Rest of days: 11-24

I know, I know…I got way behind in my post-toe-drama. And honestly I loved being off-grid.

The toe-visit: My beastie retrieved me after two days of trying to heal on my own, dragged me kicking and screaming out of the woods (cough *cabin*) to Valley Urgent Care, where I tried to convince a PA that I was perfectly sane, duct tape was acceptable medical care, and could he please just save my toes. He had a PA student with him who failed to see any humor in my hilarity. So when he decide to cauterize through my-infected detached toenails hanging on by skin only- I was confused, but figured he was the pro, not me. I asked if he was going to knock me out and he actually laughed.  THAT WAS NOT A JOKE THAT TIME! Geesh.  Anyhow, no sedative, NO anesthetic, topical or local. Nope, None.

*warning, I’m going to cuss*

He burned through my first toenail into my oozing swollen toe, and I almost threw up it hurt so bad. I pulled my foot back, and the PA assistant, a pasty blonde girl/kid that wouldn’t crack a smile, looked over and said in the most condescending voice: “You shouldn’t move your foot back, it can get burned worse”.

Now…have you seen the Exorcist? You know when her head turns all the way around and a demon voice comes out…ok, so normally super-nice, funny, perky me did just that that. “Did you SERIOUSLY just FUCKING say that to ME?! You don’t talk to people like that!!”

She did not make eye contact with me for the rest of the visit. I did apologize on the way out for swearing, but did remind her empathy can go a long way.

Now that I am already in semi-shock, he did another toenail, the bad one, and tried to make me feel better by giving me the cauterizing weapon, I mean tool. Just for the record, my Dad (72) wanted it to work on nano-particles or something so I gave it to him.

I was given antibiotics and told to not let anything touch my toes until they were healed.

Me ” But, I want to finish hiking”

Him ” As long as nothing touches your toes”

Me ” So wrap them in duct-tape?”

Him looking at me blankly ” No, that would be touching them”.

Me ” What about hiking sandals”

Him  *glowers a little*

Me ” Listen, I am fine with the pain, just tell me what to do to not lose my toes”

Him ” Stop doing surgery on the trail with duct tape”

Me “I’m going to go buy sandals then”

Good day to you. And I went and bought some Tevas!!

After two/ten days on antibiotics, I packed everything back up and went back up into the woods. I knew I couldn’t hike much, but I could still commune with nature and make fires. I dragged my beastie up with me, and we actually ran into some hikers we had previously met who were skirting some health conditions and weather/trail concerns. I spent a few nights by myself and near the end of my trip with my toes as healed as they were going to get before I left, I went back onto the PCT and completed another small section I had intended to cover.

During conversations with other hikers, it came up (when I had to take my meds with green fuzzy water) that I have a (non dramatic) heart condition that makes my heart beat fast if I don’t stay drugged up every 8 hours. So my trail name became ” Hummingbird”. It was funny because the next day when I went into convalescent care in the cabin, my friend pointed out the hummingbird stained glass over the sink. Haha, nice.  Now of course I was anti-trail-name, but when you are with a group of people all making fun of your own experience and they give you a trail name, it is bonding and sweet. I will totally dump it next year for a non congenital-defected trail-name, LOLOLOL.

In summary for this year’s attempt, my first and definitely not my last:

I had the time of my life. I cannot WAIT to go again and complete all of section B at least, and maybe with a Fellowship, er…I mean some hiker buddies (at least to meet up and camp and be scared of bears together).  I did exactly what I set out to do, and learned what I needed to learn. I have a lot of adjustments to make in gear and preparation for next time. Let the countdown begin, again.

Saying goodbye to the mountains I walked through.

My Beastie who became a trail angel to many!

Beastie and I decided after a few drinks to roast baby Goudas. They melt.

Dammit. Can’t get enough of this. I’m in love with this trail.

When you forget your trekking pole.

What DEET does to Big Agnes 😦

Room with a view.

Medicine for my toes. Oral dose.

My very own cauterization tool.

Whaaaaa?!

 

 

Day 8-10. Meet my amoebae.

I needed a good reason to say anything amoeba related and this is my one shot. When I woke up and went to make camp-stove coffee my water bladders had turned brown and green overnight! What the everloving eff happened? This was water I got from a spigot at Howard Prairie and had been drinking. Doom. Doomeeee doom doom. Fortunately, I didn’t even get a slight gurgle in the ol’ lower 40, but of course explaining it later to my Dad, he assured me I could still be potentially crawling with internal parasites, bacteria, and quite possibly alien babies that don’t spawn for months. Thanks paternal unit.

I knew it was time for the great toe-reveal, and my bestie was on her way up with bandages, soaks, etc. I really, really, really, wanted them to be okay and was willing to take a couple days off trail to see if they would settle down. My camp mate Sally and I decided to do the whole section through next year together! So, although I knew this could be a turning point I was already excited for my next attempt.

Sally loaned me her camp shoes after seeing my feet, and I relented and got a cabin for that night and the next. I did everything I thought I could to avoid having to leave the woods.

I won’t post the pictures because they are gross. But over the next two days my toes festered and when the red/purple/ooze/heat/swelling set in I had to go ahead and go find a doctor.

Just for fun I was also tell you my Gorilla Tape fail, which is equally disturbing. (This started a few days back if you recall) I had a nice, normal blister on my foot. I did as instructed by blister experts: cleaned, applied Neosporin, covered with bandage…THEN, in my brilliance I used Gorilla Tape instead of regular duct tape to hold it together. While it protected my blister just fine, it literally pulled the skin off of my ankle where it was attached. My ankle was open meat. Yum.

Doctor visit, diagnosis, etc will be next time. But I will say, the first thing I told him was: I don’t care about the pain, I just need to get where I can get back on the trail. Rawr.

Oh, and despite my protests, I acquired a trail name. Next post also 😉

image

Hand washing the smelliest clothes ever.

image

The shit the grew overnight in my water bladders. Trees excluded.

image

Plotting our next moves at morning camp. Kristy (trail Mom), Jessie, Sally.

image

Of COURSE this book was in the cabin!

Day 7. Kindred Folks

Since I made my double miles goal and knew I was looking at a potential off-trail situation (yes, I knew it was coming), I figured on keeping with the same miles and winding up at a PCT camp. A PCT camp is a campsite away from a main camp area where they put the smelly hikers. Let’s just say my attempt at bathing the previous night did not have any effect on the clothing odor. Pick any barnyard animal.

I created a Mountain House egg scramble breakfast, and can only describe it as “bouncy”. I am taking notes of course as I go what I will adjust for my next long hike. Mountain House is not a favorite. I see why people dehydrated their own meals. Duly noted.

The walk was gorgeous as usual, but warmer than the previous day’s and felt fantastic. The water I was carrying from the spigots at the campground tasted horrible and I considered treating it, but it was from a spigot so how gross could it be? Why ask that Terra, why even ask.

It was a perfect pleasant walk despite the “things that will not be named” plotting against me in my shoes. I rested as needed, and even forced myself to slow down and soak up the remaining hours. I passed a few folks thru-hiking/section hiking and we did the quick once-over of gear, travel points, conditions etc. It was like being part of a mini secret -society.

I made a few more interesting direction decisions and eventually found a slightly obscured trail offshoot to the hiker camp. Lo and behold there were two happy faces to greet me! We all compared stories, and Sally aka “Scaredy Bear” regaled me with her first night out bear encounter! Her situation was much more up close and personal with so said fuzzbutt, and she still was reliving her experience.

After a nice hot shower, campfire visiting, and a refusal to look directly at my toes we all settled into our little campsite for a decent night sleep.

Only interrupted by Jessie (6’5″ man) screaming like teenage girl when he thought a spider was on his face.

image

My “good luck Uni” given to me by my oldest sister 35 years ago.

image

Leisurely morning of drying and repacking. I am a sucker for ritual.

image

Artsy fartsy shot. Necessary.

image

On the side of the road, trying to adjust shoes…for reasons that will not be named.

Day 6. I Made it to Mordor!!!

Only Lord of the Rings folks will understand my epic reference. And be properly rewarded below in the photos.

I took inventory of my foot situation and determined a few things:

1. They were a frikkin mess.
2. I felt excellent otherwise and wanted to double my miles that day.
3. Gorilla Tape says it is duct tape, sooooo we will just use that.

I made Gorilla Tape bindings to hold my toenails on. (Go ahead and judge, I paid for it). I covered my blisters with it also. I shall forecast for you this does not end well either. I will admit though that I mentally weighed my options and I knew damned well that if I kept going I would be causing damage. I was willing to because the mental and emotional benefit would outweigh the soreness. Because I absolutely chose to deal with this, I will not bitch about the subsequent pain. Much. Maybe a teeny bit later.

Day 6 was so far the most exhilarating walk I’ve had. The sun was out and the terrain walking from Hyatt to Howard Prairie was ever-changing and alive. I find myself holding my breath even remembering. I over doubled my miles, partially from taking a couple “creative” turns, and also schlepping from the resort to the trailhead.
I hit my first swarms of mosquitos right past Hyatt and broke out the 1000% Deet, praying it wouldn’t melt my flesh or my clothes. It was fine. Mosquitos just winked at me, as if to say…uh huh, next time.

I reached camp at a decent time and spent the evening setting up camp and cooking dinner without fear of weather, weirdos, or wombats. I was at perfect equilibrium with life. Ahhhh, Life.

Except for my smell. Gag; polyester and my pits combined with 8 hours of hiking in the sun was gnarly.

Cooked up dehydrated lasagna. Man. I wish I had packed some hot sauce. That stuff is bland. But it filled me up and attracted an assortment of interested unidentifiable flying critters and a 30 lb squirrel.

Knew something bad was happening under the tape. Ignored it. Might have snuck in one game of offline Candy Crush.

My favorite day. So far.

image

This sucker rocks!

image

Au natural.

image

Cool signs on this well maintained trail.

image

I MADE IT TO MORDOR MF’ERS!!!!

image

Seriously. This.

image

Prepping

image

Looking for a lunch spot.

Day 5. Zero Day and Gear Review

Ahhh, the fantastic Zero day. Hiker term for, “I am hiking zero miles”!. I took day 5 to hand wash my muddy, sweaty ensemble and dry out all of my tent parts. I rigged a dryer out of turning the heat lamp on in the bathroom, heat up to 80 in the cabin (felt amaaaaaazing) and directing airflow from the vent up through the shower. Pure genius. Not really.

I scrutinized my foot situation and drained anything I could, and I will keep it at that. Blek.

Since describing loafing is not entertaining, I’m going to do some gear and supplies review. Every hiker has to go through this shakedown and figure out what works for them.

Tent: Impressed with my BA Ul2, it is the perfect size for one person and gear, easy to put
up, blocks the weather, and I haven’t ripped it.

Pack: I cannot say enough good things about the Osprey Exos 58. After I adjusted the weight, it became a part of me. We were one. 58 ltr is a perfect size, and the pack is an internal frame and mesh back and super customizable. I didn’t use the hydration system till later on, but it works well and I used a 2ltr platy internally. Rad. It also has enough pockets, attachers, doohickeys, loops, cords, and thingamabobs to satisfy any need for, uh… those items.

Shoes: turning out to be a big nope. I understand super light trail runners if you are going for speed/distance but I need more support and less foot-murder. I have seen most women with my hiking style use Meryl, Merral …need to check that spelling, so I will be more careful picking out my footwear for next time. I have narrow feet with high arches, well I used to 5 days ago.

Cook system: all good. My Etekcity works well, but I might try a better built one like msr for a longer trip. Love my Toaks items.

Sleep system: BIG FAT STUPID FAIL!!! 
Yes, I screwed this one up. I used a synthetic bag, rated for 20°F, which is fine at 50°F but a hell-no at 30°F. Even with all of my clothes and liner I was never completely warm. Also, my “pad” was like spreading a nice layer of rocks over the rocks. In discussions with the other fine ladies I crossed paths with, an inflatable is the only solution. Or a hammock, but no. I will repurpose my Z-lite into a sit pad. Or a hat. Or a robot costume.

No worries, tomorrow is more fun and a HUGE surprise. 😀

image

Drying out one chunk of tent.

image

Repacking, drying, seeing if I have anymore Poptarts.

image

He wants a Poptart also.

Day 4. Met my spirit animal, sortof.

Woke up wondering why it was still dark and my face and bag were dripping wet, but warm drippy, and odd. My emergency blanket had unfolded in the night over my head and with all of my breath condensation it was raining, um…my own breath fluids? Eww.

My tent did the best it could, but with a relentless downpour and my rain fly draining directly onto my ground cover, I was in a pool. You can only be so waterproof and tents aren’t made to sit in a pond. Anyoldsoakingwethoo, everything was a freezing-ass nasty wet mess. I even made a video I can’t upload till later, but it captures the moment. I did my best to shake off water, but it was still raining and when I checked the forecast, it was supposed to get colder and worse. Really??!! Didn’t I just have this conversation about snow?

Another long walk to have a buddy meet me at a trailhead. No big deal. I HAD to get things dry, I had no idea how to do that without shelter. But dammit, I made a cup of hot coffee first.

It was a magical and stunning walk back. Everything was glistening and the sound of rain in the forest was a cadence I set my pace to, or with really.

Oh yeah, my spirit animal! Well, it was actually a person and her trail name was “Mouse”, she was a beautiful white haired, super fit woman who was bouncing around a bit like I was; like all hikers I had met were. We compared stories and our love of the woods, the hike, the peace…but neither had the desire to through hike or prove anything. We talked about a lifetime of understanding in under ten minutes. She was me in 20 years. If anyone knows Mouse or runs into her, tell her Terra (just Terra, no trail name yet) said Hi, and I will see her again someday.

Back another downgrade and my toenails, which had previously been pulled from the nail beds on day were now in shoes full of water from the saturated brush and ground cover, were swelling and the skin beneath them filling full of water. Soooo weird. And the sopping shoes slowly rubbed blisters that I did not

image Misty, rainy morning.

image
Yeah, that is damp. O.o

image
Clouds on the top of a mountain. And a rock.

image
I forgot why I took a picture of a tree. This is a tree.

feel yet, but oh boy….it was coming.

On my way down also I passed a family of five, out for a stroll near the trailhead, but in my attempt to be social (oops) I said, “Wow. You guys look fresh!” Only meaning compared to them I was a muddy, soaking mess. The Mom looked horrified and mumbled, “We’re just day hikers…”. Like I was going to have them for lunch!! Gawd being socially awkward has its excellent moments. Ha!

I decided to bounce ahead to Hyatt Lake, dry out, assess foot damage and go from there. I had a good chunk of miles behind me, and I wanted to step up my game.

P.s. ***tmi alert*** This whole first 4 days just happened to be, uh, my moon time. Can I have a restart!!?

Day Three. Euphoria.

By the time I was dropped off in the morning I was too excited to eat. My pack was lighter, my plan was solid, and my head was in the game. It was 41 degrees and I might have stayed in the warm car a few extra minutes, but I needed to get our there and warm my muscles back up.

Now to try and describe the next several hours would read like a sophomoric melodrama, because it exactly was that. I found myself in tears of joy as I walked through scene after scene straight of my childhood memory bank, and adult longings. I was making Hobbit/LOTR references in my head, and stopping whenever I wanted to just to breath in the damp pine and unscathed mountain air. I told myself I wouldn’t share this part but wtf-ever, I am. THIS is what I came for.

I did not need a race, or a competition, or to prove myself, or anything more than what was happening in that moment. This was mine. My own. My Precious. (Had to. Bahaha)

I walked in a slow, intentional pace the rest of the day. I was still climbing a mountain but it wasn’t on a drop-off, I didn’t have to watch my feet; I simply enjoyed. No, no need of mine would be met by thru-hiking, that part was clear. My story was changing, as life does…with each step.

My Ego understood and went back to plotting something else. Meanwhile it dawned on me, something I will wait till this hike is over to share. It’s about social media and is a tangent so I’ll digress for the moment.

As I was saying, stories change quickly and the more I let mine evolve as a walked, the lighter my steps felt and a euphoria of sorts took over. Either that or it was time for a snack. I could do this hike again and again, and hope to. I decided tonight I wanted to camp it up right with a fire and cook my dinner. A campsite was on the map with a pit toilet!! Score. I would get there too early but didn’t much care. This was my vacation. I rounded a corner and saw my home for the night, complete with a fire pit. I squeaked out loud, put down my pack and did nothing but focus on getting a fire started. I never found a latrine though, might have been behind or underneath a massive felled tree. When you are camping, the world is your latrine!

Remember the cliffhanger from yesterday? A young German hiker passed as I was working on my fire. We chatted about our treks, and he had come over the pass I had previously pulled out of. He was alone. He had slipped on the path, one of his trekking poles went over the edge and the other had broken. This was a well- geared, fit, young man with a beard. (The beard is supposed to add relevance, lol) And he had that close call in the snow…my guts went cold. How terrifying for him. Thank God he was ok, and that I didn’t attempt that pass.

*Exhales*. He kept on, and a while later after I had camp set up, another young person, a med student/sent stopped by. He and a buddy were through hiking, but buddy had twisted his ankle and pulled off the trail, so he was day hiking. We compared gear for a bit and he was astonished at my weight for three days. After he showed me his full sized bug spray, sunscreen, cookware, etc…I told him to read some Ultralight books. Nice kid, hilarious conversation.

I cooked my meal on my stove! Hung my bear bag, and stood by the fire until the sun set.

The cold was worse than the previous night but I was ready. I thought. It just turns out I am a giant freezing baby all of the time. I put on all of my warm clothes, took out e-blanket, and made my cocoon. Then it started to rain.

image

My bestie, sending me off again

image

The fairytale shot. The tears and crap happened here.

image

I created FIIIIIIIRE!!!

image
Glamping?

Glamping? Hahaha

image

Cold a/f

image

Warming my tiny hand?