Little Toe, Big Problem

My first two days on the trail were, let’s call them, eventful. I’ve been an avid hiker and outdoor enthusiast since spring break camping trips as a kid, so I really didn’t see the struggle coming, not so soon, not right out of the gate anyway.

I should have known it was going to be a rough day when I arrived at Springer only to realize I left my trekking poles at home. If you’re not into backpacking you might not realize this is a big deal. I simply couldn’t go without poles. My knees would surely shatter without them, so my friend and I rallied a new plan and headed to good ole wally-world considering the outfitter in Ellijay didn’t open for a couple of hours.

At 11, I jumped on at the Springer lot and headed north (I summited and signed the log the day before). I felt good, I knew my legs were strong, so I slid right into auto. I was  zipping up and down the summits thinking I could still make it to Gooch Mountain Shelter well before dark.

I made the 15 miles in great time and my body, except one teensy little toe, was still feeling well-oiled. Peeling off my gaiters, Darn Toughs, and Injinji Trail Toe socks I was more than a little surprised to see a blister overtaking the entire pad of my littlest toe. Humph, no biggie. Tomorrow I’ll tape it, I thought.

The Gooch campsite was already maxed out. There was nowhere to pitch my tent. After striking up a conversation with a couple of old dudes (there is no shortage of 50-plus men out here), they offered to share their site. OK, great, I thought, but it definitely wasn’t. There was no space that either wasn’t a rock field or on a slope.

I chose the slope. Bad. Bad decision.

An hour after dark, I was jammed into the bottom left side of my tent. Every few minutes I skooched up and over, positioned myself, and shut my eyes, only to immediately slide back down. Then repeat, altering my position and thinking eventually I’d get it right. After sufficiently working up a sweat (and my blood pressure), I crawled out of my tent, dragging my sleeping bag and pad behind me and begrudgingly stomped up to the shelter scaring about 20 old dudes in the process.

I’ll tell you all about AT shelters soon enough, but tonight all you need to know is that mice paws sound like fingernails rapping against wood, which is creepy as heck in the middle of the night. Needless to say, I was up and out of camp at first light, thinking I would make another 15 miles to Neels Gap.

Wrong again. I didn’t know a little toe could be so angry! Don’t take that lightly. I’ve got some majorly sore muscles and tired joints, but they aren’t in pain, per say. This toe, this little, little toe was screeching at me from the first step. After wrapping it there was nothing else to do other than keep walking. So I walked. I walked until I felt a new blister forming. Yanking off my shoe and socks in the middle of the trail I examined my foot. Yup, new blister on the side of my foot looking like it was caused by my no longer awesome new cork insoles. I slapped a blister gel pad on, and kept trekking with the plan to get to Neels aborted.

By 2 p.m. I limped into the last campground before the five-mile stretch where bear canisters are mandatory and decided I was done for the day. With my littlest toe now doubled in size and swollen over the nail bed I had no choice except stop or make it way worse. So instead of being last in camp, I was first in with the best spot, a lazy afternoon ahead of me, and all preconceived notions about when I would get where left behind. Maybe there’s some real truth to hike your own hike after all.

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Comments 6

  • Deb Voorhorst : Apr 20th

    “No shortage of 50 plus year old men”…i think most of them have been hiking since before you were sound a bit put off, but in fact you are the cocksure newcomer. I think you should show some respect as most of them could hike circles around you and they know how to avoid blisters! They are probably thinking “no shortage of know it all kids who read a book or watched a movie and think they are experts”

  • Rob Rosset : Apr 20th

    I couldn’t have said it better myself Deb!!!!

  • Peter : Apr 20th

    At 60 years of age, I could hike circles around you young idiots that pretend to know everything….. and I don’t require hiking poles to do it either.

    • Rachel E Poole : Apr 20th

      Im sorry you all felt I am put off, but I rather enjoy the company of the older folks and prefer their companionship and stories to the younger generation, which is why I opted to camp next to the duo I did. Just a little smiles and sarcasm poking fun at myself.

  • MS JOEY MF WILLIAMS : Apr 20th

    Woooowwwww. At least she hasn’t built up 50+ years of pure grouchiness. I’d rather nurse a sore pinky toe from actually WALKING and DOING THE DAMN THING than perpetual butthurt syndrome. Cut the girl a break!

  • Stacey : Apr 21st

    I’m over 50 and thought it was funny. Young kids makes the world go round, I have them and they keep me young and on my toes. Rachel some people take things to seriously and our old farts . Keep on going


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