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.

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