Just imagine it: An azure sky. A peaceful, crystal-clear alpine lake. And you, sitting by that lake, feeling the power and powerlessness that comes from being self-sufficient in a wide-open world that could care less about your number of Twitter followers.
Then, to this scene, add black flies. No problem: You brought bug repellant. Now add 20 tent sites, one of which is occupied by a group who brought a battery-powered satellite radio capable of picking up the Red Sox game. No problem: You'll focus on the sound of your whispering camp stove. Then, add a salt-starved marmot who makes off with your watch in the night. No problem: The thought of said marmot forever waking up with your alarm at 5:45 a.m. offsets the loss.
But the final straw is your feet. You hiked 9 miles (14.5 kilometers) with a 65-pound (29.5-kilogram) pack on your back to reach this idyllic spot, and you have no choice but to hike that same 9 miles out. Unfortunately, your heels are riddled with blisters. And it's amazing how much misery those little blisters can bring. You could handle the bugs, the loud neighbors, the thieving fauna. But this -- the blisters -- has truly tarnished your backpacking ideal.
What should you have done to protect your feet on the hike in?