Feet! Between you and the Ground
Treat them well!
Above the Maine wilderness I take off my shoes, wring out my socks, and bring my toes out for some sunlight. When I woke that morning my legs were sore, and my feet were raw with each step. Only 50 miles left I thought, It’s been 2000 miles, might as well rest these dogs. On trail I allow myself to sit every now and then, resting my mind and body; but what about those things between you and the ground? Those ten digits stuffed away into shoes, that even by hiker standards, smell terrible. This is an ode to my feet, and a call to others to let them breathe! Give those pale hoofs some sun, give them a view and while this is still your hike, you have your feet to thank for getting you from here to there.
The Appalachian Trail is 5 million steps, through dust, rain, snow, ice, roots and everything between Georgia and Maine, there is a lot that your feet will touch, and you can bet that they feel most of it. While on trail I took my feet for granted, abused them with poor boot decisions, old wet socks, and a couple toe nails that have since found themselves lost. Wearing through 4 pairs of footwear, ranging from mid weight boots, to heavy backpacking boots, it took a while to figure out what works best for me. I ended with trail runners, a wise decision, and one that aspiring thru hikers should follow.
Toe nails will grow back!
A sort of rugged photo, but the reality when hiking 20 miles a day is your life. To accommodate this stress on your body, allow your foot to feel and flex with the earth. Try and find a shoe that is light, not tight, and lets your feet naturally land as your stride moves forward. It seems a large portion of the hiking community is interested in loading their body up with items, because the sales associate at REI told them to; trust me, you don’t need that camp chair, a rock or tree will do just fine. A quote I like to think of when packing from Paul Stutzmans’ book, Hiking Through,
“If you can’t carry it in your heart or on your back, you probably don’t need it”.
If it is a struggle to lift your pack off the baggage claim carousel at the airport, think about whats in your bag, do you really need it? This question over time will be answered with experience, but having a light bag can make or break a hike.
Less is more…unless we’re talking food!
Treat your feet right, keep them dry, and wear good socks. However, to prevent injury and foot pain, having a light pack is important. When wear your pack at home and walk around, if it is hurting then, it will probably hurt a lot more on trail. Over time a gear list will be a thing of the past, your items will be engrained in your brain. You will have it down to a science, and a chuckle is all you will muster when thinking back to the early days of your hike. If at first you are in pain on trail, buy a dozen donuts, and enjoy the sweetness of town while you in sit in the midsummer shade; smile, you’re thru hiking!
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