This is day 5. I have not hiked yet today. My left ankle was swollen for the past three days, and now that the swelling went down (after two ice-cold soaks in a creek), my right achilles is acting up. It hurts every time I move my foot and feels like there are sparks shooting from it by evening. But I’m making progress. Slow progress, doing mostly 10 mile days, but progress nonetheless. I don’t want to push myself to the point where I destroy my body and can’t go any further.
We stayed at a campground outside of Mt. Laguna last night, and late this morning after sleeping in until 9am again, while walking to town to get some food (since I’m going slower than planned, I’m running low on food and had to add two day’s worth to make it to Julian), I saw a girl from last night’s campfire sitting at a picnic table by herself. She told me the night before that she wanted to head out early at 7am and do another 20 miles, the amount she’s been doing each day since she began. “Wow, what a badass, I thought. Here I am doing 10 mile days, and she’s doing double.” Then I saw her feet. They were all covered in leukotape. I could only imagine how raw they were underneath. Suddenly, I was very happy about my sore ankle and throbbing achilles. At least my feet hadn’t burst open and turned to a bloody, pulpy mess. So what that I’m traveling slow–I’ll get there.
I asked her if she’s hiking today and she said, “No, I think I’m done.” I stopped walking. “For today? Or for good?” She started crying and replied, “For good.” I went over to her to rub her back as she cried about how she’s going to let everyone down. I suggested she take a few days off and see how she felt. I told her about how, when I hiked for a month last year, after three rainy days and three frozen nights with everything soaked and no sleep, I felt I was at the point where I was getting delirious and realized that I’m either going to get hypothermia or pneumonia and have to quit and go home early, or I could hitchhike to town, dry all my gear, rest, and recover for a few days, and then continue on. I did the latter, and I did not regret those 5 relaxing days in Belden at all, even if I did get much less hiking done than planned that month.
The girl seemed encouraged by this. I promised to go to the store to buy her some epsom salt to soak her feet in and came back with also free rubbing alcohol, petroleum jelly, and beer. “We’ll both pamper ourselves later tonight at the campfire,” I said. And I’m definitely looking forward to it!
We’ve been hiking slowly, yes, and relaxing a lot more than average, true. But when we find a shady spot during the hottest time of the day and lounge about for 4 hours as sweaty, miserable hikers grunt past us, my hiking partner says, “We’re doing this right.” And I agree.
Then we get up after sunset and hike into the night. As the moon lights our way (no headlamps needed), and everything looks so mystical and mysterious, we are falling in love with the world.