Friday, July 22, 2011

Huaraches can teach you about past injuries

Leather top huaraches I made some Barefoot Ted-style huaraches with a leather top. I had trouble with keeping the laces over my heels so I added little side tabs to thread the laces through. I also didn't want to have the laces touch the ground so instead of a knot on the bottom between the toes I embedded a loop of leather to thread the laces through. That's why there are two straps coming between my toes. It's looped around the leather. In this picture I tied them by weaving them around my ankle. The most fun thing with the huaraches is you can tie them many kinds of ways. I usually just wrap the extra lacing around my ankle.

I've gone for short runs in them a couple of times. It feels great. I love running in them. But I do a lot more walking than running so I bring them to work and take a walk in them around the lagoon at the university. The trail around the lagoon is mostly level but it's overgrown so it is a pretty good test of whether the sandals are good for hiking. I like how free my feet feel in them.

I have had a really hard time walking in them. The leather top seemed really slippery. I tried oiling the leather but it still felt slippery and dry. Then I tried sanding the leather but it was still too slippery. Then I hammered lines into the leather with a chisel and hammer. That didn't seem to do anything about the slippery feeling. I tried tying them tighter but not only was that uncomfortable, but eventually the laces loosen and so it's not a perfect solution. I had hoped to possibly hike in these, to feel really close to nature and to really strengthen my mountain woman feet, but it seemed impossible to walk in them. The slipping made walking difficult and hurt the bottoms of my feet.

My right foot slipped a lot more than my left foot. If anything, my left foot was fine. I've heard the barefoot runners say that the huaraches teach you to have better running form. I wondered what my left leg was doing that my right leg wasn't. I went for a walk around the lagoon with the objective of trying to figure out what I had to do to make my legs work evenly.

First I thought maybe I just needed to take shorter steps. That sort of worked but not really. I tried walking on the outside edges of my feet. That didn't work either. I kept trying to walk slower or take shorter steps or otherwise compensate but nothing was working. I remembered I had heard about hip extensors and how stretching and strengthening them is supposed to help. I wondered if maybe I was doing something different with my hips.

I paid a bit more attention and it seemed that my left leg was extending backward more than my right as I stepped. So I tried stretching my right hip more when my right leg went back. No more slipping in the sandal! That was the problem. I wasn't walking evenly. I was extending my left leg back but not my right. I evened out my walking so both legs extended back and I wasn't slipping in the sandals anymore.

I finished my walk and wondered what would be sore the next day. Well, nothing really was sore in my hip, but my heel which I hurt hiking from Etna to Seiad Valley on the PCT felt a little sore. I had pushed myself to walk too fast and hurt my heel where the achilles attaches. I remember hiking in Washington with a pronounced limp and trying to walk straight and normal but not being able to. I had overcompensated and caused a change in my gait that was apparent in Washington and continued to this day.

The huarache runners say these sandals will teach you a lot. They really did for me. I'm trying now to walk more straight and hoping that I'll be able to fix whatever I've broken. I'm not sure how to heel the old injury to my heel. Hopefully it'll all work out.

I hope to keep running, too. Hiking is something I can only do on weekends now. I'm not supposed to take any time off from work until I've completed a 6-month probation period. That means no vacations until end of November. So I am hoping that running can give me some good exercise now that I'm so sedentary at work all day. Also, I had as a goal after completing the PCT to run a local ultramarathon. It'll be a long time, if ever, before I can run a 40 mile distance, but I would like to be able to do it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Homemade yogurt

I made some homemade yogurt. It came out GREAT! Wow! So creamy and sweet.

I used raw milk. I heated it to 175 degrees on a double-boiler and let it cool to 100 degrees after removing from the stove. It took about an hour to cool to 100 degrees. I poured the milk into a glass jar. I mixed about 2-3 spoonfuls of plain yogurt mixed with a little milk and poured it into the glass jar. I then wrapped the jar in a towel and put it in the oven with the light on. I thought I remembered that the light in our oven doesn't put out much or any heat, so I had preheated the oven to 200 degrees and turned it off long before the milk had cooled. When I put the jar in the oven, it was only slightly warm.

I left this overnight and in the morning it was yogurt! It seemed a little liquid, but after I refrigerated it for the day, it was the consistency of french yogurt and tasted just as good! I plan to try it with pasteurized milk to see if it comes out as good as raw milk.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Trailhacker lives!

Yesterday, after saying good-bye to Trailhacker, I drove home to Santa Barbara. I was really tired and had a hard time keeping my eyes open. When I got home I decided to take a nap. I slept for about 2 hours.

When I woke up I took a shower and puttered around the house a little. Then I considered what I should do with myself. I had the whole day, what should I do? I thought about starting some laundry and then I remembered my phone! It was sitting in the car. I went out to get it.

When I turned it on, I had a message waiting for me. It was Trailhacker. He sounded sick, his voice was weak. He said he was turning back. It was too hot and he had heat exhaustion. Now I was worried. He said he was heading for Whitewater Creek where he would spend the day, and try to hike out after it cooled off.

I hopped into the car and headed back to Cabazon. It's about 3.5 hours or so. I still was tired and still had trouble keeping my eyes open but the 3.5 hours went by fast. I reached Banning at 4:30. I decided I would get a hotel room and wait for Trailhacker to call me back. I'd have the air-conditioning on so he could come and get cooled off. I left him a message on the phone that this was my plan.

I was a little worried I had not gotten any more calls after the first one. I got my hotel room and sat and waited for him to call. I waited a few hours and still no call. I thought maybe I should send him a text message and let him know I was here. Immediately after sending the message, I received one from him that he had made it to Whitewater and was spending the day sitting in the water. I thought it was actually in reply to my message, so I replied and told him to call me as soon as he was ready to be picked up.

Then I got a call. He sounded out of breath a little and he was so broken up I couldn't understand anything he said. He did sound a little happier than before so I felt better, but I had no idea what he said. The phone cut off and I went back to waiting.

A little while later I got another call. He was broken up again, but I thought I heard him say that he didn't think he could make it out tonight, that he'd make it out in the morning. I sent a text message to him to verify that's what he said. I never got a response. I felt worried because it really isn't such a long distance that he had gone. Why was it so hard for him to make progress? Was he okay?

I kept thinking about what I should do. I didn't want to call SAR because he did sound like he was okay and I didn't want to embarrass him. There had been a big SAR action recently in our area and all the people we knew had discussed all the mistakes that had been made by the hikers. How they should have gotten a weather report and they would have known to stay home. They'd say the same thing about Trailhacker. He knew it would be over 100 and people would be mad at him for heading out anyway.

At the same time I worried what people would say about me. There she was chilling in her air-conditioned hotel room, drinking iced lemonade and doing nothing. Why didn't she care? Why didn't she rescue him? It was so hot outside I knew I could not hike in to look for him. It was hard to do nothing at all.

In the morning I expected Trailhacker to call early. I wasn't sure where he had slept and I couldn't remember how many miles it was from the start of Section C to Whitewater. I thought if it was 8 or 9 miles and he left at 4:30 again, maybe he'd be out around 8:30 in the morning. I figured I would go get some breakfast and wait for him to call, but in the back of my mind, I was worrying he hadn't already called. Wouldn't he start hiking out the night before and thus be ready to be picked up earlier?

I read the paper at Starbucks and tried to waste some time, but he didn't call, so I went back to my hotel. I sat for a little while and suddenly the phone rang. It was 9AM. Hooray! He was waiting for me at the little parking lot. I drove out there and picked him up and took him back to my room so he could shower. Then we went for breakfast at Sizzler.

What a wild adventure he had. The heat was amazing, he said. He had given up as soon as he could see Mission Creek from atop the ridge. He could see all the switchbacks heading up Mission Creek and could see that it would still be several miles to reach the creek and he just didn't think he could continue. He recognized he already had symptoms of heat exhaustion and he didn't want to do anything stupid. His heart was racing after eating something with caffeine in it and his foot hurt because he thought his arch had collapsed. Continuing didn't seem smart. He retreated to Whitewater and spent the entire day alternating between shivering in ice cold Whitewater creek and napping under a shelter made of drift wood and his tarp.

He was also concerned that even if he did make it to Big Bear where the weather was better, he'd have to descend back toward Deep Creek and the desert again anyway and be miserable again. He decided the best thing was to quit.

He seemed in good spirits when I picked him up. He said the ants out there were incredibly annoying. They got into his food and his backpack. There was a clump of them in the bottom of his pack he thought was dirt, but it was all ants. He couldn't get away from them out there. The water was the only reprieve from the ants and the sun.

He's back home now, after a 5 hour drive home. The traffic was horrible from the 405/101 interchange all the way home. He's not going back out on the trail for a while. He might backpack locally. I have to work. My holiday is pretty much shot. I get tomorrow off, though. No driving tomorrow!

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Trailhacker is hiking Section C during a summer heat wave

I just dropped off Trailhacker at the start of Section C. We parked the car at 8pm. The temperature was 102. It didn't seem too bad. You know the old saying: It's a dry heat. So we started hiking.

Amazingly there are still a few flowers blooming in the desert. We saw burrowing 5 owls staring at us right away. Lots of tiny baby quail and bunnies, too.

We slept in Teutang canyon on the trail. It is difficult to sleep without any blankets over your body. You sit there looking at the stars and there's nothing holding you down. Maybe you will float away.

Gradually through the night I was able to cover my feet, then my legs with a bivy sack. With that I could sleep. Eventually it cooled enough I could drape a corner of my sleeping bag over my waist.

We woke up at 4:30AM. I said good-bye to Trailhacker who was continuing onward and I hiked back to the car. I reached the car at 5:30AM where the temperature was a pleasant 74. I had breakfast in Banning and the temperature was still a pleasant 74 and seemed to stay that way all the way home to Santa Barbara which I reached at 9:30. Hopefully he got in a few solid hours of pleasant morning hiking before the blast furnace began.

Trailhacker is experienced and has a perverse enjoyment of extreme heat. He'll be walking along two creeks today and tomorrow. His method to deal with heat is to periodically get his clothing wet, so Section C is a section that he should be able to manage. By Sunday evening he'll be back up in the trees where the temperatures are nicer. I hope he will be okay, but he's done far worse than this in the past.

His goal is Wrightwood by next weekend. I hope he gets better weather soon.