Babies and Blisters

A Slight Change of Plans

My phone vibrated in my pocket just after church started last Sunday. Everyone knows that the announcements section of a church service is meant for reading emails, so I pulled out my phone to check. It was a text from my son with a pic of his smiling, pregnant wife sitting on a maternity ward bed.

If you’ve watched our YouTube channel (@TheIncident-AT2023), you know we’ve been eagerly awaiting the arrival of our first grandchild, an individual heretofore known only by its trail name (womb name?) “Squish.” The parents had kept their non-trail name choices to themselves. Squish wasn’t due for another 10 days, but she apparently has a mind of her own, an obviously inherited trait. From all sides.

Still blissfully ignorant of the greater-than-gravity force of grandmotherly love, I showed the pic to Mrs. The Incident. So much for church. After a few minutes of squirming and literal shaking by the Grammy-to-be, we snuck out the back door when the congregation rose to extend the hand of peace. By “snuck,” I mean stopping at every person we passed on the way out to announce that Squish was on her final approach and that we were a six-hour drive from the terminal.

Happily, it was an easy 36-hour delivery, and Squish arrived healthy, screaming, and stunningly beautiful. Easy for me, at least. The new mom and dad looked a little battle weary.

What Would YOU Do on a Winter Day in San Diego?

San Diego hospitals still have COVID protocols in place, which meant only one of us could visit Squish (and her parents, of course, but they barely count anymore now that Squish arrived). That left plenty of time to kill.

What to do, what to do? How to spend a “winter” day in San Diego?

The drive to San Diego and 36-hour wait had cost me two days of training hikes, so I decided to take a quick walk across the I-5, through the UCSD campus, and look at La Jolla Cove from the hills above. But once I saw the steep hill leading past the Birch Aquarium down to the Cove, I thought I might as well include some hill training.

At the bottom of the hill, I was so close to the beach, it’d be a shame to miss a little beach time, especially since the tide was out. Then, at the far end of the beach, it was lunchtime, so I added another mile or so along the Coast Path over to Children’s Pool Beach and the seal rookery, before heading up to downtown La Jolla for some four-star tacos. Puesto’s tacos are to die for.

Puesto’s is Not the Only Hot Spot in San Diego

By lunch I was about eight miles in, and still had to walk back.

I hadn’t expected to walk that far, and consequently was only wearing an old, worn-out pair of my Altra Olympus V’s and a similarly beat-up pair of ankle socks. The Altra’s tread is nearly gone. And the uppers are torn in four or five places, which turned out to be the real problem.

As I waited for my tacos, wiggling my toes with glee, I noticed that I had a few hot spots. But Puesto’s clientele is decidedly not thru-hiker friendly. That is, nobody else was taking off their shoes and socks at their tables to look for blisters. So after lunch, I crossed the street, sat on the curb and did a complete inspection.

Sure enough, some beach sand had gotten through the holes in the Altras’ uppers and found its way through the fibers of my worn socks. Or maybe it had spilled in above the low-rise socks. Either way, once inside, it lodged between my toes and went to work. I had the beginnings of three toe blisters.

I never get blisters. Not anymore. Some years ago, after struggling with toe blisters (my toes are very closely spaced) and repeatedly losing toenails on long hikes, I made some changes. I haven’t had a blister or lost a nail since.

The Secret to Preventing Blisters

The secret? Secrets. Plural.

  • First, buy shoes with a big toe box.
  • Second, buy one size larger than you normally buy to provide some extra room for thick socks and foot expansion on long hikes. Pinched toes are blistered toes. The extra space will also help prevent bruising your toenails when (not if) you stub them on rocks or roots. Hence, the Altra Olympus, one of only a few brands with a huge toe box that come in size 15.
  • Third, wear toe sock liners under your hiking socks. The liners keep my close-spaced toes from rubbing against directly each other. I like the Injinji crew length toe socks.
  • Fourth, wear thick hiking socks over the liners. The second pair not only provides a little extra cushioning and warmth, it helps prevent dirt particles from getting between your toes. I’ve found the Darn Tough brand to be darn tough as well as darned comfortable. But if your socks get holes or start to fray, throw them out (or return the Darn Tough ones for free replacement).  An uneven frayed or holey sock surface is a breeding ground for blisters. Which leads to …
  • Fifth, keep your feet clean. Dirty feet are blistery feet. Those little sand particles are blister-building terrorists. Make a point to take your socks off a few times a day, shake out your socks, and wash or rub down your feet.

Now What?

Back in La Jolla, sitting on the curb opposite Puesto’s, I knew I’d screwed up. Wrong socks, wrong shoes, dirty feet, sand in my shoes. Blisters.

There was only one thing to do. Call Mrs. I for a ride? Uber? Urgent care?

Nope. Hike another six miles up Mount Soledad and over to Pacific Beach. I needed to walk off the chips, salsa, tacos, and a really yummy but sugary mango agua fresca. Plus, the climb and view were spectacular.

As were the blisters, by the time I met Mrs I for a sunset dinner by the PB pier.

I opted for a ride back to the hospital with Mrs. I for my turn to hold Squish. Sitting down with a new grandbaby in my lap was the perfect way to end a winter day in San Diego.

See you on the Trail.

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