Day 25: a short day and the flayed toe challenge

May 19
Mileage: 22
Mile 602 to mile 624

Today I’ve decided to do a short day- 22 miles. And not only that but to take breaks- real breaks, lazy breaks, breaks that stretch on for hours. Everyone is exhausted so it’s not hard, when we reach a shady, leafy pine forest where spring water trickles merrily into a mossy trough, to convince everyone else to take a long break too. I lay there for nearly two hours washing my socks, eating snacks, tending to my blisters. I’ve got a big one running down the side of my big toe- I drained it yesterday and now the blister is red, the redness running past the blister and into the skin, the skin shiny. I think it might be infected but I don’t know what to do so I wash it and put my shoe back on.

I get a third wind in the afternoon- I’m hiking with Twinkle and we fill up at the cache and power on into the bright joshua tree desert to camp in a sandy clearing sheltered from the wind. The others are camped a few miles back, at a spring off the trail, but tonight I’m away from the group. It feels peaceful and quiet, sitting on the sand beneath a joshua tree watching the light change over the hills, eating my instant refried beans while Twinkle boils ramen in his jetboil. Away from the pressure and noise of a group. It feels like just what I need, tonight.

I contemplate my blister in the dusk. I think I know what I need to do. I pull the little scissors from the swiss army knife and Twinkle heats them in the flame of his jetboil. Using the “sanitized” scissors, I carefully cut away the soft white skin of the blister. What’s underneath is awful- red and wet like a piece of raw meat. It’s definitely infected. I wash my flayed toe with a little soap and some of the water I carried, let it dry, and now it’s time for the test of strength- I upend a little bottle of hand sanitizer over the raw red wound.

It’s like that scene in Fight Club where Brad Pitt pours acid onto Edward Norton’s hand and pins it to the table, saying things like How do you know if you’ve lived yet , etc. I clutch my sleeping bag over me, suddenly very cold and very nauseas, as the pain burns through my foot. It’s white hot, it’s stinging, it’s coming in waves. I curl up into a tense ball and laugh hysterically.

“It’s the hand sanitizer pain challenge!” I say to Twinkle, who is calmy eating his ramen. The pain goes on and on and on, and then after ten minutes the hand sanitizer finally dries and it’s over. I fashion a bandage of toilet paper and athletic tape, curl up in my sleeping bag, and call it a night.

Twinkle took some very awesome and disgusting pictures of my toe- you can see them on his blog.

Other photos on instagram.