Friday, August 26, 2011

Day Ninety-One, Good Days and Bad

Those blisters I was laughing at yesterday do not seem so funny today. I missed two of them, one on each heel, that I should have dealt with last night. They are fairly serious. They sit right where my feet hit the ground. I try to take heart at their symmetry. There's meant to be Beauty in that. Or was it Truth. Just now I forget. I don't think there's really much difference.

I walked twenty-odd miles in jaw-grinding pain. Often rather flat-footed. Which leads to other pains here and there. I'll inventory them tomorrow.

I meet all sorts of helpful souls ready to share their advice. My shoes are wrong or my socks are wrong or there is something wrong with my stride. The implication is always that it is some sort of moral failing. But know this, this is between me and my feet. Shut up or I'll mash you flat.

"Now wait a minute,* you want to say. "Just what is going on here? This isn't the warm and cuddly James that we have grown to love."

So call me multi-faceted. Credit me with some depth. Whap your thumb with a hammer and write a sweet poem about it. Eat ice cream with a broken tooth and go and play with your kids. Walk twenty-odd miles on blistered feet and pretend it's all sunshine and daisies.


I woke up early on my mining claim, in among the pines. Gosh, but it got dark back there, and rather chilly, as well. There are fogs in these montains, or mists at the least. They make their own weather. Not every bit of it is good.

Much of it is, don't get me wrong. There's always some shade around. Which, on these very warm days, is nothing short of a blessing. Even when the sun is high overhead I can always find a cool spot. I have to elbow aside a few snakes, but I'm getting used to that.

I wish I knew how to do macrame. I could put them to some good.

I was today carrying an official pass that permits me to use the trail. Nobody stopped and asked to see it. It is probably better that way. It was after all a forgery. I can't say how it came to be. I had one or two co-conspirators. There is some honor among thieves.

I was trying, you'll recall, to walk without food, or very nearly so. I was destined to be a bit cranky. I had a protein bar for breakfast but it didn't do me much good. The label said that was for athletes. An athlete, sadly, I'm not. I have pretentions of scholarship. You've got to special order for that.

I cracked open my last can of off-brand smoked weeners. I choked down four out of six. The rest I left for the mountain cats. I made the mistake of reading the label. Mechanically separated chicken I can take, but pork skin and pork spleen were too much.

Not kosher.

The Mickelson trail is still awfully nice. It took me up through a gorge. There were a few tunnels but they could have been longer. I like to be scared just a bit. I have mentioned before a fear of ghost trains, but it does not paralyze me.

And it is cool in their and smell like one-hundred years of trains. And twenty of hikers' pee. It is a nice change from all that piney freshness. It is the variety that makes life spicy.

The rail line that is now the trail was decommissioned in 1983. Passenger service, such as it was, stopped during WWII. It was built in eighteen-seventy something to replace the stage coach line. Which travelled, it seems, from brothel to brothel. Them miners were a randy bunch. And there was all manner of ore to haul out, and all sorts of things for the mines. A sign said that they laid 255 miles of track in 100 days. It did not say how many of them there were. They did have a steam shovel on their side, but it didn't look very good.

I did pass one man panning for gold. He wasn't having much luck. It is like fishing, he explained, an excuse to be out of doors. But with fishing you get the occasional fish. He scoops up maybe one gram a year. I figure that worth, what, sixty-five bucks. It's more than I get paid for walking.

We are coming up on a weekend, it seems. There are all sorts of mountain bikes. Three kinds, it seems, only one kind I like. Some are the same jerks on road bikes. A second group are less serious, but they are jerks, nonetheless. The last bunch, the only that I much like, are just folks, muddling along. Staring at trees and not working too hard. They bypass the long uphill runs.

Good for them. My trail map has a sort of EKG printed along the bottom, showing the elevation at different points on the trail. I climbed something like three thousand feet today, maybe a couple of times. It left me hungry and grumpy and sore. And in something of a violent humor.

My little computer informs me it is about to conk out, for want of battery power. Let me quickly thank Tom and Linda, more good folks from Wisconsin. The let me loose at their peanut butter. They gave me two glasses of milk. He is strong and confident like a pilot should be. He used to fly corporate jets. She is sweet with very kind eyes. They make one hell of a couple.

I met other folks, too, a lot of them kind. I've got no time to thank them all here. Nor can I remark on the unholy hell that was finding a place for my tent. Or on the overpriced crap I had to buy instead of food. Or on my fears about what comes tomorrow. Or how I have suffered for so soon giving my heart to one pretty forest ranger.

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