Two steps forward, one step back

I wasn’t expecting to be writing this blog from my office.  I thought I’d be posting from my mobile phone.  I’ve had an unexpected setback.  Blisters, two, huge blisters on the back of both heels.  So, instead of sole to soul, I’m healin’ the heels.

Within the first half hour of the first day my heel started to tickle.  But it wasn’t much.  By the time I’d gotten to camp the blister on my left heel was larger than any piece of moleskin that I had; then the next day the same thing happened to my right heel.  By day three I couldn’t fathom the idea of walking another 9 miles in my flesh eating boots.

Here’s the catch – these boots were an old trusty pair that had NEVER given me a blister, not ever.  I’d had them resoled and even walked around in them for a week to make sure they’d work.  They didn’t.  I finished my third day in my camp shoes – Crocs.

Brian and I returned to his RV, that we’d stashed about 1/2 mile from the trail, just outside of Jacob Lake.  I’d planned on re-supplying there and continuing on; with these blisters I knew my boot days were over.  I  planned on hiking the next 50 miles in my Chacos with the heel strap moved aside, but when I tried that I quickly realized that the straps would rub different holes in my feet if I continued.  I was at an impasse.

I faced a prolonged healing process before I could continue.  I estimated that it’d be at least 4-5 days.  I didn’t want to burn days and provisions sitting in a tent just outside Jacob Lake, not to mention the need for different footwear.  So, I decided to head home and heal.  I’m going to admit, that at first that reality hurt – I’d be returning home after 3 days.  It wasn’t the setback I’d expected.  I figured I’d have some muscular or skeletal issue – sore back, legs, knees, feet, lips . . . anything but blisters from a trusted companion.

The disappointment didn’t stick around very long though.  I received a couple of messages from some close friends and immediately things didn’t seem so bleak.  I could come home, heal and in the meantime take care of a few house/farm-keeping chores.  But most importantly I could take the time to head south and scout the towns and trail heads.  I might also be able to cache some water for myself and other hikers.

Speaking of caching water for other hikers, I had a neat experience.  Brian and I had cached some water along our route; some for us and some for other hikers.  When we’d returned we saw that someone had taken some water.  I felt like a kid again – remember when you’d leave cookies and milk out for Santa Claus and in the morning you could tell he’d been there?  That’s what it felt when I saw the water gone.  It was exciting.

Anyway, I’ve decided to turn this issue into the silver lining rather than the cloud.  I get to tweak a few gear choices and still be out there, playing along the trail.  Maybe I’ll see some hikers on their own journeys.  If I do I’ll be prepared to distribute a little love & magic.  I suspect I’ll be just as excited about that as they are.

See you out there.



It’s like bootcamp again.

I’m sitting here in my office and in about 5 hours my friend Brian Higgins is going to pick me up to take me to the Utah border.  He’s going to hike the first three days with me; from the Utah border to Jacob Lake.  I can’t help but reflect on my impending journey.  It feels like I’m going to bootcamp again.

In 1986, after I graduated from high school, I went into the US Marine Corps.  I think it was something like 17 days in between graduation and bootcamp.  I had these days to think about what was coming.  I knew that the next 13 weeks was going to be hell, but trans-formative.  I wondered if I had what it took to be a Marine.  One of the last things my dad said to me before I shipped out was that when things got tough, too tough, tell myself that I can quit tomorrow; that I’ll finish this day but tomorrow I could quit.  If I told myself that every time I felt like quitting, I’d at least finish the day.

This hike is a lot like bootcamp to me.  I wonder about the physical and mental challenge and how I’m going to respond.  I know that there will be moments when I’ll want to quit.  But on the other hand I also feel that a person can’t do something like this without it having some impact on your soul.  In truth, I can’t think of a better way to go about a reset.

See you out there.

Last post from civilization . . .

OK – so, I leave in 11 days.  As I tell people about my trip the most common question I get is “are you blogging your trip?”  I’m actually surprised at how many people say they’re interested in following the experience.  I figured I’d just be writing this blog for my own reflection but apparently there are people out there that love to hear about these kinds of stories.  God bless those people.  It’s a heck of a ego boost too, so thank you.

Anyway, I’ve downloaded the WordPress app to my phone.  I also installed a journal app.  The purpose of this journal app is so that I can make quick entries, with date/time stamps and photos, as I’m walking along.  When I get time, I can reflect on those journal entries and be able to write an overview blog.  Of course I’ll cherry pick the successes and “yadayadayada” over the bad stuff.  Whenever I get reception I’ll send what I have.

I’ll be posting pictures to Facebook and Instagram when I get reception.  I have an InReach Explorer – It’s linked with my personal Facebook page.  I’ll occasionally post map links to my location.

I’ll also have a teleporter in case something goes wrong and I don’t want to be in nature, “away from it all” anymore.  Just kidding . . . because they don’t make those, to my knowledge, yet.

Mostly, however, I am going to be in the middle of a “reset”.  I don’t know how often or diligently I’ll be posting.  Rest assured for the two of you who are ACTUALLY following me that I’ll take notes so that when I return I can write all about it.  But really, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to explore my soul because, that’s the point – right?

For my mom, I’ve created an auto-message program that says everything is going fine, no matter what’s really happening.  She worries.

Smiles per day

How do you know when someone does Crossfit?  Oh, they’ll tell you – over and over.  How do you know when someone is attempting a thru-hike?  Same thing.  I’m 17 days out and, as you might expect, the most common topic on my brain is this hike.  I’ve been to professional networking functions.  Invariably people ask you “what’s up” . . . when that happens I see an opening and I tell them about my plans.

I know it’s natural to want to talk about important things, and honestly, I’m not embarrassed that I bring up my adventure.  I know that people love to hear of other people’s adventures; like anyone, we conjure the romantic images of whatever that adventure is.  The white sandy beaches, the fresh air, the majestic mountains.  What I’m sure they don’t envision, at least as it applies to a thru-hike, is the pain.  The blisters, heat, sore back, stubbed toe, sunburn, hypothermia, lack of sleep and the invariable cut on the hand (how DID I cut myself?).

To be honest, I don’t really think about that stuff either.  I know it’s going to happen so why worry about it.  There’s no reason to be miserable twice for the same thing.  So, I ignore the impending.  I think of those sunny but perfect temperature days, on flat ground, hiking next to gurgling streams.  I dream of those million mile views.  I don’t think of the rain or how it turns to mud that sticks to your boots so eventually you’re plodding along with 10lb feet.  I know that this is going to be a physically demanding endeavor.

Knowing all of this has enabled me to look at this hike differently.  Usually, when I go backpacking my intent is to get to where I’m going without wasting time, so I can enjoy the campsite.  I’ll relax in camp, pace be damned!  But on this trip, I’m really not “going anywhere”; sure, there’s a goal, but it’s nothing to hurry about.  I’m going to hike when I want, stop when I’m tired, nap when I’m sleepy and camp when I like my surroundings.

I’ll be measuring the smiles per day, rather than worrying about miles per day.  For the most part.  I’ll still keep y’all up to date.  I’ve got one of those DeLorme InReach devices and apparently I’m able to post to Facebook and shit.  Really roughin’ it, huh?  I’ll also be periodically posting to Instagram and in this here blog-thingy when I reception and intention happen to intersect.

If you get a wild hair up your butt and feel like going camping, hiking or mountain biking, maybe you could time your outing to my passing through.  Both pizza AND fried chicken are great at room temperature.

Is it September 19th yet . . .