Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Day 49: A Devil of a Day

July 23: I slept well, but when I woke, my biggest concern was my feet. I hoped that maybe they scabbed over or something during the night and perhaps walking wouldn't be so painful. I put fleece socks on my feet during the night so the backs of my ankles wouldn't rub around in my sleeping bag in my sleep, but realized that might have been a bad idea when I found the socks "glued" to my injuries. I wouldn't say it 'scabbed' over per se, but the injury seemed to 'dry out' and was stuck to my socks like a sticker.

Gorgeous views today!

Argh! I slowly peeled off the socks, trying not to damage my feet anymore than they already were. I definitely needed to treat them and get some moleskin over it before I started hiking. Somehow, my feet seemed to look even worse than they did when I went to sleep. This was going to be a major issue for me. After just one day on the trail, I felt nearly crippled!

I carefully treated my wounds. They weren't bleeding, but the skin was so thin and tender. I applied some Neosporin and first attached a band-aid. The band-aids weren't really big enough to completely cover the wounds--the wounds were astonishingly massive in size! This worried me since I didn't want the band-aid to stick to the wound. I wanted it to stick to the good skin around the wound, but I just didn't have anything big enough to completely cover the wounds. I put the band-aid on anyhow for lack of better options. Then covered the band-aids with large pieces of moleskin for extra protection and to help keep the band-aids in place.

I also carried one wrap which I bought years ago when I had an issue with my knee, so I wrapped that around my right foot to protected the band-aid and moleskin from moving around during the day. It seemed like the right foot was in worse shape, and I only had one wrap available. The left foot would have to suffer without the extra help.

My feet, somehow, seemed to look worse in the morning
than when I went to sleep the night before!

The bugs, fortunately, weren't so bad this morning which kind of surprised me. Yesterday, when I wasn't camped anywhere near water, they were terrible. Today, next to a creek, not problem. But it did feel colder this morning, and it was overcast and ugly out. Perhaps that contributed to the lack of bugs. I'd take it! No rain was expected, though, and the weather would probably clear later in the afternoon.

Something, most likely a mouse, had nibbled a hole into my bag of Wheat Thins during the night. I got a little lazy about protecting my food during the night, but I didn't think it would be an issue here since almost nobody ever hiked through here and even fewer people ever camped. Critters like mice tend to be a problem on busier trails where the wildlife has grown accustomed to hikers and campers. So I had left a bag of Wheat Thins out during the night, too tired to put them away properly. Oh, well.

I ate breakfast, packed up, and started hiking. The most difficult part of packing up was getting on my shoes. It was agony trying to slip my shoes on over the wounds. I tried loosening the laces to make it easier, but it was still difficult and painful to get them on.

The trail was actually in better condition than I had expected. At no point during the day did I lose the trail and while there were blowdowns, they weren't especially bad. Getting around or over the blowdowns, however, proved a lot more challenging with my injuries. Those often required scrambling up and down steep banks to get around the blowdowns and my feet had trouble handling that off-trail terrain.

Walking downhill wasn't too bad since it pushed my foot deeper into my shoe and didn't rub the back of my ankles so much. Flat ground wasn't too bad as long as I didn't try to walk too quickly. It was the uphills where I struggled the most, however, since it pushed my feet back in my shoes--directly against my wounds. While walking up hills, I'd try to walk with my feet angled outward so the pressure would fall away from the middle of the wounds, but it didn't really work well. Steps on the trail proved to be a godsend. I usually don't like steps, but even while walking up them, my feet would stay level so it didn't stress the backs of my ankles as much as walking up a sloped trail.

By the afternoon, the sun broke through the clouds and temperatures warmed to a comfortable level.

I took breaks along the way and I often wanted to take my shoes off to let them breathe a bit, but getting my shoes on and off hurt too much. I would take them off at the end of the day, and put them on at the beginning of the day, but I wasn't going to take them on and off for a half-hour rest break. It was too much effort and involved too much pain.

The PNT eventually merged onto the Devils Ridge Trail and headed up to Devils Dome where spectacular views abounded. It was difficult to watch the trail when all I wanted to do was admire the views around me!

During the climb up Devils Dome, each step was agony. It was all uphill. I had finished a page of my trail maps and got the idea to use it as a "shoehorn" on my left foot. I folded the page in half, then in half again, and in half again so the page was 8 layers thick, then shoved into the back of my shoe like a shoehorn that had never been taken out. I hoped the extra layers would help protect my foot from the evil shoe. It wouldn't last long, I knew--it was made of regular paper, after all--but even a little help was welcome at this point.

I hadn't seen a single person until I reached the summit of Devils Dome late in the day where I found an older man hiking with his adult son. They were standing in a large patch of snow and weren't sure where the trail down led from there, so I confirmed that they were looking for the route I just emerged from, and they pointed me down the ridge in the direction I needed to go.

I really wanted to camp on Devils Dome, or at least somewhere along the ridge leading down from it since the views were so absolutely spectacular. Not to mention that I was tired and exhausted, but I pushed on. Permits were required for the North Cascades and Ross Lake--and I'd arrive within that region tomorrow. After tonight, I'd be required to stay at established and pre-selected campsites. So I knew where I had to camp tomorrow night: Ruby Pasture Camp. Every mile I didn't do today I would need to make up tomorrow.

And tomorrow was already going to be a much longer day than today. So I pushed a couple of miles further.

After Devil's Dome, I passed all sorts of people. In all, I'd pass eight people in the next hour or so, as well as passing by several tents that probably had other people that I didn't actually see.

I kind of wanted to hike out to the Bear Skull Shelter even if for no other reason than to take a photo of it (isn't that a great name for a shelter?!), but it was a quarter-mile off trail and I certainly wasn't going to voluntarily walk a quarter-mile off trail (in one direction!) if I didn't have to! My feet couldn't take it!

So I wound up camping near the junction with the shelter, shortly before the trail would drop steeply down toward Ross Lake. It didn't look like there would be any places to camp on that steep section of trail, and when I inquired with other hikers, they confirmed that suspicion. So I camped as close as I could to tomorrow night's campsite, which turned out to be near the junction with Bear Skull Shelter.

I had covered a mere 11.8 miles for the day. If my feet weren't in such bad shape, it would have been a lovely day of hiking. But they weren't in great shape and I arrived completely exhausted. 

I thought this looked like moose poop--but I didn't think there were
moose in this region. What kind of animal left these droppings? Hmmm.?

I took off my shoes and socks and examined the damage. The loose skin that had been covering the wound seemed to have vanished. I don't have any idea where it disappeared to! But they still looked raw and painful--because they were. It had been a rough day.

For a second night, I was too tired to cook dinner and decided to eat snacks instead.

And by this point, I realized that I might need to get off the trail. Two days in and I was thinking about quitting the trail. Again!

But at this point, the nearest place for me to get off the trail was at Ross Lake. Harts Pass was behind me and would stay behind me! 

Tomorrow, I'd hike to my assigned campsite at Ruby Pasture 14 miles away--or at least try to. I wasn't too worried about not making it, though. If I couldn't make it because of my injuries, I'd have to get off the trail and adjust my permit at the very least, and if a ranger caught me sleeping where I wasn't supposed to, I'm sure they'd understand given how badly my feet were mangled.

Regardless, I'd have at least one more night on the trail. I didn't have to make any final decisions about whether or not to quit the trail until then.

But at this point, I was leaning toward quitting the trail. It seemed like a certainty at this point. I was running through band-aids and moleskin at a voracious rate and would likely run out within a couple of days at this pace. I certainly didn't have enough to get me through 8 more days until my next resupply point at Concrete! And the next several days required me to follow what my permit allowed--which was much more than I could likely cover with my injuries.

There were other perks to consider in quitting the trail as well. I could pick up fresh batteries for my SPOT device and allow the snow further up the trail more time to melt. When I called the ranger station about my permit, they warned that one campsite I wanted would likely be covered in snow and an ice axe was advised. I didn't carry an ice axe and--so far--I hadn't needed one, but I wasn't looking forward to that section. Getting off the trail for a week or two would give the snow more time to melt.

And Ross Lake wasn't a bad place to get off the trail. It's directly on Highway 20, a busy road. None of that hiking 13 miles off trail to reach a trailhead crap I had to deal with at Harts Pass. And it was relatively close to Seattle--about a 2.5-hour drive if traffic wasn't bad. A full 1.5 hours closer than Harts Pass was.

If there was a place to quit the trail, this was it. But that was still two days away.... 

Blowdowns that normally wouldn't have given me too much trouble were often very difficult for me to get around because of my foot injuries.

Somebody ahead of me had a lot more energy and time than I did! =)

Just wonderful views from on and around Devils Dome!

My feet definitely weren't getting better after another day of hiking!


KuKu said...

And yet, in pain, you are taking some beautiful photos of the flowers and scenery!

Unknown said...

Best ever photos!

Mary said...

Your poor feet! I can’t imagine hiking with all that raw tissue!

Karolina said...

Maybe next time you should try going backward while hiking up a hill? 🤔

Anonymous said...

There are moose in that region! There is a small population in the north Cascades. I saw a giant bull moose on Tungsten Creek in the Pasayten this fall. Very cool.