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Wounds won’t heal the way you

want them to, they heal the

way they need to.

Dele Olanubi

  • Writer's pictureConnard Hogan

Mr. New Boots (PCT)

Bottom line: Blisters are a tenderfoot hiker’s reward.

Prim8's new Hoka hiking boots. Blister preventers?


Mr. New Boots, that is Prim8 equipped with new hiking boots, and I had arrived at our rendezvous point at the terminus of state road 173 in advance of "Wrong-way" Mark. There, we discovered 173, now blocked off, had been a through road leading from the relative flat terrain nearer Hesperia into the mountains to Lake Arrowhead.

Wide open terrain. We’ve made progress, Prim8.

Out of the mountains? Prim8 replied.

Not entirely.

I’d grown tired of the elevation gains and losses over the miles we’d hiked around Big Bear, but I knew full well, implied by the name, the Pacific Crest Trail had many more hills and mountains to ascend and descend before our journey’s goal will be reached.

Since our last jaunt, Prim8 and I purchased a pair of Hoka Stinson One hiking boots in hopes of warding off pesky foot blisters, the bane of many hikers. Prim8 had had enough of dealing with blisters and I wasn’t too happy about them, either. We hoped we’d solved the blister conundrum and our feet would hike in bliss, having achieved footwear nirvana.

"Add another mile or so to our hiking distance tomorrow," Mark said.

What? "Another mile?"I pictured our 24.5-mile hike down hill towards the Whitewater Preserve some months ago.

We left my car at road end, turned parking lot, in anticipation of our arrival on foot the next day. Then, Mark drove us into Big Bear where Prim8 and I stuffed ourselves with Mexican barbacoa, aka slow cooked meat, washed down with beer, before retiring to our motel room.

11.11.21 Crab Flats to PCT/173 Junction

Up at 4:45AM, we brewed coffee in our rooms, snacked on dried fruit, and consumed bacon prepared by Mark, both pork and turkey, before we set off for our trailhead destination at Crab Flats.

The chilled air and starry sky portended a good weather day.

I sucked down additional coffee as best I could as we bounced around over the rutted gravel/dirt road, generally unfit for most vehicles and designed OHV, aka off-highway vehicle. In the meantime, both Mark and I drank water from disposable plastic bottles, in order to maximize our levels of hydration. I discovered long ago that water is not weightless, so I’ve developed the practice of drinking my fill before the day’s hike, though I carry a prudent supply, as well. Nothing good comes from dehydration.

Last minute gear checks completed and packs donned, we walked away from Mark’s vehicle.

"What time is it?" I asked.

"7AM," Mark replied.

A tad later than we’d hoped.

"And what’s the temperature?"

"I’ve got 43 degrees," Mark said.

"Good temperature," I said. "It’s easier to get warmer, than cooler." I knew we’d warm up within a few minutes from hiking exertion.

All the while, I consoled Prim8 with the delusion that we’d lose elevation, 2301 feet, over the course of our day’s hike. But, you have to know, that the PCT meanders up, around and down mountainsides! So, the accumulated elevation gain would be 240 feet and the elevation loss would be 2414 feet, which amounts to a 2654-foot differential. Doesn’t sound like much, but everything adds up.

And the trail led us up, around and down.

Rest a minute.

After a brief pause, I continued onward.

Grab a snack.

My leg muscles and feet aching with fatigue, I'd found another excuse to rest a minute.

I hiked some more. The trail wound along, overlooking Deep Creek drainage.

Nice view of fall colors. Pause for a scenic photo.

Though the area remains in drought, fall colors show in Deep Creek Canyon.

The ache of my leg muscles had deepened.

What’s with this?

With clear sky above, temperatures climbed into the low-mid 70s. An occasional light breeze lifted my spirit.

And we’ve got shade now and then.

The trail continued up, down, and around. Up, down, and around.

How are you doing, feet?

Aside from the ache and fatigue, I detected no blisters.

"Wrong-way" Mark pauses for a rest on the opposite side of

the rainbow painted arch bridge which crosses Deep Creek.

When I caught up with Mark, who's been leading the way, on the opposite side of the arch bridge which crosses Deep Creek, he said, “You’re eight minutes behind me. Not bad.”

"Could’ve fooled me," I said. "We must be getting close." I meant to my car.

"Another 4 miles from here," Mark said.

Ugh, Prim8 said.

Slog it out, fella.

Having crossed Deep Creek and with the trail direction shifted westward, we came into full sun. The sun, on its late afternoon downward leg and lower in the sky, however, didn’t scorch us.

Though seemingly forever to come into sight, the trail winding this way, then that, we approached the Mojave River Dam.

Nearly there. Then, another mile to go.

My legs and feet continued their ache.

What’s the damage done this time?

We followed a gravel road about half a mile on gentle rising terrain to the tunnel where Deep Creek flows. Here, we faced foot-deep water about twenty-feet across. After removing my boots and socks in preparing to fjord the Deep Creek, my iPhone took a bath.

Plop! A short, tiny little dink. What could that be?

I spotted my iPhone resting in a few inches of water. "Crap, I dropped my phone in the water," I said, as I retrieved it. I gave it a good shaking and hoped for the best.

"You probably shouldn’t carry it on your belt," Mark said.

"Yeah, I know," I said. "I wanted it handy to take photos, but I guess the belt holder wasn’t designed for hiking." Should’ve learned that lesson when your phone fell off earlier in the day, twice.

I trudged the remaining distance to my car, dreading learning of my phone’s fate.

Seated in my car, "Where’s our motel?" I asked Mark. By that I meant, what was our drive route to get there.

"Let me check," Mark said as he searched on his phone.

"I guess I’ll bite the bullet and check mine," I said. Come on, baby.

Seconds passed.

"It came on! I can’t believe it," I said. Next time, carry it in your pocket, fool.

In Crestline we enjoyed another Mexican meal, washed down with beer.

"I’m knackered," I told Mark. "My muscles and feet ache."

"I’d like to start a little later tomorrow morning," he said. "Maybe, we can shorten our hike a little."

"That’s okay by me. I’m gonna be soar and stiff the next couple of days."

"I may just schedule a massage for when I get home," Mark said. "And I’d like to beat the rush hour traffic on the way home."

"Wrong-way" got no quarrel from me.

Our cars with us at the motel, we decided on a later start and shorter hike of 9.3 miles.

Done deal.

We’d hiked 21.5 miles and my body knew it.

Settled into the motel room, I wondered whether a shower, followed by a decent night’s rest, would prepare me for the achy breaky pains of body stiffness I'd face in a few hours.

Feet checked, I discovered a small blister on one foot. Crap, can’t seem to avoid them. At least, it had appeared solo.

Mile marker achieved: 314.3

11.12.21 PCT/173 Junction to Silverwood Lake

My alarm sounded at 6:30AM, as I’d set it.

Yep, stiff as cardboard. I hobbled around the room as I collected my wits and gear, and made ready to leave.

Mark and I consumed a hardy breakfast in Crestline before we set off to leave my car at Pilot Rock Staging Area parking lot, which overlooks Silverwood Lake dam.

Then, in Mark’s SUV, we headed to the PCT junction with 173.

Been here, Prim8 said.

Yep, déjà vu, all over again.

At 9AM, day pack readied, I tanked up on water. "Got any ibuprofen, Mark?"

"Yeah," he said and offered me two tabs.

I should carry my own.

I took tentative down the trail, wondering, Why do I do this to myself?

Just gut it out.

Within a few minutes, however, with help from Mark’s hiker’s medical cabinet, I’d achieved a steady pace.

A cloudless sky and scarcity of trees left us exposed to full sun, though temperatures remained civil, hovering in the mid-70s in the brief spots of shade. Periodic slight breezes helped.

I reminded myself that today's hike would be shorter. We hiked on flatter terrain, with considerably less elevation gain and loss than the previous day, and we enjoyed open views of the small valley to our north, bounded by an escarpment beyond.

Looking westward from PCT between Mojave River Forks Reservoir and Silverwood Lake.

As the hours progressed, we speculated about our time of completion.

"We may be done by one," Mark said.

We continued our steady pace.

When we arrived at the trail junction, my car parked another a hundred yards up the paved road, "It’s 1:30PM," Mark said. "We’ve come 9.3 miles. That’s 2.2 miles an hour."

“Pretty good, considering,” I said. Considering my stiffness from yesterday.

"Wrong-way" got no quarrel from me.

For me, three mph, sustained only over short distances, is the best I can expect. One mph would be a snail's pace, and two mph I deem reasonable. "Anything over two mph is icing on the cake," I added.

After retrieving Mark’s vehicle, I changed into my tennies for my drive home. Not only had my foot-condition not worsened, though my feet were sore, I felt relieved that no additional blisters appeared, in spite of the one that I’d cultivated yesterday, which had burst.

Could’ve been worse!

I made it home, lickety-split, ahead of the most of stop-and-go traffic.

(Prim8’s accumulated PCT progress: mile marker 323.2.)


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