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May 7th, 2006
11:22 pm
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Warner Springs -- Baxwalk, Day 11
[Previous days of hiking are chronicled in my paper trail journal, which has yet to be typed up; I'm just trying to describe today's Warner Springs stay while I'm still here at a place with Internet. -R]

Thru-hiker vocabulary is filled with many pieces of creative and useful slang -- starting with the word "thru-hiker" itself, someone who hikes through the entire length of a long trail at once instead of doing it in pieces (a "section hiker").

When hikers congregate, you may overhear terms like slackpacker, yellow-blaze, or shwacking. They will describe their day as "I did a 20" (hiked 20 miles) without blinking an eye. Some acronyms are words unto themselves -- experienced hikers might have the AT (Appalachian Trail, eastern United States, ~2,100 miles) under their belt; and someone who has hiked the CDT (Continental Divide Trail -- longer, more rugged, and more remote than the Pacific Crest Trail) is likely a Triple Crowner, meaning they've thru-hiked the AT and PCT as well.

I figured I had all the slang down, but I learned a new word today. "Nero." It's brilliant in context, so let me backstep through the etymology.

Thru-hiking is such a demanding pursuit that sometimes you've just got to take a full day off of the trail to recover. This is known as a "zero," in much the same way that a "15" is a 15-mile day; since most zeroes are spent in town, this means a day of real food and little movement, bookended by a full two nights of rest in an actual bed.

And "nero"? An elegant contraction of "near-zero". If you camp a mile before town, and heading in to the restaurants before finding a hotel is all the hiking you do, you're not taking a literal zero but you might as well be.

I didn't nero today; I merely overheard the term from a fellow hiker. I hiked a half-day (9 miles) into Warner Springs yesterday morning, then deliberately took a full zero today. I did this so I could mail out a box on Monday morning on my way out of town, but more importantly, to make certain that I hadn't done as much damage to my feet as I had feared with a few days of walking on an opened blister. They look pretty good and have healed well, but all the walking is making them grow, so I may have some entirely new foot problems soon -- and I desperately hope not -- finding a pair of Size 15 shoes.

If one has to take a zero -- and pride usually prevents us from admitting it, but we all do -- Warner Springs is a good place to do it. It's got that quaint country charm. By which I mean, it's got a gas station ($3.89/gallon regular unleaded) with convenience store stocked with snacks and hiker supplies; a manufactured-home trailer next door bedecked with American flag and handicapped ramp, that's been converted into a post office; a golf course; a sprawling many-square-mile ranch converted into a hot springs resort; and not much else.

The real reason it's a great place to stay is that the ranch owners love thru-hikers. We get a special per-day rate at the resort, are allowed to wedge up to six people into a room to further save money, and at the peak of the hiker wave can practically take over the pool (there were as many as 30 of us on the lawn, sprawled out surrounded by backpacks, blister kits, and newly-washed clothes, on Saturday afternoon).

Internet Explorer ate my post, and I'm trying to hurriedly retype the highlights, so suffice it to say that my zero wasn't quite the relaxation and luxury I had hoped for. Homesickness drove me to read a golf magazine in an attempt at self-distraction, but that was a predictable failure, with uselessly boring articles and endless pages of ads touting clubs made of Brand New Technology GUARANTEED to add 20 yards to your drive or outperform all other equipment if your swing was under 105 mph. Then there was the two-page spread on Donald Trump's new SoCal golf resort, which cost over $200 million, including $63 million for the last hole alone. Ecch.

But I felt better after a talk with kadyg and a hot springs swim. (I thoughtfully packed a swimsuit in my "bounce box" -- something you repeatedly mail yourself, or "bounce," from town stop to town stop as you hike.) Then the Shari mentioned in the previous voice post, who was here at the resort with a Volcan Mountain preservation group holding its big fundraiser for the year, introduced me to Mei Ling, who interviewed me for the ranch's newsletter. She took my picture, and I ended up pointing her here and giving her some of my trip photos; she let me take over her laptop long enough to upload one, hence the earlier-posted shot of Eagle Rock. It's about three miles south of town, is a natural rock formation, and was apparently sacred to the natives way back when.

Now I get to finish cleaning up and reorganizing my backpack gear in an attempt to save a few ounces. Considering I'm adding the missing cell phone and some necessary foot care items, I'll about break even. Then I'll wash my socks and get to bed before hiking out in the morning.

That's how the life of a thru-hiker goes in their days off the trail. Some recreation, some necessary chores, and a few moments of minor fame as the rest of the world realizes what the story is behind those scruffy, stinky folks who just drifted in.

Current Location: Warner Springs, CA
Current Mood: blahblah
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(9 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:May 8th, 2006 07:21 am (UTC)
Toothpaste might be your friend my friend.

It does a good job of drying out blisters/zits/pustules/etc. Just apply a thin layer and let dry before you go to bed.

You might already know that, but I figured I'd mention it anyway.


I'm glad to hear your hike is doing well!
[User Picture]
Date:May 8th, 2006 08:00 am (UTC)
The white, pasty toothpaste, not the gel kind - right? It's definitely effective, although waking up with my face smelling minty fresh is one of the odder moments of my life. ;)
[User Picture]
Date:May 8th, 2006 11:18 am (UTC)
Hehehe. Hippy.


Oh, and just so you know; I will dedicate my next PIWRETM to you, and come up with a rustic and electricity free recipe for ya. Nothin gets rid of home sickness like canibalism.

Or is that for athletes foot... I can never get those straight.
[User Picture]
Date:May 8th, 2006 01:57 pm (UTC)

ha ha ha "Nero" I like that. Had a few of those. I always called my zeroes "rest days" but yeah, I had them. The peril of long-distance thru-hiking alone/where there aren't other hikers means you don't learn any of the lingo, you just have to make it up yourself.

So what is a "Slackwalker?"
[User Picture]
Date:May 8th, 2006 08:50 pm (UTC)
"Slackpacking", as opposed to "backpacking," is where you walk from Point A to Point B without carrying all of your thru-hiking gear in between, relying on the support of others to make up the difference.

For instance, I could have slackpacked (but didn't) from Julian to Warner Springs, because Shari was already planning to meet me over the weekend since she'd be there for the foundation's dinner-dance; I could have given her almost all of my gear to drive up with her, and only taken my day-pack and enough food and water to last me the 30 miles.
[User Picture]
Date:May 8th, 2006 03:28 pm (UTC)
Next time you take a day. .. are you going to be up anywhere along the OR coast anytime? Me and Dazey would love to say 'hi', at least.

Safe Hiking!
[User Picture]
Date:May 8th, 2006 08:52 pm (UTC)
The trail doesn't run too near the coast, but as I get closer to Oregon, we can get in touch if you'd like to try to see me along the way. It would be approx. early September, so we'll have time to plan.
[User Picture]
Date:May 9th, 2006 07:36 pm (UTC)
*nod* Well, where do you plan on crossing the Columbia at? We can meet you there (We're in PDX).
[User Picture]
Date:May 19th, 2006 08:28 pm (UTC)
Assuming I make it that far (see post later today), I believe it crosses near Cascade Locks -- I'll have to double-check in a month or two when i get home and can check the Oregon/Washington section of my guidebooks.
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