tent stakes!!!
–various stuff sacks

I dumped the underwear. Ninety percent of the online hiker contention could be eliminated if people realized how utterly different the hiking is in different environments. Back east, I wear men’s boxer briefs. You know why? Ticks. I refuse to let ticks party in my pants. And I assume that every time I stop or sit or set up camp, it’s on a writhing bed of ticks.

That’s simply not an issue out here–or at least, not yet. Yes there are ticks–at least theoretically. But mostly, I’m seeing only ants and flies. So ticks aren’t the priority issue. And the dry air means that moisture isn’t an issue, either–no swamp ass, or any of the other pretty euphemisms. And later, when the environment is wetter, the underwear I have now won’t fit. So it’s commando for me! Which is TMI for the normal world, but at least this isn’t the internet, or anything.

I think I’m gaining weight, if that’s at all humanly possible. I’m eating too much, as a result of carrying too much. I don’t even care.

The foot/knee/ankle issue. The scientist in me wants to change one variable and see how it goes, then change another, etc. The crazy-ass addict in me wants to change 50 things and fix everything immediately, all at once, to make it instantly better than perfect. Between the extremes is the current situation: I’m changing three variables: insoles, brace, OTC drugs. Oh, and stretching.

I had a chance to at least play with the Superfeet when I walked to the post office. Immediately I could see what part of this mess is knee and what part is foot. That’s huge! It also tells me that this sandy soft soil may have been the main culprit, or one of them, all along. With the knee rolling around and compensating, it got stressed out. Pretty simple. See ‘hiking in different environments,’ above. Superfeet kill my feet back east. Here, I’m in love. This is all going to work out. I hope. Or it won’t, but I’ll have tried. (By the way, 90% of the hikers I’m seeing are wearing tape and braces of various types. Knee, ankle, arm, shoulder, neck, wrist, feet. The injuries are starting to set in. Wait until they get through another 500 miles of desert, then the whole Sierra, and get to Tahoe as battered as hell, and they look at the map and realize they’re not even halfway done yet. Hikers take so much ‘vitamin I’ [ibuprofen] that I’m surprised the trail isn’t littered with perforated intestines and spent livers.)

FYI: I’ve had reasonable signal so far. But ahead there will be areas with no cell coverage for days to weeks. So don’t worry if the blog posts vanish! I’ll post a bunch at once when I get to town.

Hikers are within sniffing distance of the Sierra already–500 miles ahead of me. I’m trying not to think about that.

My next towns (gods willing): Big Bear, Wrightwood, Agua Dulce, Mojave/Tehachapi, Kennedy Meadows [gateway to the Sierra], Independence, Vermillion Valley Resort, Kennedy Meadows North, South Lake Tahoe, Sierra City, Burney Falls State Park. I’m only getting packages at a couple of those places, though. And somewhere right about there is the halfway point. Only halfway. IF this injury doesn’t sideline me. The jury is out.

OK. Enough housekeeping!