An Appalachian Interlude
Confessions on how I’m a total liar:
So! You all remembered how I said I was going to keep hiking with my shoulder and all, right?
That was a lie.
Sorry! I didn’t mean to.
I got up the next morning, got my pack on, which took a while, stood up, and took a stroll around the hotel room to test it out. The results: a big old hell no. Those were some of the more painful five minutes of my life. The ache started immediately, and quickly built to a scream. So, the pack came off, and I sat down on the edge of the bed to have a good long think about my priorities and whether hiking in pain was a good way to hike and maybe also to cry just a little bit. I’m not ashamed of it. This is one of the biggest, most fulfilling endeavors I’ve undertaken in my entire life, and the idea of letting it go, even for a few weeks, was deeply saddening to me. I felt like a few moments of careless hiking had really cost me a lot: my morale was in the basement and I was so afraid that this might be the end.
However, panic mode is no way to make decisions, so I dried up the waterworks, took a few deep breaths and some ibuprofen, and had a nice grownup think. Tendinitus, if that’s really what’s wrong with me, is not the end of the world. Yes, it sucks, but it’s not my feet and it’s not going to take months of rehab to get over. If you read my last post, then you know I had already decided that in case of emergency I could take a bus home and take it easy for a couple of weeks, let my shoulder heal well, and then skip ahead to my trail family to finish the hike. And that way, after I finish Katahdin I can come back south and sobo the portion of VA that I missed, and as a special bonus maybe overshoot the mark and hike the Grayson Highlands again into Damascus. Have I mentioned that the Highlands were beautiful and my favorite part of the trail so far and that Virginia is amazing? I feel like I may have mentioned it. Maybe once. Or twice. Okay, this scheme is still acceptable to me, and while I had hoped not to have to do it, this morning had proven to me that Plan B should definitely be Plan A.
This train of thought, and the discovery that I could not, in fact, tie the laces of my trail runners by myself, or put my hair in a ponytail on my own, sealed the deal. I called my parents, said, “I’m coming home for a bit,” and bought a bus ticket.
*In an aside, for hikers heading into Marion, I suggest the Travel Inn for big groups. The staff is super friendly and accommodating, and if you have a group of four their rate was the best. For a single or a double, they are roughly the same as the Econolodge or America’s Best Value Inn, but I found the family that runs the Travel Inn to be more welcoming.
On last minute friendships:
So, I bought the ticket at 9:00 in the morning, and the bus didn’t leave until 11:00 at night. I had some time on my hands. Atman and I had some solid time to chill (his dad came down and hiked into Marion with him, so I got to meet him as well) and I met a group of hikers staying at the Econolodge across the way, the Beard Brothers (that’s Big Beard and Little Beard, fraternal twins, although their beards are starting to even out now), Shatterproof, The Girl, Gulliver, Trucker, Trek, Stryder (I met Trek and Stryder before at Woodchuck’s in Damascus), and The Councilor. Solid group of hikers. The Councilor and I got some excellent banter in during the day. Atman, Viking, and I ran into a woman (trail name Ilsa) I haven’t met before and had fun talking with her over margaritas at Mi Puerto, and then he and I tried to take a nap in the afternoon but ended up just playing word games together. I am a bad napper. After I sabotaged nap-time with Letterpress (check it out if you own a smartphone and like word games, it’s a good one) we got some Subway for dinner, and hung out with the Beard Brothers and The Councilor until it was time for me to collect my pack and head out. I had known Atman the longest of this group, and am going to miss him, he’s a good friend. Hopefully when I come back we’ll be in roughly the same area of trail.
I was walking to the bus stop when I heard someone yelling behind me. I turned around and The Councilor caught up to me to walk with me to the bus stop. When we got there it was seriously a little sketchy, just a couple plastic chairs on the edge of a dark parking lot. No one else was there, and he insisted on staying with me until the bus came, which was a pretty nice gesture on his part.
…It turned out to be a lot nicer than he was expecting, too, since the bus didn’t get there until 2:30 in the morning, three and a half hours after it was supposed to. Oh, Greyhound. We had a nice time, comparing guilty pleasure music, telling jokes and stories, and I was glad he was there because it would have been a lonely, depressing wait without the good company. He was also witness to the moment when I was walking around the side of the auto parts store looking for an outlet to plug my phone into, and he mentioned that it was too bad I didn’t have a battery pack I could use, and I was sort of like this:
Because of course I have one and I’m just an idiot at 1:00 in the morning. So yes, in the eleventh hour, right before stepping on the bus, I got a new friend who has now seen me at my very stupidest and you know that is a recipe for success right there.
A note on riding for 19 hours on a Greyhound bus with a shoulder that feels like it has a knife sticking out of it:
…It basically sucks. Would not recommend. Also I lost my Fitbit somewhere between Pittsburgh and my hometown and damn it. How am I supposed to win all the challenges now?
On coming home:
Yeah…it was nice. I love my family, and I’m always so happy to see them, even if it was not under the circumstances I had thought I would see them in next. It is weird, absolutely weird, wearing different clothes every day, wearing jeans and cotton t-shirts instead of wool and synthetic hiking clothes, wearing pajamas to bed, and having a shower whenever I want it, and all the conveniences of modern life at my finger tips. I watch TV. I eat real food. The reunion with my dog was seriously the best thing because Noah was so excited to see me and that made me fall in love with him all over again (dogs are the best). I sleep in a recliner because it still hurts too much to lie down. And every night when I sleep, I dream about hiking. My dreams are full of trees and mountains and struggle, and populated with the people I’ve met along the trail. Every day, my shoulder gets a tiny bit better, and this morning I went to the orthopedist here in town and she x-rayed me again, told me that all my bones were in the right spot, gave me a cortisone shot to clear up the calcification (Holy cow that needle though. I was thinking, “why is she hiding the needle from me?” And then after the injection I saw it and it was about two and a half inches long), and told me with light stretching and rest I should be good to go in one to two weeks.
…here’s hoping it’s closer to one.
So, I’m on the bench, but seriously, put me in coach. I’ll stay busy, working on artwork and catching up on everything I’ve missed, but you know in the back of my mind, I’m thinking of you, Appalachian Trail. I’m thinking of you.
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