The Shakedown: 4 days hiking in 3
I had chosen Arizona’s Highline trail as the site of my shakedown hike for a couple of reasons: it’s mostly above 5000 feet, within two hours drive, and was through some pretty spectacular landscapes. Initially, I wanted to hike the full 52 miles but that was sadly not to be. So, I settled for 4o miles over 4 days. The goal of this hike was to shake-out any equipment issues and see if I was recovered enough from the various health issues to do a sustained hike over several weeks.
I started at the Pine Trailhead of the Highline trail, the westernmost trail-head. Most people hike the trail from east to west, which is slightly easier. I decided to take the west to east route and get the full effect of the elevation gains coming out of Pine. It’s a beautiful hike from Pine up nearly 1,000 feet to just under the Mogollon Rim. The landscape is red rock covered with manzanita and pine. The views are spectacular but the kind that you need a wide-format camera to capture. Oh well.
I took it pretty easy the first two days, hiking 12 and 11 miles, respectively and taking lots of breaks to fiddle with my pack and rearrange gear. By the end of day 2, I was feeling pretty dialed in and was at the turn around point for my 4-day hike. Time to head back home. So, when I woke on day 3 feeling great, I made a decision, if I could get back to the day 2 camp site before noon, I would push on and complete the hike in a single day. That’s about 20 miles in one day.
That’s about 20 miles in one day.
Now for a PCT through-hiker that’s a normal day! But for me, not so normal. When I pulled into Weber Creek (the 1/2-way point) at 11:37, I decided what the heck! I can always camp by the trail if I get tired. So, after a lunch and some foot soaking in the creek, I wrapped up my feet, slipped on shoes and hoisted my pack.
The climb out of Weber Creek is pretty grueling and by the time I had gone about 3 miles, I had a rise of nearly 1500 feet. Well, I said I wanted to simulate the high Sierra! LOL. That was about the time the hotspot on my left heel turned into a full blister. I had been nursing the hotspot for the previous 2 days and felt pretty good about keeping it from going into full blister mode.
I pulled off the trail and peeled away the paper tape that had been covering the pre-blister. the blister was fully formed now but not popped. I popped it with a clean needle, added a bit of Neosporin and wrapped the whole heel in layers with Leucotape, then Kinesthesia tape and finally a layer of duct tape. I briefly considered camping where I was but decided that blister was going to be there tomorrow, too so I might as well get to the truck and home.
I hiked for nearly 6 miles on that wrapped heel. It mostly felt pretty good. Occasionally, I would step on a rock and twist the heel under the tape. That hurt, but by the time I rolled into the Pine trailhead and peeled off my trail runners and the layers of tape, I was walking pretty well. OK, I was flat out exhausted and soooooo happy to see the truck I nearly kissed it, but not in bad shape. I don’t think I could do another 20 miles the next day. I think that 12-15 miles in a day is good pace for me.
The summer’s hiking plans didnt exactly work out for me. Personal stuff has a way of doing that, but I’m thinking that the full Highline Trail is just sitting there, waiting for me, and next month is October. Perfect!
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