My teen daughter, Reiley, and I hiked Mt. Baldy yesterday. For the uninitiated, it’s a relatively short trek (6.4 miles round trip) from the
Mt. Baldy Ski Resort, but steep – beginning and ending on poorly marked trails over slippery gravel. Consequently, much of our own hiking conversation, as well as our exchanges with other hikers, consisted of deliberations on just when would it end, and tallying slips and falls.
That changed when we reached the top. There it was all about socks.
The Mt. Baldy summit consists of a large gravel mound pock-marked by wind breaks constructed from rock. It’s not unusual to find virtually all of those who reach the peak huddled behind these stone structures to avoid the customary high, cold winds. I’m happy to report that, yesterday, it was cold, but far less windy than usual on top. Hikers swarmed around the windbreaks appeared less interested in avoiding the wind than the sun while they enjoyed summit munchies and conversation.
One large group was particularly chatty, and loud. It included a woman whose voice featured an annoyingly authoritative tone and carried as if by intention. Her afternoon discourse was on the necessity of “changing” one’s hiking socks at mid-day, which she explained referred to the practice of switching socks from one foot to the other at mountain top before heading back down. Our hiking sock expert supported her instructions by reference to a sales associated at REI.
“Huh?” I thought. In all of my years hiking, not to mention many, many conversations with my sister, Terri, who works at REI, I have never heard such a thing. Of course, in addition to wearing sock liners, changing socks everyday during a multi-day hike can help prevent blisters. Similarly, carrying extra socks to change into in if your feet are likely to get wet – either due to weather conditions or sweat – is prudent.
Reiley interrupted my musings to ask if I’d ever heard of “that,” nodding to “sock lady” for emphasis. “No,” I said, looking over my shoulder at the woman and her hiking companions. Yep, every one of them was taking off his/her boots and socks, apparently with the intention to swap socks from one foot to the other.
Even funnier, as we crossed the summit to head back down, I noticed other hikers crouched in shelters nearby the sock lady’s group were also changing their socks! “Look!” I whispered to Reiley.
Later, I did a little research on hiking sock protocol. There is a lot of information on sock selection out there, followed by a good deal of advice on how to avoid blisters and other hiking-related debilities, but not a word about the utility of swapping socks from one foot to the other.
Routes to the top: http://www.simpsoncity.com/hiking/baldy.html
On the value of clean, dry socks: http://www.walkingandhiking.co.uk/how-avoid-blisters-when-hiking.html
100 things you may not know about walking, hiking, running: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0NAH/is_4_34/ai_114783538/