Total Miles: 179.4
Ah, the "zero" day, a.k.a., a day off. Since we arrived in Idyllwild a day early, we'll actually be taking a double zero and the timing couldn't be better. Idyllwild is a town filled with hiker-friendly people and we spent most of the day truly relaxing—Epsom salt foot baths, doing a puzzle on the deck, eating, and generally enjoying the dappled sunlight in the first real forest we've seen since starting the trail. There may have even been a few beers—strictly for treating muscle cramps, I assure you.
Proton visited the health center and was told he had the second worst blisters the doctor had seen this season, and that some were infected. Hopefully a couple of days rest will really get his feet on the mend.
We spent the evening doing what we might do at home—eating pizza and watching a movie. It seemed a fitting end to a day of relaxation.
Since my new pack has been working beautifully, and most of the other gear kinks have been worked out, my only focus is on healing my shin and taking care of my feet. After adding thin toe socks underneath my normal hiking socks, my blisters have quickly improved, which only makes me wish I had done it sooner. I had always hiked in a sock+liner with my sandals in the past, but for reasons that escape even me at this point, I had decided that perhaps one sock layer would be enough.
While I'm at it, a zero day seems like the perfect time to shed some light on some of the funny trail names I've mentioned so far. In nearly all cases, trail names are given rather than chosen and the idea is that the name tells a story. And since most thru-hikers are perfect strangers it makes just as much sense, if not more, to call them by their trail name as their real name. Some thru-hikers may never know each other's real name; a trail name is their trail identity.
I was given my own trail name of Mountain Man nearly 25 years ago by Mr. Don Plath. As a young kid and boy scout, I usually managed to hike far ahead of the group and would often end up spending much of the day alone, hiking fast and enjoying the trail and mountains all to myself. Of course, doing this earned me the occasional reprimand, but even when delivering a slight scolding I could detect just the faintest hint of approval from Mr. Plath. He's called me Mountain Man ever since and I've carried the name with me on all my thru-hikes.