June 30, 2015
Tentsite near Wolf Creek (1041.1) to Lower Sunset Lake (1064.3)
23.2 PCT miles today
1108.8 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 4,217 ft, – 5,009 ft
It is hard for me to know, as the writer of this blog, whether I have made it either too positive or too negative. My goal, of course, is to keep it honest and realistic, but I know I have a tendency to romanticize, so I feel it’s time to set the record straight. Neither Pickles nor I have been immune to the multitude of aches, pains, annoyances, and inconveniences of hiking 20-plus miles every day. None of them have taken us off the trail, or even outweighed the immense pleasure we’ve gotten every day from hiking the PCT, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t driven us crazy, brought us to the point of tears, or made us wish at times that we were sitting on a couch watching TV instead of climbing steep hills in the midday heat. What follows is a comprehensive (and perhaps slightly indulgent) list of our complaints.
I’ll start with our feet since they are by far the most used and abused part of our bodies. For all my feet have done for me over the past 2 months, they have also been the bane of my existence. I have had foot soreness since day one, with maybe only a day or two of relief. At times it has felt like plantar fasciitis, more recently it has mostly consisted of a horrible cramping feeling in my middle toes, but in general it has just been a constant aching in the actual pads of both feet. Pickles has experienced some of this pain too, including numb middle toes on his right foot for the last few weeks. We have also dealt with various blisters, hot spots, rashes, and even a bit of trench foot. I currently have a heat rash on the side of my heel that burns most of the day and Pickles has some dead skin on the bottom of his feet that looks like he was wearing wet socks all day (even though we clean and change them regularly). We aren’t really sure whether every hiker goes through these issues with their feet, but I for one am determined to find a solution because usually by the end of the day I am more focused on my feet than my beautiful surroundings.
We have been lucky, because it seems like many hikers have dealt with some serious ankle and/or knee problems on this hike. Pickles’ ankles were bothering him a bit back in the desert, and sometimes he wakes up in the middle of the night and they are completely cramped up and unable to move, but my ankles have been totally fine. On the other hand, Pickles hasn’t had any problems with his knees, but I’ve had a very minor issue with my right knee. It hurt quite bad for a total of about 20 steps over 2 different days, and it hasn’t complained since. We can only hope that this remains the case.
Moving on, common aches and pains tend to include the shoulders and hips. There was a week or so when Pickles had some pain in his hip, but it went away. My hips, ever since day one, have gone completely numb and then itched and burned whenever I have too much weight in my pack or tighten my waist belt too tight. The problem has almost completely resolved itself, but for the first month, I would often have to drop my pack for a minute or two every couple hours just to let the feeling come back. It’s the same story with my shoulders, which caused me tons of pain in the beginning, but now only bother me on rare occasions when my pack is too heavy.
Now onto some of the irritants out here on trail. First and foremost, mosquitos are horrible. Not only do they buzz around you and try to drive you crazy, but they leave horribly itchy welts all over your body that last for weeks. I know everyone has dealt with mosquitos at one point or another, but the magnitude to which they existed in Yosemite this June was insane. Day after day and night after night, they affected every part of our hike. They have finally let up a bit, but their itchy bites are still keeping us up at night and stopping me mid-step for a good scratch.
Speaking of sleep, as much as we love a good night’s sleep in our tent, it also has its discomforts. With mosquitos around, every foray outside of the tent is an event. Pickles and I have to work together to make it quick, and then we have to sit completely still in order to find the infiltrators and kill them. Every night I wake up at least once, sometimes twice, to go pee. In addition to dealing with the insects, I can barely stand on my achy, swollen feet, and on cold nights, even leaving the sleeping bag can feel torturous.
So that brings us to our final complaint…the discomforts that come along with using the bathroom in the woods. For the most part, Pickles and I would much rather go to the bathroom in the woods than in a toilet. At some point, if you stick with us, I will divulge some of our wilderness bathroom strategies that make this so. Occasionally though, all we want is a clean, private room where we can do our business. There are a few discomforts that make going to the bathroom in the woods quite uncomfortable. The first is when you’re trying to do your business and mosquitos are taking the opportunity to eat you alive. No one wants their bum (or worse) covered in mosquito bites. Then there are the times when you are squatting and your feet completely cramp up and force you to cleverly move around in order to keep the blood flowing and the toes from falling off. And finally, there is the major discomfort of post-zero day constipation. All of us hikers experience it. Out here we drink water constantly and we get very regular. But throw in one town day, with tons of junk food and almost no hydration to speak of, and you’re looking at at least 2 days of recovery time before things are back to normal.
So our solution to all these aches, pains, and discomforts? Just keep walking…eventually they will work themselves out. It all comes with the territory, and if we didn’t think it was worth it we wouldn’t still be out here.
It is hard to devote an entire blog to our complaints. It feels unfair to the beautiful landscapes that we walked through today, just as deserving of my gushing superlatives as all those amazing days that have come before. I hope it is enough to say that no matter how uncomfortable we might become, the gift of seeing the places we saw today make it all worth it.