My decision to flip-flop to Washington allowed me to skip dangerous snow conditions in the Sierra, but as I’ve said before, I now have a narrow window of time to finish the mountain sections before winter returns. This doesn’t only mean I need to stay mindful of my daily mileage. I could also jeopardize my chance to finish if I take too many zero-mile hiking days.
Zero days might be time-consuming, but they are an essential part of a thru-hike. They provide an opportunity to rest, resupply, and prepare for the next trail section.
These things can also be done with a nero (near-zero mile day), and logistically, a nero is often preferable because it saves time.
Still, a zero is sometimes necessary or unavoidable, and that was the case today.
Ralph and I made a last-minute decision to take a zero day. We already had a pleasant stay with our generous friends, Tracey and Kirk, at their home near Leavenworth. That gave us a chance to clean up and relax, but we still needed to resupply.
We could have run into town to resupply and then return to the trail today. Then I discovered my shoes were quickly wearing out and that made a zero day was necessary. Extra time would be needed, so today was a good opportunity to buy new shoes.
After deciding not to return to the trail today, we were able to stretch out our visit with Tracey and Kirk by taking a leisurely time for breakfast. This also gave us time to dry our tents in the sun.
Compared to the last few days on the trail in the mountains, this warm and sunny day was a pleasant change. Leavenworth is on the dry side of the mountains.
Kirk suggested I could find a replacement pair of shoes at Performance Footwear in the town of Wenatchee, so we headed there after saying goodbye to our friends.
Kirk's recommendation was a good one because we found the staff to be helpful and attentive.
The pair of shoes I was replacing were Altra Lone Peak 4s. They were the second pair I had worn on this hike, and I had been wearing them since I left Hiker Heaven. That was 470 miles ago, which isn’t horrible mileage for hiking shoes. It’s about what I got from the previous pair.
Still, the way they wore out was a little troublesome. In both pairs, the right side split in the upper of the right shoe. This opened a wide hole, which allowed water, dirt, and everything else on the trail to get in. The hole caused a hole to wear in my sock.
I was unsure if I wanted to stay with the Lone Peak model. When my first pair wore a hole, I thought it was caused by wearing microspikes. When the same hole appeared on the second pair, however, I began to think they weren't sturdy enough for the trail.
In the end, the decision was made for me when I learned the store didn’t have my size in stock.
The clerk suggested I try Altra Timps. This seemed like a good option. The fit was similar and they appeared to be a little more durable.
Although I was mostly satisfied with the Lone Peaks, I had started to feel some foot pain. Or I should say, I started to feel more foot pain than normal. Let’s face it, when you walk 15-20 miles day after day, your feet are going to hurt.
We considered options of insoles that might help with that. I had worn Superfeet Greens before, including the last half of the AT. Greens have a high arch, deep heel cup, and take up extra volume in the shoe. That didn’t seem like a good fit, if you will, this time. The clerk suggested I try this time a pair of Superfeet Blue insoles.
By the end of that long shopping session, Ralph and I were hungry and thirsty, so we walked down the street to Saddle Rock Brewery.
Then after a resupply run to an Albertson's grocery store, we headed to the nearby town of Cashmere.
Returning to Leavenworth would have put us a little closer to the trailhead, but that is a tourist town. We found the Village Inn in Cashmere to be clean and quiet, and was much more reasonably-priced than the Leavenworth motels, especially on a Saturday night.
If I were to write a list of the things I did today it wouldn’t be a long list. They were necessary things to do, but they took most of the day.
This is leading me to worry a little bit. Though it’s still only the middle of July, I fear I will need this time later as I try to finish before winter returns.
All I can do, however, is do my best and hope the weather holds out.