A walk through the wet wet woods!

This is getting a bit thick, even for the Redwood forest of Northern California!
This is getting a bit thick, even for the Redwood forest of Northern California!

If you ever have a day like the photograph to the right, than you know what my day has been like!

Here in the Redwoods it is either nice and sunny, wet, or it is really really wet.

Today, it was really really really wet – and I had already decided I was going to go for a hike, so no amount of rain was going to stop me!

This was the first hike of any distance since I injured my knee on June 26, 2012 that brought my 2012 hiking season to a complete stop, and threatened to bring my 2013 hiking season to an end as well. I finally got cleared to go back hiking, but was told to take it easy, so I decided to go right back to the trail that caused my knee injury eight months ago.

It was not an easy decision to head back to this same trail. As most of my readers probably know, so much of hiking is a mental challenge. When we first get into backpacking we go out and buy the most bombproof shelter we can find, usually weighing in at 4 or 5 pounds, and we carry at least two or three more sets of clothing than we would ever need on-trail. Eventually, if you stick with it long enough, you get over those mental issues that tell you that you can never ever ever have even a single drop of water get into your shelter, and that you really do not need four changes of clothing. After all, if triple-crowner Speedstick can hike almost half of the CDT in a single pair of socks, I think the average hiker can get away with the same. But, in the end the vast majority of thru-hiking, once you hit the trail, is all in your mind.

It was that same mind-set that I went out today and hiked some serious miles for the first time since my injury. I can be honest with myself and my readers and say that I stopped hiking more than once and almost turned around. But there was that something inside, that drive to keep going that long distance hikers know and understand, that just says “no!!!!”.

A few times the weather was clear enough for me to get some nice photos, here are some of them:

IMG_0137
This was a beautiful section of the trail!
This is what the trail looked like on my way in.
This is what the trail looked like on my way in.
This was in a nearby section on the way out.
This was in a nearby section on the way out.

 

After years of hiking through this type of wet muddy trails I have learned that there is really no way to keep your feet dry. It just is not going to happen.

So my approach to dealing with this yuck and to wear your normal trail shoes (Inov-8 Trailroc 245 are my shoe of choice these days) and a pair of very light socks (Wigwam Cool-Lite Mid Hiker Pro) and a pair of 2 mm neoprene NRS Wetsocks. As I have written about before, the neoprene socks have nothing at all to do with keeping my feet dry (that is impossible) but rather to create a microclimate to help keep my feet warm – I hiked for hours with wet feet and my feet were not cold once, even though the rest of my body got cold a number of times. I also apply a bit of Gurney Goo to my feet before I put my socks on.

I spent the night once near here in a bridge hammock. Awesome location!
I spent the night once near here in a bridge hammock. Awesome location!
This fallen tree covered in moss was almost fluorescent green!
This fallen tree covered in moss was almost fluorescent green!
This was a neat ring of moss around the base of a tree.
This was a neat ring of moss around the base of a tree.
Thank you to the tree for a perfect spot to hang my backpack!
Thank you to the tree for a perfect spot to hang my backpack!

 

The trail that I was hiking has one of, if not the, highest waterfall in the entire North Western part of California. I stopped here for lunch and shot some video and took some photos.

A waterfall  among the Redwood trees!
A waterfall among the Redwood trees!

 

It was amazing to get back out onto the trail for the first time in eight months. I called it quits before I had planned too, but I also pushed on a number of times when I thought I was going to quit. The road to recovery is never easy. Thankfully I live in a place as amazing as the Redwoods – and that always helps me getting back out onto the trail.

This was too neat to not talk a picture of.
This was too neat to not talk a picture of.

+John Abela

16 thoughts on “A walk through the wet wet woods!

    1. Well it is certainly less expensive than what Hydropel was, when it was still being manufactured.

      At this point in time Gurney Goo is the only product I have found that meets my personal needs/demands of wet feet conditions that I encounter, so I have stuck with it.

      1. Have you looked at Lanacane Anti-chafe gel? I have never used Hydropel, but in my research, it was the only readily available product that had the same ingredients (silicone and cornstarch basically) without other fillers. It goes on dry and works well for thigh chafe. I haven’t tried it on my feet or specifically for wetness.

        1. @Spelt, nope that is a new one for me. Let’s face it, there are soooo many of these type of gels that a person could never try them all. I specifically have to focus in on the ones that provide water barrier protection more than chafing protection.

      2. I understand. I have been using the Body Glide Liquid Powder in replacement of Hydropel. I know you tried that out in the past. I am lucky that my normal hikes are not wet and don’t require much of that type of protection (so a little goes a long way with me). I am glad your knee is doing better and you are getting back out again.

  1. Amazing country! I’m very envious – hiking (or bushwalking as we call it) in Australia generally consists of rockhopping and stepping over tree roots. Your open trails where you an actually ‘walk’ look divine. And no scrub-bashing (regrowth after bushfires is especially dense)!

  2. John,

    Great post and photos and glad to hear you are back on the trail. Day hikes in the rain are one of my favortie activities and a nice rain shower can make me head outdoors even when no hike was planned.

    It is hard being sidelined with medical problems when one wants to be outdoors. I have been dealing with a heart problem the last 3 months and have no been out hiking at all. Typically I have 3 free days each week for small day hikes so it is hard to just stay home now. I am scheduled for a procedure today actually that may get my heart beat close enough to normal to get me back on the trail by Spring.

    Good to see you posting again and I look forward to more of your videos.

  3. Glad you made it back on the trail finally. Sorry your recon trip for us did you in! We’re gearing up for another road trip but will only get as far west as Yosemite this time.

    I’d never heard of Gurney Goo as being a superior replacement for Hydropel. I did know BG Liq Powder was a cheaper replacement. Will check it out as we’ll be doing Zion Narrows.

    1. Hey Michael,

      No worries sir. It was a beautiful trail and up until the injury, one of the most beautiful hikes I have every been on. I try to remember the good parts of that hike.

      Pretty much nobody in the USA talks about Gurney Goo, because almost nobody uses it. I am probably the only long distance hiker that uses it. A bunch of kayakers use the stuff, but never seen anybody else in the USA talk about it.

      I am sure not going to sit here and say it is the best viable alternative to Hydropel, because it seems that the vast majority of hikers used that stuff for way different reasons that I did. For me though, it is all about protecting my feet from the wet trails that I encounter up here. So far, Gurney Goo is doing a good enough job for me to not go back to one of the other products I have tried.

      My only problem with it, is that it is crazy hard to get off your hands after applying it. Which, could be good or bad depending on whether or not it is raining really bad and if you forgot your rain mitts ;)

  4. John,

    How about an article on what rain gear you used on this trek and how it worked for you and if changes are needed to come up with a better system.

    1. Hello Tony,

      I have already written a great deal about my wet season clothing systems, so I will just quickly recap:

      Core body: ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket
      Lower body: ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Pants
      Hands: Mountain Laurel Designs eVENT Rain Mitts
      Feet: NRS Wetsocks

      Could changes be made to this to make it “better”? Well sure. But what is the weight penalty, and financial cost, of “better” these days?

      For the top/bottom: Is Cuben Tech WP/B CF the “best” out there? Heck no. eVENT and Gortex still rule. But a viable alternative to the jacket would be twice as much weight, and a third to half more in costs.

      For the hands: Going to be hard to find something as light and breathable as the MLD eVENT gloves.

      For the feet: Going to be hard to find something as light and thin (2mm) as the NRS Wetsocks. Plastic bags from the local store always work, are cheaper, and lighter.

    1. Interestingly good question Yeti… had to sit and ponder on that before I answered it.

      I cannot remember a time when the NRS wetsocks have bunched up on me. They tend to be pretty tight inside of my shoes.

      I do try to stop on an hourly basis when walking through really wet stuff and take all my socks off for 5 or so minutes. Seems like a good thing to get some fresh air on them, swap out my inner socks of they are really cold, and reapply any additional foot ointment as needed.

      Since I posted this article, 8 months ago, I have made the switch over to sandals, so going to be interesting to see how I approach this issue from that perspective…

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