Take a Trek

Day 5: Smiles, not Miles

Laguna, Ca

Miles: 0

I get up to take a leak and I can barely walk. Also, I’m vaguely hung over. What the hell is wrong with me? More importantly, what the hell is wrong with my leg? Is this what a real shin splint feels like? I can’t be injured. I just got here!!!

Andy is reciting a passage from Walden, shoving things into his pack. “I love Thoreau,” he says. I can’t concentrate. I’m staring at my leg, my stupid, swollen leg. I tell everyone that I won’t be getting on the trail today, that I’ll be lurking around Laguna for at least another day. It sucks, but I don’t have a choice. I think I can heal this thing pretty quick, if I stay off of it. If I hike too soon though, who knows? Shit, shit, shit.

I walk/hobble into town to get a couple disposable ice packs from the outfitter store. There’s a PCT veteran named Puppy working at the store, a girl who used to be a nurse. She retired for some reason, but still gets excited about hiker overuse injuries, taping up ankles, that sort of thing. She tells me I should tape it, elevate it, ice it. RICE. I tell Her I’ll do anything to get back on the trail as soon as possible. Puppy walks over to her truck (the one that she lives in) and brings back a bucket of water, a towel, and a razor. She holds up a roll of sporty-looking tape and asks “are you prepared to own this?” I confirm and Puppy tells me to shave my leg. So that’s what I do.

And here I am, hanging out at Burnt Rancheria Campground for a second night, with a shaved, taped-up leg. There’s a little saying that the locals keep telling all the PCTA hikers down here in Southern California. “Smiles, not miles.” They tell us the miles will come with time, but taking it easy is the priority for the first 700 miles or so. So that’s what I’m going to do.

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

-Walden: Or, Life in the Woods