Thursday, October 9, 2014

Swatara Gap to Palmerton, PA - Section Hike - Day 5

PA Hike Day 5
1. Treesday, Winterfilth, 4. Goal - Palmerton, resupply for rest of trip. 18 miles.
2. Day 5
3. Morning temp: 55
4. Weather: perfect
5. Time start: 0620
6. Time stop and miles: 1420 13.9
7. End point: Palmerton
8. Events: Knife Edge, finishing section
Log: loud night with road noise so we were up and out early. Feet were pretty painful, but I soldiered on to get to Palmerton. The knife edge was sick, but the other constant rocks took their toll and I realized I didn't want to do this for three more days, so I decided to bring this section to an end. Sequoia decided to stop too and his wife Smiles A lot came and picked us up at the Jailhouse Hostel in Palmerton. I had enjoyed some ice cream and a beer while we waited around and tended to my torn up feet. Good ride home and now I'm on the couch.

Total hike: 77.1
Good hike. At least I got some of those nasty rocks out of the way.
Shared from home...

We were up even earlier this morning, with the trucks that must climb the mountain to this point and then immediately start using their engines to brake on the down hill.  My feet had ached most of the night.  The rocks had taken their toll and the blisters, although not too bad, could be painful of that area of my foot came up on the side of a rock or root.  We headed out at 0620 by the light of our headlamps.  I had noticed that Sequoia's batteries were much fresher than mine and I knew I would be starting out slow on the climb back up to the ridge top, so I asked him to lead for a bit.  My gait had changed due to the ball of my right foot hurting.  It felt like my tape was messed up or my sock had folded, so after a while we took a bathroom/foot care break.  The tape and sock were fine.  What I was feeling was the beginning of Metatarsalgia, (which I would find out later after using the magical google machine).  The swelling and deep blister can feel like you are walking with a pebble in your shoe.
I took the lead, but felt I was flagging.  Hind site shows that we still moved at a good pace, even though I was favoring that foot a lot and would have a sore calf for a few days after.  We were pretty much going to stay up on the ridge all day until we descended into Palmerton.  What laid ahead was some technical and fun walking across the Knife Edge and Bear Rocks.  The Knife Edge was pretty cool.

Through these bushes lay the Knife Edge
Me working my way up the Knife Edge (photo courtesy Sequoia)

Our original plan was to hike all the way to Delaware Water Gap, another 36 miles past Palmerton, with more rocks on the schedule.  When we stopped for a break, I told Sequoia that I might have to end this section at Palmerton.  What I needed was a zero to tend to my feet, but that is one of the challenges of being a Section Hiker.  Time constraints are usually much more... constrained...  I didn't want to extend the hike into Sunday as I wanted to be home to watch the Steelers play the Panthers (another hind site, maybe I should have kept hiking as that game was more painful to watch than hiking on rocks with blisters).

View from the Knife Edge
After my decision was made, Sequoia checked his guide book and when no alternate plan looked doable, he decided to end his hike too for now.  After our encounter with the W of H, he really didn't want to be sleeping out in the lonely woods and neither would I.

Grizzled Hiker
As we headed out towards Lehigh Gap, he made a call or two and the plan was altered to have Smiles A Lot come pick us up at the Jail House Hostel in Palmerton, sometime that evening.  We made our way down the ridge to the river and crossed the bridge.  We tried to hitch the 1.5 miles into town for a few minutes, but then I just called the Shuttle Service and Brenda was there in about 10 minutes to pick us up and give us a quick tour of the town as she drove us to the Hostel.  We had to really squeeze into her small Scion, but we made it.  She was very nice.

We checked into the Hostel, even though we didn't plan on staying the night and took advantage of their powerful shower.  Feeling refreshed, I took a limping walk down a few blocks and had myself an ice cream cone.  I then crossed the street and topped it off with a nice Lager.  There was an interesting hiker at the Hostel who had made a few gear changes and was heading out shortly.  Him and Sequoia had some pretty interesting conversation.  This guy was carrying his own sprout garden.  Basically a bag with various bean seeds in it that he could use for some nice fresh veggie wraps.  That was a first for me.

Jail House Hostel bunks
A rather large area able to accommodate lots of hikers.
We relaxed for a couple of hours and before long, Smiles A Lot pulled up and we loaded up and headed back West.  It was cool looking to our right and seeing the ridge we had walked for the last five days and were now backtracking in a little over an hour or so.  We had hiked a total of 77.1 miles in those five days.

We headed back to their Gettysburg home where my truck was and I was pulling into my driveway sometime after 9 pm I think.  The next couple of days I would find out what had gone wrong with my feet and I'm now reading the book, Fixing Your Feet to try and learn the proper techniques to try to not have the problem repeated.  The main cause was doing too much too fast.  Once again a problem with Section Hiking.  I usually have no problem doing some longer mile stretches for about three or four days, but if it goes beyond that, it starts to take a toll.  If I plan another long(ish) hike, I will have to up the mileage slowly as not to overload myself.  I am also most likely going back to my New Balance Trail Runners.  I have never had major problems with them and the Merrells may have been just a little too restrictive.  I also am playing with different insoles.  My special made orthotics are wearing out and I'm just not sure the green Superfeet are the right ones for me.  I plan on making a good foot care kit that will be with me on my next Section Hike.

I am almost done with PA and the hikes will continue.  When you are out there, numerous times you ask yourself, "Why am I out here?", but I like to compare hiking to child birth.  It can be truly painful during the process, but once it is over, I start thinking about the next hike.  (mothers may disagree, but that is the closest correlation I can think of)

See ya on the Trail.

Section Hiker
2011 - Present
Thinking about my next hike...

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