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Colorful Hikers and New Skin

Hancock Brook Loop Trail view from ridge

Appalachian Trail – September 4, 2013

I chose to stay in Lyme another day.  My feet were so sore I could barely squeeze them into my oversized Crocs.   Yesterday’s hike had rubbed the abrasions even rawer, and I needed at least a day to allow them to heal over for some type of skin to begin forming.  Ms. M had also offered to take me over to Hanover, NH, to the CVS pharmacy, so I could get the bandages I needed and about three more tubes of Neosporin.  Neosporin was kind of like Duct tape.  Duct tape was applied to all broken gear, and Neosporin was smeared on all broken skin.

As we pulled up to the pharmacy, I noted a hiker leaning against the brick wall just past the sliding doors to the store.   I walked towards the doors and paused to speak briefly with her before heading into the store.   I was sure she was a thru-hiker, but not certain, as there was also a certain “Vagabondish” look.   She appeared to be in her mid to late sixties, was wearing a purple skirt and turquoise t-shirt, and had a red bandanna wrapped around her head.  I glanced at her and did a double take, startled to see large swollen lumps on one of her arms and her leg.  She appeared to have been bitten, and her arm and leg were noticeably swollen.  They had to be painful, but as we chatted, she mentioned them casually and brushed them aside as if they were minor mosquito bites.

Inside, I found everything I needed and headed back out of the pharmacy, where I saw the Vagabond hiker still leaning against the wall next to her pack but now smoking a cigarette.  She asked me if I knew how to get to the Sunset Motel.  I had heard of it and knew it was somewhere out of town, but I told her I did not know how to get to it.   As she took a drag from her cigarette, I noticed her long, pink, manicured fingernails.   How did she ever maintain those on the trail?!   I wished her well and headed to the car, where Ms. M was waiting for me.

We got everything in the car, and as we pulled away from the CVS, I looked over to see the lone hiker marching up the sidewalk with her pack and poles on her back.  As we pulled away, I watched her and wondered to myself.  Was she really a thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail, or just a wanderer passing through this area?  Over the years, I’ve met many wanderers that spend a little time on this particular trail.  They are around for a few days or weeks, living off the bounty and good graces of the people and towns they counter.  Most of them were harmless, but all seemed to be fractured or lost souls.

After lunch,  we headed back to Lyme.  I had my clothes hanging out back of the house on a clothesline and still needed to go to the PO and General store.  Chores were slow when limping around on skinless feet, so I still had some things to do, but I had been eyeballing a hammock in their “Thoreauesque” backyard.  I was itching to grab a NY Times, which I had purchased that morning, and crawl into the hammock and wallow in the world for an hour.

On my visit to the pharmacy, I purchased a bottle of what looked like cement glue called “New Skin.”  I was going to apply some to the abrasions on my feet, which were in dire need of any skin replacement I could find.  Many of the abrasions were hard to cover with a bandage, so I was hoping this new cure would take the place of a Band-Aid.   A couple of large abrasions would still get their own Band-Aid and a piece of moleskin to prevent friction, but I would try “New Skin” for most of the small spots.   I was disappointed I could not find Leuko tape, so I was going to try some other brands of “moisture resistant” athletic tape to hold all the bandaging together, but if all else failed, duct tape was an old friend that never let me down.

My final chore of the afternoon was pressure washing my shoes and insoles.  I wanted to ensure I had gotten all the sand and grit out of them.  I only had another week to go before getting my new shoes, and the weather was supposed to be nice for the next few days.  I plan to hike slowly and lower my mileage until they heal sufficiently.  This would probably mean an extra town stop to lighten my pack weight and get more food, probably in Killington, VT.  They should have heeled fine if I took things slow and kept my feet relatively dry and gritless.

Someone later asked me for tips to date on my hike.  I provided those below.

Strip and boil all linens in motels and hostels, and wipe down your plastic hut mattress with Purel.  Everyone around you probably has a hiking stove, so boiling should not be an issue, although you will need to allow time to boil a sheet in a 2L pot.

When hiking in wet shoes, ensure no grit in your shoes and wear clean, gritless socks.  If grit is detected, it is best to immediately check your feet and change your socks.  Assume one skin layer is lost for every hour of wait.

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