The Infamous Toe Sock Incident
This is a True Story
This is a slightly edited and expanded version of an impromptu story I wrote in response to this prompt on the application to blog for The Trek: “Tell me a funny story or something important that happened to you during the last month.” It’s a true story.
All outdoor adventures come with some level of risk: turning an ankle on the trail, slipping on loose gravel or wet rocks, catching an edge while skiing, encountering a mid-stream strainer while paddling, hooking yourself on a bad back-cast when fly fishing – and the list goes on. All these things have happened to me.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve made a few concessions to safety, especially since I often venture out alone. I now pay close attention to the current conditions, weather forecasts, and water levels. I always wear a PFD when paddling. I’ve dialed back my mountain biking after walking away unscathed from a couple of spectacular crashes last year. I don a helmet whenever skiing or cycling, use a wading staff when fishing big water, wear a reflective vest while running in the dark, and blaze orange when venturing in the woods during hunting season.
I’d like to think I’m older and wiser these days. It’s about risk management and being smart, but sometimes shit happens. Just last week I stumbled on a technical trail run and dinged my elbow and knee. It could’ve been worse. Gotta remember to always lift my feet on the trail, especially when tired!
Shit Really Does Happen
In preparation for my end-to-end hike of the Long Trail later this year, I’ve been trying different hiking socks and sock combinations to minimize foot problems. On a section hike of the AT last year, I developed a few blisters after several days on the trail. On the advice of a successful AT thru hiker, I bought some thin toe socks to use as liners inside my wool hiking socks. I had never tried toe socks before and wasn’t sure what to expect. A little bit of a pain to put on, but they are surprisingly comfortable, and it sure seemed like they might prevent blisters.
But after wearing them on a very wet day hike in early Spring, I stepped into my laundry room to toss my muddy hiking clothes into the washing machine. After balancing on one foot at a time and quickly pulling off the outer sock as I normally do, I went to do the same with the first toe sock. But it caught at my toes as I yanked and threw me off balance. I went down hard, knocking shoes off the shoe rack and pulling down a shelf. It was a spectacular crash. In my laundry room!
Dodged a Bullet… Maybe
As I lay on the floor taking stock of my condition and assessing injury, I thought, Noooooo… not like this! What if I can’t get up? I live alone, and my daughter didn’t mention she planned to stop by this week. How long will I be laying here? Where’s my phone? Damn, it’s in the kitchen and far out of reach.
Fortunately, I seemed okay after a minute or two on the floor. I got up slowly. Maybe a little embarrassed, but thankful I had dodged a bullet.
About a week after the incident, I was on a group hike and joking with my companions about my laundry room mishap. Embarrassing or not, it made for a great story, and we all got a good laugh! Especially after a post-hike beer or two.
A few days later though, I began feeling a little poorly. Symptoms included mild headache, nausea, & dizziness. I was still working in a healthcare clinic at the time, so I reported my symptoms and was immediately tested for COVID. Fortunately, the results were negative. It turned out the symptoms were from a mild concussion that took more than a week to manifest itself. Wish I could say the concussion was from ice climbing, BASE jumping, or bull riding, but sadly it was from removing toe socks in my laundry room.
No Pain, No Gain
The concussion symptoms resolved in a few days and I was soon back on the trail. Since the toe sock incident, I’ve had the chance to do a LASH hike of the AT in NC and TN, as well as sections of the AT, the Laurel Highlands Trail, and Black Forest Trail in PA. After several hundred miles and no problems with hot spots or blisters, my sock combination is dialed in, and my feet are happy.
Note to self: Always sit down before trying to remove toe socks… or wear a helmet when doing laundry!
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