Day Five: Hot Legs Saves My Life (Or At Least My Feet)

Zero in Mt. Laguna
0 miles hiked

(I didn’t take a lot of photos this day because I was mostly hobbling around town, and also uploading photos to the WordPress app is a HUGE pain in the ass, it turns out, so excuse the lack of images. I probably won’t be able to be as particular about the way this blog LOOKS while I’ll updating from trail – it’s pretty taxing just to get the words written and posted, let alone make things look nice. Head to my Instagram,Β @vanessatakesphotos,Β for more visual stuff. Thanks for understanding!)

I wake up at 8am to my alarm and intense throbbing in my feet. Fuck. My blisters feel worse than yesterday, which I didn’t know was possible, so I suppose an optimistic take would be to say the day began with wonder and amazement! I wipe drool off my cheek just as Mike walks by my tent. “Did you just wipe drool off your face,” he asks. “Yep.” Hello, happy Monday.

My friends are all packing up their gear and talking about hiking out today and I’m suddenly really sad. They’re all leaving, I’m so slow, I got stupid blisters even though I researched my shoe and sock scenario so much…I’ll never catch up to them. Bye, tiny trail family.

I’m being dramatic and absurd, I know. But my feet hurt so much and the idea of hobbling to the lodge or the gear shop or fuck, Canada, is so demoralizing that I start crying. Everyone crowds around my tent to say sweet comforting things. Why are these people so nice to me?! “We’re not saying goodbye, Scissors,” Cate tells me. “You’ll catch up. We’ll see you in Warner Springs, or before that!” I don’t know if I believe her but it’s so nice of her to say. They are all packed up and heading to the restaurant for breakfast, but I want to be sure I’m at the lodge at 9am sharp so I can hopefully get a room for tonight. I don’t bother taking my tent down – what if there isn’t a room and I have to come back? I borrow Lynn’s sandals and shuffle over to the lodge. It’s less than a quarter of a mile away and it takes me approximately twenty minutes to get there. I try to think positively: I’m learning so much about patience! And persistence! Look at what a body is capable of! Here you are in your body, Vanessa! Ouch.

I get to the lodge and Hot Legs and Mike from the gear shop are sitting on the porch. “Hi Wonderful,” Hot Legs greets me, and I grimace. “How are the feet?” I explain that I’m going to try to get a room and then I’ll meet them at the gear shop to deal with my feet as we discussed yesterday. I’m just praying these kind men can fix my feet. I don’t know what else to do.

The man at the lodge front desk (which is also the general store front desk) tells me I can be #1 on the waitlist for a $90 room. Well. I say yes please – what else is there to stay? I didn’t intend to drop so much money on a room so early on, but I really want a clean place I can shower and keep my feet elevated and let my blisters try to heal. So I’m on the waitlist for a $90 room. Okay!

I limp outside. Hot Legs and Mike are still there but Mike’s getting ready to leave and disappears to get his car. I tell Hot Legs I’ll see him at the gear store but it might take me a while. When I turn to leave, there’s Mike and his car, waiting for me. Oh my god. I open the door and get in and look at Mike to make sure this is what he meant and he nods and I try not to cry and I say, thank you, and he wordlessly hands me an apple and then I really almost burst into tears again. Fresh produce is gold to a hiker. Everyone is being so nice to me. I don’t know why I’m surprised – maybe I’m not, I know the PCT is filled with incredible humans – but I’m moved. Mike drives me the literal .2 miles from the lodge to the campground and I say thank you thank you thank you. He waves it all away. “See you at the store,” he says. I nod and he drives away.

I pack up reasonably quickly but I’d like to become faster. I assume I will. I’m still a little worried about butt chafe so I decide to wear my hiking skirt for prime ventilation. Normally I’d be worried about my thighs chafing in that but I’m not walking very far today. It works great and I’m stoked to have my skirt for town time throughout the trail.

Getting from the campground to the store is excruciating. I’m wearing Lynn’s sandals, my pack’s on my back, and I’m gripping my hiking poles and my trail runners in my hands. But I get there eventually and I’m the first hiker there and everyone enthusiastically greets me. I drop my stuff and Mike asks if I want a foot soak. Oh my god yes please. He puts Epsom salts in a tub and adds cold water. “Some people like hot water but I like cold for soaks – it draws everything to the surface.” I’m so grateful I don’t even know what to say. Mike puts a chair in the sun and instructs me to soak for half an hour. I obey. My feet are so happy.

While my feet are soaking I get to watch other hikers come through. The store staff is incredible. Owned by a man named Dave and famed for its thorough gear shakedowns, it’s an institution on the PCT. 42 miles in, it’s the spot where hikers stop and reevaluate their gear, chuck stuff that’s not working, and check out the killer hiker boxes. A hiker box is like a free box, but hiker-specific. All along the trail these boxes exist at businesses and trail angel’s houses – you dump your stuff that you don’t want and it may be someone else’s treasure! The boxes at the gear shop in Mt Laguna are particularly epic because of the thru-hiking gear learning curve. There’s a full box of shoes, a full box of extra Sawyer filter paraphernalia, a lot of Nutella, and a bunch of other stuff. I ask for one of the jars of Nutella from my perch at the foot soak and tuck in to some for breakfast. Yum.

More hikers trickle in as the day progresses and it’s fun to watch and listen. Many do shakedowns. I eavesdrop on Mike’s shakedowns and learn new things, including how to pack my pack more efficiently. My friends come back from breakfast and Sarah joins me at the store to continue her search for the perfect pack. Yesterday she was dubbed “Shakedown” because she’s gotten so many since starting the trail. She never had a ridiculously high baseweight – she just likes hearing everyone’s opinions about her gear. The rest of the pack heads to the store and I request a bag of potato chips as I continue to soak my feet. We’re about to be ready for the surgery aspect of the day.

Hot Legs comes over and literally saves my life. (Hi Hot Legs, I love you and so does my mom.) He explains to me why sterilizing the needle and using thread wasn’t really working for me (the flame apparently doesn’t actually sterilize the needle and the thread is often dirty so I was basically inviting bacteria into my wounds) and says the way to go is: alcohol wipes, a small knife, moleskin, antibio cream, and leukotape. Okay, take two.

He then proceeds to painstakingly cut/pop six of my blisters. Cate has, indeed, brought me a bag of chips from the store (THANK YOU CATE AND MIKE AND SHAKEDOWN AND LYNN FOR TAKING SO MUCH CARE OF ME ALL THE TIME) and I munch on them through the procedure. “This is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me,” I tell Hot Legs. He shakes his head like it’s no big deal but it’s a huge deal. He’s sitting on the ground in front of the gear shop cutting my blisters, covering them in ointment, and then meticulously taping them for me. When I mention that I’m hoping to get a lodge room tonight and wish I could air them out but don’t want to ruin his hard work he doesn’t bat an eye. “Air them out tonight,” he agrees. “I’ll tape them for you again tomorrow.” Who is this guy?!? I call my mom and tell her what’s happening. “I love Hot Legs!” she exclaims. I cover the receiver and say, “Hey, Hot Legs, my mom loves you!” He chuckles. “I love your mom,” he says. Everyone around us laughs too. I love everyone. My feet are fucked but the trail is still magical.


While I’m on the phone with my mom I get a call from the lodge saying they have a room available for me tonight. I’ve never been so excited to give someone $90. I spend some more time at the gear shop – Hot Legs does a brief pack shakedown for me but we’re not really aiming to change too much of my gear. “I love all my gear,” I tell him at the beginning and he laughs. “I know, I read your blog about it!” He does help me shave down my miscellaneous items and we make a small pile of things for me to send home. He also promises to help me look at new socks and shoes tomorrow – I don’t think my set up is working for me. I also make a very important purchase at the end of my day at the gear store: flip flops! They’re $2 and it’s the best money I’ve ever spent. I now have camp shoes! Bless everything.

Right before I leave for the hotel I notice something: I just got my period. I feel it before I’m bleeding all over everything, thank goodness, and while it’s really not ideal I can’t help but laugh. Maybe that’s why I was crying so much on the trail yesterday! I go to the bathroom with a tampon and wonder to myself if I’m gonna be brave and use my diva cup this week or if I’m gonna be lazy and pack in and pack out tampons. We shall see.

Hot Legs The Saint offers to drive me and my pack to the lodge, and embarrassing as it is to accept a ride that close, I shamelessly do. The guy at the front desk gives me a bucket and some soap to do my laundry (to avoid guests doing it in the sink or bathtub) and then I’m set. I say bye to Hot Legs and settle into my huge luxurious cabin. It feels absurd to have this on night number five but it also feels amazing.

I call my mom and dad and chat for awhile. I talk to Alley, too. My brother calls me and we chat. I buy some junk food at the store before it closes and they have cans of Diet Coke and I am SO HAPPY about that. I realize I’ve only eaten chips and Nutella today – oops. I’ll do better tomorrow when I need good fuel for hiking. I’m really hoping to hike out tomorrow – fingers crossed.

I do my laundry in the bucket, I shower, I tend to my feet. I text friends, work on my blog. I talk to Alley again. Carrot comments on my Instagram post about my blisters and then messages me to see if I wanna talk on the phone about everything and I say yes so we do. She’s so comforting – any problem I have, it feels like she’s had too or knows someone who has and she’s just very matter of fact and relaxed about everything. “I’m so glad you’re on the trail,” she says, talking about how excited she was to read my blog post from day one. “Well I’m glad, because you’re the reason I’m on it,” I say. She laughs that off, but it’s true.

Maybe it’s silly to take a zero so early, but I’ve gotta admit I’m happy. I’m clean, I’ve spoken to so many people I love, I’m organized, and my feet are clean and drying out. Tomorrow I’ll eat eggs and bacon for breakfast and I’ll buy new shoes and resupply and hopefully, please please please, be able to hike out.

I continue to feel so lucky to have such an expressive cheering section. Thank you all for reading. More soon!

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18 thoughts on “Day Five: Hot Legs Saves My Life (Or At Least My Feet)

  1. Rebecca Missel says:

    Well I’ve been useless on comments so far since I’ve got profoundly less hiking experience than you. That said… I am delighted to induct you into the cult of DIVA CUP! The first rule of Diva Cup is to talk incessantly to anyone who gets a period about the wonders of Diva Cup. It’s the opposite of Fight Club and a fun blood cult in its own witchy way. You’re subverting Big Tampon every time you use it πŸ™‚
    Also, yesterday was day 2 of my generally pretty intense period and I had that damn thing in me from 8 am til 10:30 pm with nary a spot. You can do this!
    Love all the posts and keep on being utterly epic and amazing!!!!
    XOXOX from NYC,
    Rebecca

    • Vanessa says:

      Haha I love this! I love the concept of a diva cup I’m just so anxious about the gross dirt on my fingers getting…you know, where it’s not supposed to? I dunno! But I was thinking I could potentially make some really intense feminist art from dumping the cup onto snow in the Sierra πŸ˜‰

    • Laurie Works says:

      DIVA CUPS FOREVER! 100% agree with this. πŸ˜€ They’re so good. On the period now and using one. πŸ˜€ doesn’t spot on me either. Although I’m not sure the logistics of using one on the trail, I think it’s a good option – does one just cathole it like other human waste, I guess? And use water to rinse? That’s my mental picture.
      Anyway sorry just had to jump in on the diva cup thing – and also to say too that I was out hiking yesterday and thinking about how seriously fucking bad ass you are, I don’t know you other than through here and autostraddle and Insta and to do your first backpacking trip on the PCT – brave AF.
      I sent your Insta to all my friends (but really, I did, haha) and they’re all following too. We think you’re cool AF! keep it up!

  2. themountaincrone says:

    I don’t think it’s silly at all to take a zero after 5 days. Didn’t you say you’d NEVER backpacked before? Kudos for listening to your body and taking care of yourself. We women are always so gawddamn hard on ourselves. Taking care of yourself, and allowing others to take care of you, is not weakness. It is the epitome of strength and a sign of profound self-love.

  3. Mary Ellen Brock says:

    I love reading your posts. I love your honesty and incredible courage, stamina and joy!!
    What a day – from waking at 8 with throbbing feet to the last paragraph so full of hope! You can do this hiking thing!
    Mary Ellen (Kerkyra’s mom)

  4. Michele says:

    Glad you got your feet patched up and recovering. I’m new to Instragram, so I’ll try to figure it out and follow you there too. Really enjoying your blogs. Yay for the $2 flip flops! I’m SOOO glad that I don’t have to worry about using a DIVA cup versus other things. I hit menopause in my 40s, so now I’m FREEEEEE…well for the most part. Sometimes the body throws surprises at you. lol Rest up and have a great hike tomorrow!

    • Vanessa says:

      Thank you! My mama got on Instagram just to follow me on this hike – it’s pretty intuitive I think πŸ™‚ I am so jealous you don’t have to worry about diva cups or anything else – packing out tampons is definitely not cute lol.

  5. Jenny Bruso says:

    I LOVE that our friends’ moms are reading your blog! The chip picture is definitely the best yet and I’m so heartened by these men being so helpful and kind to you in such a vulnerable situation. Faith and hope!

    • Vanessa says:

      I love it too!! And yes, am so into all these generous kind men. Sounds so hokey to say it’s restoring some of my faith in humanity but it is. PS thanks for commenting on every post, Jenny – it makes me feel loved and supported and I love you! XO

  6. Jill Hectpr says:

    Tell Hot 🌡 Legs I love ❀ him too!!! So glad you got to talk to so many loved ones yesterday. You needed it!!! My heart ❀ was breaking for you. I had 3 blisters on each leg last week and the pain was exquisite!!! They are mostly healed now πŸ™Œ. Of course all those hormones made everything more intense!!! One of the few perks of getting older, less drama 🎭!!! Glad you got sound advice and great care. Sure hope a new pair of shoes πŸ‘ž does the trick. Good that you took a zero to get better. Feel free to call me πŸ“± too, if you need to talk. Eye doctor appointment went well. Turns out I’m near sighted in one eye and far sighted in the other. Doc said if he fixed each side separately my brain would explode πŸ’£. He worded it more delicately though. Since my right eye has a ripe cataract, getting it fixed would change everything. So I have an early June appointment with the ophthalmologist. He says they’re 3 months out on surgery, so it’s going to be awhile before I can see clearly! Think about you every day sweetheart. You’re my other daughter πŸ’–!!! Heal fast. Love ❀ you!!!

  7. Corey Roberts says:

    Hi Vanessa,

    I’m a coworker of your mom’s and she’s always talking about “her Vanessie” and how proud she is of you. I can see why! I’m also “amazed” by you….never hiked before and you’re taking on over 2,000 miles, on your own?! Just incredible and so inspiring.

    I’m glad you took the time to rest and shower and sleep and give your feet time to heal. It’s so important to get your trip off on the right foot (but what would I know, I’ve never hiked before)!

    Keep up the good, hard work and keep writing – I so enjoy reading it!

    Stay well and stay safe!

  8. Jaxxsj says:

    Definitely not silly to take that zero, it’s smart. It takes a while for your body to adjust to trail life and it is so important to take care of the aches and pains early on. Fix em before they become really big issues! You’ll be happier down the road for it. =)

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