Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Out of the Wild

As I mentioned in my last post, I had been planning a backcountry camping trip in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. My trip would take me from Tuolomne Meadow in Yosemite to the top of Mt. Whitney near Lone Pine, CA. To do this, I would hike about 200 miles over many mountains passes carrying a pack weighing 35-40 lbs. Also, I planned to take this trip alone.

Well, folks, I did it. On September 7th, I headed into the wilderness. Eighteen days later, I stood at the summit of the tallest peak in the lower 48 states. I felt proud. I felt fulfilled. And I smelled god-awful. (By the end, I had gone twelve days without a shower.)

Looking back on my trip, I think I did most things right. I packed enough clothes and food. I carried the right maps and guidebook. Bears did not eat me. I was never seriously lost, scared, or lonely. But, of course, being me, I could not come out of my trip completely unscathed. Even when I am the most focused and prepared, moron tax will happen.

In this case, I did something really stupid on the third day of my hike, and the consequences lasted through the entire trip. Indeed, I am still dealing with some residual side effects. What stupid thing I did was this: I did not tie my bootlaces tight enough.

It may seem like a small oversight not to properly tie your laces. But when hiking long-distances, it is a really moronic thing to do. If your boot is loose, it will rub against your heel, your toes, and the bottom of your foot. Over a short distance, the rubbing is only a minor irritation; however, over a distance of several miles + a heavy pack, the rubbing can cause terrible blisters or serious injuries to the foot.

Below are photos of my feet. These photos reflect the injuries I inflicted on my feet just after one day and sixteen miles of hiking. Please note that I took these photos more than 2 weeks after I sustained the injuries, so they show some healing.

First, note the big toe on the right foot. Because my boot was loose, my toe kept pushing into the tip of my boot, repeatedly bruising itself. To this day, I don't have any sensation in the tip of my toe.

Second, I rubbed off all the skin on the heels of both feet. For several days, the heels were very raw, and I would have to apply and reapply band-aids and moleskin throughout the day in order to be able to walk. The heels eventually healed over with new skin, but that caused intense itchiness. Even now, I wake up in the middle of night scratching violently at my heels.

Third, I rubbed so much skin off the side of my right foot that I created a penny-sized divet there. I had to regularly monitor this wound, as the band-aids and moleskin often slipped off when blood would ooze as I walked. I am pretty sure it's going to leave a scar even after it's fully healed.    * Update Post here.

Friday, September 4, 2009


As many of you know, being bloggers yourselves, maintaining and updating a blog takes a lot of work. It takes a significant amount of time and energy to think of something interesting to say, sit down to write it in an interesting way, and than nudge your friends and family to read it. So it is certainly moron tax to abandon a blog without explanation. So, my dear readers, I greatly regret that I haven't posted to my blog in quite a while. Thank you for your patience and continuing support.

Instead of posting to my blog, I have been planning a long backpacking trip. If all goes well, I will complete close to 200 miles of hiking in 2.5 weeks in the Sierra Mountain range, living almost exclusively on the contents that I carry in my backpack. To prepare for this, I had to forecast all the likely stupid things that I might do and put some appropriate measure in place. I have to, in other words, head off my moron tax at the pass. Would I accidentally burn a hole in my tent like I did three years ago? Maybe, so bring duct tape. Could I forget to turn off my headlamp all night? Yes, so pack extra batteries. Given that I am so prone to doing stupid things, this took a lot of time and a lot of planning.

I leave for my trip in a couple of days, so I'll again be absent from my blog for the next few weeks. When I return, I promise to promptly return to sharing my moron tax stories with you. While I am sure many of those stories will be harvested during my hike, I'd rather hope that everything will turn out perfectly. So, rather than remind myself of how dumb I can be, I'd rather dedicate this post to a tale of not-my-moron-tax, when I did all the rights things, but suffered for someone else's misstep.

The Engagement Ring.

A boyfriend of mine once invited me to dinner with an out-of-town friend, Carl*, and Carl's friend Angie. Although my boyfriend, Carl, and Angie were well acquainted with one another, the group dynamic was quiet, if not tense. There was no obvious reason for this, and no one had warned me of any underlying problems. In these situations, I tend to become restlessly chatty and find myself commenting on what I heard on the news that day and whatever else springs to mind. Moments after we were seated at the restaurant, I noticed that Angie was wearing a very flattering diamond solitaire ring. I seized upon the ring as an opportunity to unlock a happy and uncontroversial topic for conversation. "Oh wow, that's a beautiful ring," I said to Angie. "Are you engaged?" Looking back now, I can see my boyfriend and Carl shifting uncomfortably in their seats, and I can feel the air going out of the room -- but at that moment, I smiled at Angie, fully expecting her to gush about her wedding plans, her honeymoon, and her dashing fiance. Instead, Angie frowned at me, looked at her ring, and sighed. "My fiance died six months ago." Only then, did I recognize that her silence had been a restraint on her grieving that I had failed to respect. We spent the rest of dinner speaking awkwardly about the details of her fiance's tragic and untimely passing.

*The names "Carl" and "Angie" are not their true names.