A Blistering Pace (PCT)
Bottom Line: Some boots aren’t made for walkin’, apparently . . . at least on my feet.
My feet taped to minimize blisters—hopefully, avoid them altogether—Mark and I enjoyed a cooked breakfast, then dropped my car at marker 266.1, junction with Hwy 18, in anticipation of our day’s hike.
Been here, Prim8 said.
Last time . . . I hope, Prim8.
In Mark’s car, we arrived at the PCT junction with Polique Canyon Road.
“What time is it?” I checked my iPhone. “8:30 AM, not bad,” I said.
Cool morning temperature and an overcast sky bode well.
I hoped to avoid the sweat-fest of our previous hikes. Though trail elevation exceeded 6,000 feet, direct sun this time of year would generate sweat like a squeezed orange dripping juice.
The southbound PCT headed “eastward” from our location, though shifted direction as we moved along.
We came to a trail junction, observed a lake in the distance directly ahead, though only slowed momentarily before we turned onto the right fork.
“Which lake is that? What direction?” I asked.
Within a few feet, Mark halted and referred to his map. “That could be Big Bear Lake,” he said.
“Can’t be,” I said. Could be. “Is there another lake north of the trail here?”
“No, that’s got to be Big Bear Lake,” Mark said. “I think we’re going the wrong way.”
How could that be? “We headed east from your car,” I said. “Logic dictates north lies to the left and south to the right. Though without opportunity to see shadows, it’s difficult to tell direction.”
Of course, we’d carried compasses.
Mark indicated with his hand. “Compass direction shows north that way.”
“How did we get turned around?” I said. “We haven’t deviated from the trail.”
“I don’t know, but let’s backtrack to my car,” Mark said.
With that, we retraced our steps over the 1.2 miles to Mark’s vehicle.
After a thorough examination of Mark’s maps and GPS device . . . and our compasses, we concluded we’d been heading the correct direction. But, still. . . .
Once again at the trail junction, 2.4 miles later, “There’s the problem,” I said. “We should’ve read the PCT sign over there,” I pointed left, “not the post-it note there,” I pointed right.
And so, this time, we made a hard left, the trail almost doubling back onto itself.
“Now we’re on the right track,” Mark said.
“Simple mistake, easy to make,” I said, though surprised we both had made it.
The temperature remained comfortable, the sun obscured by overcast and our hike proceeded without problem, though I noticed increasing complaints from my feet, particularly heels.
The aches, pains, complaints from my feet eased when we paused for a thirty-minute lunch break in the shade of several conifers. The sun at full strength now, we noted our thermometers read 83 degrees.
“Doesn’t feel that hot to me,” I told Mark, though I anticipated the heat of full sun and accompanying sweat. I removed my boots and socks. “Yep, blisters. I knew it.” Nothing to do but soldier on.
Mark said, “There a chance of a thunderstorm with lightening tomorrow.”
Ugh. “Maybe, we’ll get lucky and outrun it,” I said. I flashed on my summit of Gannett Peak in Wyoming with Dr. Bobo, when he and I had piled our gear some thirty feet away before we hunkered out of the wind, after Bob had warned, “Yeah, you don’t want any metal on you with lightening nearby.”
We continued onward, me counting down the distance, wiping sweat, feeling the burn of foot-blisters.
By the time we’d arrived at my car, we’d decided to pre-position it at mile marker 292.2, leaving it overnight in order to save time the next morning . . . though we were yet to know if the OHV route there was passable.
Turned out, it was . . . and we did.
At the hotel in Big Bear, I hit the shower, didn’t remove tape, preferred not to look at my feet. Knew I’d have to examine them afterwards, though.
Yep. A large blister on my right heel. What will I need to do to prevent this?
I discarded those pieces of tape beyond salvage, then applied additional layers everywhere.
6 AM, bright and early, with drive-through coffee and breakfast Mc-sandwich from the Big Bear McDonald’s consumed en-route, we returned to the Polique Canyon Road parking turnout at PCT junction, mile marker 278.6.
Overcast, occasional slight breezes and a cool temperature bode well. The overcast sky appeared subdued.
“That’s see if we can outrun that thunderstorm,” I said.
Mark requested a photo by a tree at the road junction.
Me, one, too, Prim8 demanded.
Okay, but we need to get moving.
Prim8 hugs a tree.
We marched off at a fast clip.
Foot check. Okay.
Clouds in the distance behind us appeared dark, so we kept a steady pace, hoping to escape a downpour, though each of us carried gear to avoid a soaking.
As we marched along my foot complaints mounted, demanded more of my focus.
Damn, blisters. What the hell do I have to do?
All in, however, I harbored no intention of turning back.
Brief stops for a photo, or a wee break, here and there, slowed our progress only slightly. And, as has been the case while we have hiked, we swapped personal tidbits. Mark joked about and divulged the nickname of “Wrong-way” that he’d gotten on a field survey job.
"Wrong-way" Mark poses as storm clouds roil above.
The wind increased, with short gusts to 80 mph, my best guess, and the clouds roiled and darkened as we progressed across a plateau strewn with boulders. Periodic checks suggested we could be enveloped by a storm any minute.
The sounds of scattered rain drops bolstered my resolve and though they soon stopped, I didn’t slacken my pace.
My foot-complaints increased in intensity, and as I limped along, I counted down the remaining distance to my car.
It’s out there somewhere, Prim8 . . . unless somebody stole it, cross your fingers.
Another hundred yards . . . around this bend . . . somewhere beyond those green trees . . . the stream is nearby.
I sighed with relief when I crossed a flowing stream. We’re close, Prim8.
And then I spotted “Wrong-way,” as well as my car, waiting at the PCT junction with Crab Flats Road, mile marker 292.2.
My feet gave thanks, even though I drove Mark to his car.
We discussed our respective drives back home and tentative plans for our next PCT trip.
“I’m taking 138 to Pearblossom,” I told Mark, “and I’m not missing that turn, again.” Come hell or high water.
Rain began to pour, when I found the Hwy 138 turn off.
Escaped the storm by the hair of our chinny-chin-chins, Prim8. But, I've got to figure how to prevent blisters.
(Prim8’s accumulated PCT progress: mile marker 292.2.)