The transformation from docile urbanite to long distance hiker is something I’ve experienced before, but seem to have forgotten how to succeed. The body must adjust itself to tolerate 15-20+ miles per day carrying loads of 20-30 pounds. In Southern California, temperatures have so far risen to the high 90s and dropped to the low 40s with rain over the past two weeks.
It is not an easy change by any means. Rather, it is a process that takes three or four weeks with a multitude of aches and pains. Many of us who have been out on the long trails in the past have become the first victims of over-exertion, thanks to a good dose of hiker hubris.
Unfortunately, I’ve been no exception. Rested and energized after ADZPCTKO, I got an early morning start and had covered five relatively flat miles of trail. Maintaining my pace, I began the long climb into the Laguna range. The trail became exposed as the day wore on, the sun beating down unobstructed as I climbed and climbed.
Fellow hikers sat in whatever scant shade could be found, which was often no larger than to allow a single person to hunker down amongst the dirt and rocks. The heat, however, proved not to be my problem as I was careful with my water. My own confidence for the best of me. As the miles wore on, my right heel began getting sore with every step and, with the beginnings of an Achilles tendonitis, I limped into camp after 19 miles.
From all around the trail, I’ve begun hearing stories of disaster. One person dropped out at mile #450 with a stress fracture. Several people, all experiences hikers, had to be evacuated at Mile #14 due to exhaustion and dehydration. I promised myself to slow down, stretch, and begin taking Ibuprofin. As of this writing, after a short, 10-mile day, the strategy seems to be working.
I continue to meet a multitude of people and I (again) promise to have pictures eventually. There are many trail names, pseudonyms/aliases hikers commonly adopt. I’ve met: A-Train and Nafta (from Brooklyn), Billy Goat, Dr. Bob, MC, Willow, Tumbleweed. Bodies are not the only thing being transformed as hikers assume new trail names. Lauren #1 is now Ultrabrite, for her bright teeth. Lauren #2 is Gazelle and I, thanks to my constant grumbling about my heel, have become Achilles.