Thursday, September 3, 2015

Backpacks and Blisters

Back in April I took to the trail, planning on covering about 230 miles in a little over 2 weeks. It didn't quite end up like I'd planned.

I started out so hopeful...

The short of it is that I made it over half way, but by that point I had blisters on all my toes and the back of each heel, several toenails that were actively falling off, and on top of that, I'd twisted my ankle. In short, I was very much in danger of causing serious injury to myself if I kept going. As it was, it took weeks before my feet fully recovered.

So what went wrong? Well, I'd hiked less over the winter than usual, and so I wasn't in good hiking trim. At least not as good as I was back during my Maryland hike. I'd also replaced my hiking boots, and while I did break them in prior to going on the trail, they didn't fit *quite* right for the type of long distance hiking I ended up using them for. Those were the two main factors to my having to my failure to complete the hike.

Not being in top shape probably wouldn't have been such a major factor if I hadn't done something kind of stupid... I pushed myself harder than I needed to. The 230 mile goal was tough. I knew it was, and I'd hoped that if I got a good solid start from the very first day, any slowdowns later would merely cut into the buffer I'd built up early in the hike. Unfortunately this meant that from day one, I was going 18+ mile days. With not great boots and 50lbs on my back... It just didn't work. I pushed myself too hard too fast, and paid the price for it. Recovery wasn't quick either. While I lost the first toenail within a day of going off trail, the last of 4 didn't finally give up the ghost until just a couple of weeks ago. And I've also been... reluctant to go on long hikes since I've been back, even after my feet got better. Part of that has been the summer heat, but the larger part of it has been the psychological hurdle.

It's time to get over it, and to get back on the trail. I've got 100 miles of Pennsylvania I still need to cross, from the 501 shelter to the Delaware Gap. My original plan had been to cover that distance in 6 days, doing an average of 16 to 17 miles a day. If I knock it up to 8 days, I come in at a far more realistic and feet preserving 12-13 miles a day.

I'm most likely not going to be able to take 8 days off to go back on the trail until spring. That doesn't stop me from getting back on the local trails and knocking out 4-6 miles on the weekend and getting back into shape! So that's my plan going forward, 4-6 mile hike per week, ideally with a pack. Unfortunately one of my usual hiking companions, my corgi Lucy has a knee injury, which means that for at least the next month, she's benched, and I'm going to feel a little guilty going hiking without her. Do I take her sister Alice with me? Don't know...


  1. A bummer man, it sounds like some beautiful hiking you have lined up. I'd suggest paring down the pack some, if you can realistically. Even just 50 is hard on the body for more than a couple days.

    What went wrong with the boots, just not big enough for the downhills with the extra load?

    Prop your feet up, let them heal and plan for the next trip. Have a beer or six and add to the herder collection.

    1. A lot of that 50 lbs was water (about 12 lbs). I might trim that a little. Much of the rest was the tent, a little too much clothing, and lots of food. Definitely will trim it down next time.

      Yeah, I needed slightly bigger boots. Between the downhills, and the weight, my feet swelled more than I expected, so even though they were bigger than I wear normally, they weren't big enough.

      At this point me feet are all healed up, and planning for the next trip is already underway!

  2. Would a tarp and hammock save you enough weight to be worth it? A lot of folks seem to do well with that combination. There shortage of water than can be filtered? That might help the carry load and build in a couple breaks, unless water's really scarce, I try to limit it to 1/2 - 3/4 gallon.

    Although, I've not done a longer trip in years, I might have to rethink that if/when I go again.

    Lots of good thinking time while moving down the trails though. Don't forget something to write those thoughts down with.