The First Four Days

Yes, I did 50, but first in going to make you read the boring stuff leading up to it. And sorry, not many pictures. There’ll be more in my next post, I promise.

Thursday, August 7th

2 days, 10 hours, 45 minutes
106.7 miles

    The first 3 days were rough. The combination of being off-trail for four zeros and breaking in my new, heavier shoes did me in. A few ounces difference on your feet can really wear your legs out over 30 miles, and I learned (though apparently forgot) coming out of Mammoth that too much lazy downtime in town can reset your body to amateur status. My first day out from Ashland felt like mile zero; my legs were achy and sluggish, I got out of breath with little effort, and the miles ticked by like place numbers at the DMV. And to top it off, my appetite was gone, so my favorite part of hiking – eating- was ruined, and I was just choking down food for the needed calories. So 15 miles in I was ready for a nap, 25 miles in I was really representing the Walking Dead shirt I was sporting, and when I finished out my day at 32 I was wondering how the hell I was going to keep this pace for another 9-11 days.
     Wednesday I woke at my usual 6:15, and upon emerging from my tent found the tendon behind my left knee to be really tight and painful. Also, the factory insoles in my Salomon’s are next to useless, and the balls of my feet were sore and required some massaging to get the toes loosened up. I struggled to my feet and packed up camp. Though I had camped next to a creek, it was polluted by cows so I set my sights on the spring 4 miles out.
     Once there, I eased myself onto a rock next to some other hikers and stretched and massaged my feet and legs while I cameled up and filled my water bottles. The stretching seemed to fix my legs, but my feet returned to their previous painful state in a few miles and required constant attention. Then my stomach started rumbling. Not going into too much detail, by 3:30 I’d made 3 emergency scrambles into the woods. My stomach alone probably cost me a mile that day. But by 5pm I was feeling great (ignoring my feet) and making good, relatively pain-free miles.
    Then the mosquitos came. At first there were only a few getting my legs and shoulders where I couldn’t see them. When they started getting a little thicker I stopped to DEET up my arms and legs, which only made them redirect attention to my face. I reapplied twice, but I kept sweating it off. My target of 40 miles was just 3 away, so I pushed through, shaking my head violently and reverse snorting when the bastards went for my ears and nose, respectively. And to top it all off, my nipples were chafed AND my brand new ExOfficio boxer briefs were giving me wedges!  WEDGIES!!!
     And still I trudged on. Around 8:00 the sun had passed behind the mountains and the twilight was a burnt orange as it filtered its way through the remaining smoke from the forest fires. There was one hour left of light, but I was flying now, hoping to beat nightfall and have my camp set. As I rounded a corner I saw someone setting up camp, and I prepared myself to deliver the fastest “HeyhowsitgoingpleasedontstartaconversationIminahurry” greeting, but, on approach I realized it was Star Rider and Dawn Patrol, a couple friends I hadn’t seen in a few weeks! So I stopped for 15 or so to catch up, but they shooed me away, knowing I had little time to finish out my last few miles.
     I must have checked my position 3 times in the next 2 miles. It was getting really dark, the mosquitos were like a curtain, and my Achilles on both legs were starting to flare up. So when I saw a perfectly flat campsite at mile 39.25 for the day I hesitated for less than 5 seconds. I was set up in minutes, ate quickly while I stretched, and was asleep shortly after.
     The stiffness in the back of my knee was there again the next morning, but significantly better. My Achilles, however, were worse than ever. It had been a recurring problem over the last few hundred miles, but never this bad. I didn’t make it half a mile out of camp before I had to stop to stretch and massage my feet, Achilles, and calves, but nothing was working. To add insult to injury, the mosquitos were still ravenous and coming at me in droves. Fortunately, a hiker I knew, Sugar, came up just then and fanned away the bugs while I worked on my problem. At this point I resorted to drastic measures and employed a tactic that a fellow hiker had told me about a while back and did a bit of shoe surgery. I simply cut the heel of my shoe down a bit. I popped them back on and the change was instantaneous!  I thanked Sugar and sped off leaving the mosquitos in the dust.


     Two miles later I was right back where I started and getting very frustrated. So I ditched my gaiter, which I figured was pulling the back of my shoe against my Achilles and causing pressure. That helped for 1/2 a mile or so. Then I took my sock off, leaving only my no-show synthetic liner, and left my laces loose. This finally did the trick and I sped on trying to make up the ground I’d lost messing about with my shoes all morning.

     With no more delays I made it to Mazama Village at 5:30 to pick up my resupply box, and despite my best efforts I still spent an hour and a half at Mazama. There were a dozen or so hikers there, some of whom I hadn’t seen in hundreds of miles, and a fast getaway was next to impossible. As it turned out, though, I had plenty of time because the last water for 27 miles was only 4 miles up trail from there, so I wanted to be near there in the morning to fill up for the day. This water source happened to be a fountain at Rim Village, the small tourist trap on the edge of Crater Lake! So after I hiked up close enough and made camp I ambitiously set my alarm for 4:30 to catch sunrise over the lake.

Friday, August 8th

     I slept unusually well and woke at 6. Goals are nice, but so is sleeping in.  I had polished off my water the night before, so I ate a chocolate bar while I packed up camp. It was dark chocolate with raspberries, so it was at least as healthy as most breakfast cereals. The Rim Village was still deserted when I got there, so it was a nice, peaceful morning with a great view regardless of the position of the sun. I snapped a few pics, filled my water, soaked my oatmeal for second breakfast, took advantage of a real toilet, then scurried off to see how many miles I could get in. I started off slow. Every mile there was occasion to take yet another panorama, and the terrain was fairly steep.


     I perched myself on the rim at 8:30 for a leisurely breakfast and chatted with some day hikers. Upon hitting the trail again it broke away from the rim  and moved to back into the woods. At 10:10 I decided it was time for music for the first time on the whole trail. I popped on my brand new headphones and checked my miles: just shy of 10 for the day, not bad for my slow start. The terrain was incredibly flat and the weather incredibly clement. I thought to myself “Today would be a good day for a 50.”
     And that’s how I decided. No checking the elevation charts and water resources to make sure it was flat for miles and that I wouldn’t have to carry tons of water for miles. Quite the contrary. It got hilly and, with my current plan not only did I have the initial 27 mile carry, but skipping a water source that was nearly a mile off trail round trip meant that I had another 25 to the source after that. But I threw caution and reason to the wind and just did it. I kept my head down and made a playlist on the go to keep the tempo up.  I ran into about 4 groups of people that I knew, but I chatted for a minute and explained my mission before running off. I dosed myself with caffeine about every 4 hours and ate a bar or snack every hour or so while walking, breaking only for a ramen and tuna lunch and stretch that took me all of 25 minutes.
     I got fatigued when I hit mid-thirties, but kept pushing and got a second and third wind that got me through. The sun set around 8:50, but the full moon was bright enough to hike by for another half hour. I finally resorted to using my headlamp and hit 50 miles 10 minutes later, exactly 15 hours from when I departed camp that morning.
     Well, I’ve gotta fly. I won’t take time to post again until Portland, so wish me luck!  Maybe I’ll shoot for a 60 between now and then…  But probably not.

4 Responses to “The First Four Days”
  1. Star Rider says:

    Way to go Lighthouse. 50 miles in 15 hours? The day after we saw you we did 35 miles in 15 hours and we were pushing hard. You’re a fast Mo Fo. Also glad to have made an appearance in your story.
    -Star Rider

  2. I’m starting to think the human body isn’t designed to do this sort of thing.

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