The Importance of Doing Nothing

On the PCT, sometimes the laziest days are the most valuable.
Warner Springs

The desert near Warner Springs. (Photo by Amanda Jameson)

Thru-hiking isn't always about go-go-going. When you're walking 15 to 25 miles a day, day after day, your body needs time to recover from all the wear and tear. Here in Warner Springs, at mile 109.5, many people are taking a much-needed zero day—a day where they do no on-trail miles—to rest and recoup.

Some are zeroing because of injuries, of which tendonitis and blisters seem to be the most common. All we're doing is walking— but walking, particularly walking with a heavy pack, is hard on your legs and feet. Tendonitis is pretty common, given that hiking on trails uses muscles and tendons that you don't normally exercise in day-to-day life.

Blisters are common, and harder to deal with in many ways. Feet too sweaty? Blisters. Feet can't breathe? Blisters. Shoes don't fit quite right? Blisters. Socks dirty from all the dust in the desert? Blisters. Additionally, if they pop, they can cause infection. Better to give your feet, muscles, and tendons a rest than to risk a hike-ending injury by pushing on too soon.

I walked into Warner Springs yesterday afternoon. Like other hikers, I'm using this town stop to rest and do chores—go to the post office for my resupply, decide what I'll need for the next section, get rid of trash and maps and gear I don't need, take a bucket shower, do bucket laundry, soak my feet. I'll also catch up with other hikers and trail news, peek my head back into the outside world, finish up some blog posts, and convince my mother I'm still alive, all while staying off my feet as much as humanly possible.

I've been so, so lucky: over one hundred miles and only one mild blister to speak of. While the IT band on my right leg is being a little more talkative than usual—after a long day's walking, it feels like there's a bruise on the outside of my thigh near my knee—other repetitive use injuries from the Colorado Trail haven't reared their ugly heads as of yet. So today is a nero, not a zero for me: when the heat of the day is gone, I'll mosey on up the trail, putting in a few miles on the approach to Idyllwild before dark.