Any Slower and I Would Be Going Backwards

I wake and begin to slowly put gear back inside stuff sacks.  I’m sitting in my tent, my sleeping bag still warm around me.  It was a cold night and I’m not ready yet to venture out to see if it is a cold morning.

I take two ibuprofen and massage tiger balm into the bottom of my feet hoping to hold the pain at bay just for a little while.

The Cold and foot pains have been my biggest teething problems so far on the trail.  A cold snap the day I started the approach trail meant a rough first night.  Tiny snow flakes fell as I hurriedly tried to cook dinner, almost every layer of clothing I had already on.   Knowing that it would get cold on the trail and actually experiencing real cold for the first time was completely different.

The cold hurt, shivering caused all my muscles to bunch up and I couldn’t sleep at all.

That first morning on the trail I rushed to get out of camp at Black Gap Shelter, the girls I hiked the approach trail with were much faster than me and if I got a headstart it might equal out.   It didn’t.   I don’t worry about this now, the girls I started with are miles ahead, and I rarely see the same hikers two days in a row especially now that the only two other hikers going the same place have gotten off trail due to health reasons. 

DSC_0045By any and all standards I am officially a slow hiker.  I wander slowly up the trail,  taking advantage of every single blow down or boulder I can to take the weight off my aching feet. But my slow low mile days mean I am never making camp for the night feeling like I’ve had some completely retched day.  I spend time sitting looking at views as other hikers hurry passed trying to cram the miles in. 

The first sign of foot problems started day two.  Shoes that had been comfortable and never rubbed were suddenly giving me blisters.  I did some rough home doctoring and pushed on.

Over the next few days it got slightly worse, my toes started to look a little swollen, then I noticed they were going a bit numb.

Eventually the day before blood mountain I could only manage 3 miles in my bedrock sandals.

Blood Mountain: the race for Neels Gap.   The camping regulations near blood mountain cause a slight bottle neck right before neels gap.  Meaning I had a 7 mile day ahead of me over what looked like a killer mountain with swollen painful feet.  And it was raining, with the creepiest horror movie fog you could imagine, but the dangling carrot in front of me and every other hiker was the possibility of getting a bunk, getting warm and dry and not having to set up a tent in the rain.

DSC_0051For the most part, I was in a good mood, my feet hurt and I was doing it tough watching hikers overtake me with ease, but it seemed like I was going to make it there before late afternoon hit so I was feeling good…. Until while resting beside the trail another hiker came bounding down.

“The rain is such a great motivator, don’t you think?” they asked.

‘What?’ at this point I thought the rain was a lot of very specific things but motivator was not one of them.

“I’m making great time today, new personal best for miles, I’ve already gone sixteen today, I’m rushing so I can get a room tonight”

As they disappeared down the trail I was left gobsmacked, this guy had done my past 3 days combined already this morning and couldn’t be having a better time.

I cried.

Please, if you’re a hiker, notice the subtle difference between encouraging your fellow hikers and being a guy I want to kick in the shins.

I continued my slow shuffle down, I could just hear traffic now so the hostel couldn’t be far.  Behind me I heard two girls laugh.

You’ve never seen a pleasantly plump sized soaking wet hiker limp so quickly down a section of trail as I did panicked that there was some chance that there might be a bunk left and one of these girls were going to beat me to it.

There were no bunks left, but there was a place to camp out back, a shower, clean clothes, a rib sandwich and a bottle of coke.  Life was good again.

I zeroed the next day, got myself one of those bunks, a shakedown from pretzel and a possible new record for feet swelling when I went from a previously comfy size 8 to a size 11.

Back in my tent I put my new clown shoes on and open the zipper, it’s windy but not unbearable so I hurry to bring my tent down and grab my bear bag.  As I open a pop tart the first drops of rain fall so I struggle into my pack, put my umbrella up and prepare to head out.   The only other hiker at the side calls out that even on rainy days the sun still rises and it’s up to me to find the sunshine in my day…. I like this better than the 16 mile hikers words of wisdom, even if I think it’s something better suited to a hallmark card. 

I find myself again resting sore and aching feet on a rock beside the trail in the rain when a passing hiker comments “looks like we’re getting a freebie today” so far today the terrain has been moderate in elevation change but mud and long stretches of badly balanced rock have made it a tough go so far for me.

Please, if you’re a hiker again please note the subtle difference between small talk and assuming that everyone on the trail finds it as easy as you do.

I made it to the shelter, glad to hear other hikers talking about difficulty today, I am warm and dry again and again after a tough days work I feel great about accomplishing something.

I have not had a single completely bad day on trail, I feel positive about the trail to come.  I’m very slowly continuing north. I meet new people everyday and I’m happy to be continue slugging it northwards at this pace for as long as it takes. DSC_0080

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Comments 9

  • letshike2 : Apr 8th

    Nice post. I love your great attitude! Keep it up. Happy Trails!!!

  • Marietta Jones : Apr 8th

    Go you! I’m so impressed! Keep going, please! You’ve now surpassed how far I’ve gone, I’m sure. AND you haven’t seriously hurt yourself. Winning all around!

  • Melissa : Apr 8th

    Woohoo! Go you! I hope the new shoes make the travel easier! We’re rooting for you! (And I stole the sunshine on rainy days quote. That was awesome!) Keep finding your sunshine!

    • Steph Jones : Apr 8th

      Thanks, found a bit too much sunshine today. Burnt!

  • Big L : Apr 8th

    I have felt your pain!!! You can do this!!! The new shoes will help and the hiker legs will come. IT IS NOT A RACE!! I tired to go fast with another hiker and hated it. HYOH

    • Steph Jones : Apr 8th


  • imin2w8s : Apr 8th

    The fact that you don’t feel horrible at the end of the day says that you know your limitations and are wisely staying within those boundaries. You are to be applauded! I love your candid comments about other hiker’s who may mean well, but are more discouraging than helpful. Keep your chin up! You should be so proud of your wise, tough self!! ♡

  • Squish : Apr 9th

    Just remember, 2 far, 2 fast, 2 heavy will get you off trail faster than anything. Enjoy your hike, the bigger miles will come with time. One step at a time. You’re doing it right.

  • Mirandi Watson : Apr 15th

    You are an inspiration! Keep it up sister! Enjoy the journey, after all…that’s what its really about anyway!


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