I guess I should have known better than to expect sympathy for a poorly toe from someone who makes social calls with a large gun at his hip and only four toes on one foot. Tony the trail angel from Pie Town offered to take my toe off for me if it was a problem; with the nearest medical services many many miles away, I guess most Pie Town folks are used to a bit of DIY on the medical front! But he and his wife Joan did bring some Epsom salts, which I’m sure helped.
Anyway, we had a great time hanging out at the Toaster House in Pie Town, an open house for hikers and bikers. During the three days we were there, we spent hours and hours sitting out on the porch, chatting to other hikers, listening to music and drinking beer while hiding from the fierce sun. People came and went, blisters were seen to, feet got soaked; sadness at being left behind while people hiked on was balanced by gladness at having got the chance to know them better, and the hope of seeing them again further on down the road.
On our last evening there, some hikers cadged a lift in with Mouse, a native American guy who lives nearby. When he asked if he could come back later with his drum and do some songs, the answer was a unanimous “yes”. It was a really memorable evening, as we sat around in the darkness, looking at the stars, drinking beer and listening to Mouse singing Apache songs (and songs from many other tribes too), accompanied only by his drum or rattle. He explained what each song was about, and its significance in his life. And finally he sang his song of parting, as he picked up his instruments, walked over to his truck and drove away. We were all left feeling very overwhelmed, and grateful.
So on Tuesday morning, with my toe looking a much healthier colour (and me feeling like a bit of a wimp for making a fuss over it), we set off on the next leg of our hike, towards Grants. The first day was a literally straight 24 miles on dirt and gravel roads, past many ranches and out onto a bleak plain, where we collected water at a cow trough, filtered out the floating cow poo, and camped for the night.
The next day’s hiking was somewhat better as we entered the Cebolla Wilderness. Sandy paths and dirt roads led us through pine woods and dry meadows, past ruined log cabins and sandstone crags. My blisters from the previous day’s roadwalking were killing me, so when we stopped I got a needle and scissors and made a big hole in the worst one on the pad of my foot. Neil doused it with iodine (ooyah ooyah) and put a dressing on it, and after swapping out my insoles to change the pressure points on my feet, we hiked on.
But after a couple of relatively pain free miles, I started to feel a growing soreness around my big toe joint. This became a persistent ache, and by the time we’d done 22 miles (the last 5 on tarmac) my foot was red and swollen and I could barely hobble. As we gloomily cooked our dinner in a small picnic area, we faced up to the fact that I couldn’t walk any further in my current state.
So the next morning we hitched a ride into Grants, and holed up in a motel where I spent the day with my foot up, doing hot / cold treatments and soaking my foot in Epsom salts, watching way too much TV while Neil ran errands. All to no avail; this morning my foot was redder and more swollen than before. But luckily for me, there are some lovely kind trail angels here in Grants, Hugo and Carole Mumm, and they took us to the medical centre where I was told it was probably gout. Rubbish timing, never had an attack before, but at least it should respond quickly to drugs. And it’s better than bunion surgery, which was the initial suggestion! So I’ve started on the pills, and will see how things are progressing by Monday.
In the meantime I’ll mostly be watching telly. But there is some evidence that dairy products are good for gout – a good reason to try out some new flavours of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, I reckon!