The hiker’s secret to longevity
By Pamela Chergotis
I’m holed up under the dryer at the beauty salon, flipping through magazines, when I come across a feature on celebrity feet. In her quest for the naked truth an ingenious paparazzo pointed her telephoto lens down for a change, way down, below the Stella McCartney hemlines. Who are these people, really? The feet know!
The world’s most famous tootsies are in truly terrible condition. Poking through strappy sandals that most people would need a second mortgage to afford were jagged nails, calloused heels, hanging strips of dead skin, fungus, hammer toes, bunions, corns, you name it. Eeewwww!
Jessica Simpson’s were the worst. During my last salon visit I read about how she never brushes her teeth. I’m feeling rather smug. I may not be rich, famous, or beautiful, but my feet are way better than what I’m seeing here.
Oh, here’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Her feet are perfect. It figures.
Hiker feet are presumed to be unlovely. But are they? It’s hard to tell, encased as they are in heavy boots and socks. I can only tell you about my own feet. It’s been quite a journey. If I had ever wanted to enlist in the Army, my feet would have disqualified me. My arches are sky high, the balls are extra wide, and I even have a bone spur. Who knew I’d end up spending so much of my free time pounding up and down trails? But I’m living proof it can be done, with the help of a good podiatrist, pricey boots, and even pricier orthotics. My socks are deluxe. I invest heavily in my feet, both in money and time. Yes, it takes time to keep hiker feet both presentable and pain free.
These humble appendages call the shots. My father would tell what is supposed to be an old Greek folktale in which the different parts of the body get into a row. Which body part is most important? The brain won the first round, at which the anus proceeded to go on strike, backing up production, so to speak. “Okay, okay, you win!” says the brain. The point here is that every part of the organizational chart is important, and don’t get ahead of yourself just because you have a big fat cerebrum.
It’s easy to forget about your feet, as the disgraced celebrities in the magazine can attest. But hiker feet have a way of making their wishes known. “You want to see the top of that mountain? You have to see me first.”
So there I sit, at the edge of my bathtub, my case of pedi tools at my side. I use them all — scrapers, shaver blades, files, rasps, pumice stones, buffers, sanders, clippers. You can’t move fast. Some of these tools are sharp! And getting at your feet into a position so that you can perform these delicate operations requires some yogic contortions. Think baby cradle pose. Look hard under a good light: what needs to be done here? Jeez, it’s only been a week! Look how things have deteriorated since then.
How is it that some nails seem not to have grown at all, while others are of Howard Hughes proportions? It’s positively mysterious.
Tom is pacing outside. He’s ready for the trail, and I’m still in my pajamas.
Job one is getting those nails short without biting into the skin. Long nails (and corns too) take up room in the toe box of your boots. You might not notice after a thousand steps, but after five or ten thousand your feet start yelling, as that one overlong talon starts wearing a groove into a neighboring toe. Man that hurts! Just as bicyclists carry an emergency tool kit with them, I carry a small kit of pedi tools. It’s better to do this work at home though. A bare foot exposed to below-zero wind chill is sheer misery.
“Are we there yet?” That’s Tom again. I’m done, and take a second to admire my work. I slather on the foot cream and slip into cushy wool socks.
“Where are we going?” I ask. Tom suggests the Coppermines trail. It has a killer downhill — very hard on the feet! But no worries. I’m ready for anything.
Coppermines trailhead: Old Mine Road in Harwick, N.J., about one-half mile west of the Poxono Access on the Delaware River
This is a loop trail: follow red blazes (Coppermines Trail) for .2 miles; take right onto blue-blazed Kaiser Trail for 1.6 miles; then left onto the white-blazed Appalachian Trail for 2 miles; then left back onto the Coppermines trail for 2.25 miles to the trailhead