Nine out of Ten Toes Recommend Hiking

HUBRIS: exaggerated pride or self-confidence

I need to learn to hang up the phone when I’m feeling cocky; especially when I’m talking to my brother and feeling cocky.  A few months ago, in a moment of extreme hubris, I agreed that it sounded like a great idea to hike Section H of Washington’s Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

My brother is crazy too, so we picked a week and marked our calendars.  Starting in just a few days, we’ll be working our way north from the Columbia River toward Mt. Rainier.  Seven days; 150 miles.

Because the blood in my veins is mostly hemoglobin and hubris, I’m not nearly as panicked as I should be.  My nervousness is taking a back seat to my excitement.  I have always wanted – or thought I wanted – to do a through hike like the PCT or Appalachian Trail.  This segment will give me a realistic idea of what it would feel like to hike twenty miles a day for several days in a row.

I’ve been slowly converting my backpacking gear to ultralight gear for a few years now and made a few more investments this week that reduced the base weight of my pack.  I’ve been reading lots of ultralight hiking blogs and getting excited about tricks to reduce pack weight even more, though I still refuse to consider toilet paper a “luxury” item.

Food planning is a riot.  High-mileage backpacking requires 4,000-6,000 calories a day and trying to keep pack weight low means I want foods that have at least 130 calories per ounce.  In the end it means that my pack will be filled with mostly Snickers bars and highly processed dehydrated starches.  Ultralight backpacking blogs are the only place I’ve ever seen grownups sing the praises of Pop Tarts for breakfast.

The preparations were going very well until yesterday.  Husband and I switched duties and I was the morning drop-off parent yesterday.  I spent the morning trying (and failing) to live up to my kids’ expectations.  Husband routinely pulls off a hot breakfast in the morning; I served toasted bagels.  Husband lets the kids watch a cartoon; I made them clean their rooms.  Husband remembers an elaborate routine of hugs to help Son with his separation anxiety; I missed the pre-house-departure hug and the blue-bench-in-the-school-alley hug.

I also managed to jam my toe – hard – into one of the kids’ toys just before leaving.  I can’t even blame the kids.  Their rooms were clean (see lack of cartoons above), but somehow I managed to kick my foot right into a wooden box covered in different styles of metal locks.  Ouch!

I needed to testify at a City Council meeting yesterday, so I wore a suit to work…with flip flops and a Ziploc bag full of ice rubber-banded on my toe.  I was a fashion maven.  When it came time for the hearing, I put on heels at the last possible moment and took them off as soon as possible.  In between, I grimaced and walked very slow with a limp.

So, here I am.  I have a backpack full of fabulous gear, a shopping list full of trashy but delicious processed food, and nine out of ten toes working properly.

I’d call my brother for sympathy but as an amputee I’m guessing his lack of a foot will make him relatively unsympathetic to my slightly puffy baby toe.

So, I soldier on…bound for the great outdoors and another crazy sibling adventure.

If you’re in my neck of the woods and see a one-footed mountain man and a limping city girl trying to thumb a ride from a remote forest service road, please stop your car.


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