Saturday, April 27, 2013

Captain's Sock Log

4/23: Gamboling around Damascus, staying with Hoppy and WhirlieBirdie and playing with their charming neighbor's kid and their insane dog

4/24: 7(ish?) miles. Damascus, VA to... Somewhere parallel to the AT on the Virginia Creeper Trail (the old AT)

No more slack-packing! Back to carrying our 30-40 pound packs.

4/25: 14 miles. Creeper to Elk Garden (back on AT)

4/26: 17 miles. Elk Garden to Fox Creek. Over the Grayson Highlands! Mile 500!

Temporary split of Shanty Town (see previous post for explanation)

4/27: 23.1 miles. Fox Creek to VA 16 (hitched into Marion for the night and resupply)


Captain's Sock Log: Sock Date 0.00

I have made a grave mistake.

I ordered two new pairs of warmer-weather SmartWool socks with my REI dividend, and had them sent to my parents' house in Maine. They were then going to be sent in a care package to me in Atkins, VA. While staying in Damascus, Dumptruck and I decided to send back a lot of winter clothing- mostly to lighten our packs in case I needed to carry some of Dumptruck's load with his bum shoulder. Into the send-home package went my two pairs of thick winter woolen socks.

This stunning lack of foresight has left me with one pair of thin hiking socks. For FIVE DAYS OF HIKING.

Captain's Sock Log: Sock Date 1.00

Today I survey the innocuous purple socks on my feet as I sit in my tent on the Virginia Creeper Trail. It was a very easy day, and all of Shanty Town has traveled together. My feet look cozy. Happy, even. Their woolen cocoons are warm and clean. It's like my toes are being hugged by a a pair of thin, well-meaning muppets, whose only role is to assure children that if they can successfully learn the alphabet, the monster under their bed will not devour their lower extremities in the middle of the night.

It won't be that bad, right? I pull the socks off and put them into my sleeping bag, so that any residual sweat can evaporate overnight in the down (this really works! But only if the socks are very mildly damp). I snuggle down into my sleeping bag and wait for dreams to take me away to a place not so different from the Appalachian Trail. Except, of course, there are more baby bunnies in top hats to cuddle with.

Captain's Sock Log: Sock Date 2.00

Over the past week of slack packing, my feet have apparently decided that they can go back to being soft nambly-pambly white-collar feet. Does it matter that I've been doing over 20 mile days? NAY! Cries my body, which has retained its strong leg muscles but has otherwise retreated into a kind of soft-skinned hibernation. Like a bear with an addiction to HBO, who only remembers to come out of his cave halfway through summer because he suddenly realizes he is starving to death.

Over the first two weeks of the trail, I had developed awful blisters that had blissfully turned into callouses. Now those callouses have started to retreat, thinking their duty finished because they are no longer having to tout around 165 pounds of me and my backpack.

But today we returned to carrying our full packs, and over the 14 miles of beautiful scenery, over Buzzard Rock and White Top, my body sung out in a choir of screaming, terrified altar boys, running from a swarm of bees that has quite unfortunately been released into the cathedral during Sunday Mass.

But we have had a grand day of hiking. In the evening, I read two more chapters of Harry Potter aloud to Shanty Town for their bedtime story. I do different voices, and according to Hot Dog, my voice for Uncle Vernon sounds exactly like Edgar from Men in Black, when he gurgles his angry request for more sugar water. We watch the full moon rise over the horizon, huge and bright as the sun's little sister against the black night sky.

Inside my boots, the socks have started to retain some of the salt of my sweat, but they haven't become nightmarish.

Captain's Sock Log: Sock Date 3.00

According to Apollo, when he was in Korea he ate something that changed his life for the worse. Apparently the first aspect of this dish is skate, a kind of fish that looks similar to a foot-long sting ray. The skate is caught, killed and jammed into a mason jar. That jar is subsequently buried underground. For a month. After the month, the rotten and fermented skate is dug up from the ground, chopped into bits, and served over a divine bed year-old sour kimchi and smoked pork. Apollo said that the name of this dish translates to "Three Tastes" but the only tastes discernable are "Death, Bile and Horror."

This is what my feet smell like.

But today we saw WILD PONIES SO EVERYTHING IS OKAY. We also got some truly superb trail magic from a group of guys out camping who bring along a whole lot of food and sustenance for passing hikers. One of them is a former thru-hiker, whose trail name was MATH RAGE! I enjoy this very much.

Captain's Sock Log: Sock Date 4.00

Today was the first day of our temporary separation from Shanty Town. The sky drizzled, mimicking my feelings. We went 23 miles, which is our longest day so far, and the other 20s we did were while slack-packing, so today with our packs was no joke. Every once in a while I had to lie down with my feet up on my pack like a drunk in the shock position to get some of the blood to circulate away from my feet, while rain pattered on my skyward face. But overall it was a successful day.

At the 23 mile mark we tried to hitch-hike into the nearest town (Marion), but to no avail. Apparently I'm not as cute when I'm soaked as a drowned kitten and wearing my paunchy raincoat that makes me look like I'm pregnant with an alien baby in my ribs. After the 50th car drove by, noticeably swerving as far away from our shivering drippy forms as possible, we called for cab into town.

When I took off the socks in the motel room, they maintained their shape perfectly. They held their form like there were ghost feet still inside, like those wax-hands you can get at the carnival. I held them at arms length, studying them with a sort of perverse, scientific interest.

"It's like someone is still wearing them. But no one's there..." I trailed off, my eyes crossing vaguely, dazed from a long day of hiking. I took a shower in our bathroom, which I can most closely compare to a small version of the bathroom in Eastern Promises when Viggo Mortensen gets into a naked knife fight. But there was less blood. Dumptruck graciously did laundry, while I zoned out.

I didn't even really notice that Dumptruck had come back into the room until he declared,

"I never thought I'd hear myself say this, but: Get your rain gear. We're going to Walmart."

And that's how I spent 45 minutes in a Walmart in Virginia at 10:30 pm. We resupplied, or rather, I should say that Dumptruck resupplied while I pawed ineffectually at the shelves.

Captain's Sock Log: Sock Date 5.00

We are happy and ready to go. I have put back on the plum sock monstrosities, which are now laundered. I only have to wear them until Monday, and the package will be collected. We miss Shanty Town, but we will see them soon (see the post below this one for the explanation for the temporary split).

Clever Girl


  1. Great post! You have a wonderful ability to paint with words; conveying challenges with humor and grace. Laughed out loud more than a few times. The ponies are too much...the foal must have melted your heart. Travel safe; socks are in sight. It makes me think of 19th century explorers reaching out for the next supply cairn! Love and miss you! Mom and Dad

  2. Aaaugh - the foal!! Cuteness embodied. Glad to see some photosynthesizing going on, aka sunbathing (it is an important late April activity, as my students frequently remind me). Also glad that your poor socks and feet will get some relief soon! Carry on, Shanty Town Scouting Team!

  3. Love your blog posts! Glad to know new socks are coming soon- and then Happy Feet! Happy Hiking.
    Margie and Maurice

  4. An Ode to you:
    Although you have been separated
    From the friends that you have stated
    Are the best hiking Shanty that there is,
    I am very excited
    To become reunited
    With you two who I love most in the world!

    Love Jess

  5. Thanks for sharing this all story about you trip.You have a fantastic capability to paint with words; conveying challenges with grace and humor. Laughed out loud over a couple of occasions. The ponies are too much...the foal should have melted your heart.Travel socks are best once you travel as it appears similar to other sorts of socks to wear that you simply set on your feet. However, as you could see these do not believe in any manner such as the socks you had normally wear. These socks are designed in order that even once in a weekday or for long periods of the time or as soon as you travel by air or train your feet, ankles and legs feel energized.
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