Day 138 – You’re Never Too Old To Jump In A Puddle

Unless you think you are, then you’ve already lost.

It was 6AM and people were stirring. Corndog and Sunshade were getting ready to head out for the day. It had just started to rain and they were getting started like they were gonna outrun it. I said, “I think the storm is starting and should end around 10/11ish.” They said, “Mind your own business jerk” (they didn’t say that). But they left just the same.

My body welcomed the additional sleep. Up at 10, and out of camp by 11 you might be surprised to hear there were still three souls fully asleep by the time I left. The rain had stopped and I felt smart (and dry).

I had popped some Ibuprofen and Tylenol as I left, but they had not kicked in when I needed them less than 60 seconds later. There was a fairly substantial stream that I had to cross, and my Tinman knees were barely up to the task of skipping across rocks this early in the morning. They groaned in the act (not fully oiled yet), but I did make it across the stream with my shoes no more wet than how they ended the previous day.

Now I haven’t gone into detail much about my past medical history. In all honesty, it’s not that exciting. Outside of three broken bones (pinky finger, metatarsal, tiniest of tibia cracks), all sports related, there’s not much else to tell. The worst was probably getting my tonsils out at age 30, not fun.

But I’ve also had three knee surgeries. ACL repair on the right, a year later a meniscus repair on the left, and a decade later a scope of my right knee because the MRI findings said I tore my ACL again. Imaging would also say I have bulging lumbar discs, and femoral acetabular impingement.

Regardless the findings were wrong, my ACL wasn’t torn, but I did have some early cartilage damage (Grade III chondromalacia) that is fairly advanced for a person my age. What does all that mean? Other than the fact, I’m in line for a knee replacement at some point in my elderly years, not much. I do what I want (clearly) and it doesn’t limit me in any fashion whatsoever (clearly). Radiology findings on X-ray and MRI are not always the alpha and omega we make them out to be, but I’ll get back to that.

I’m going to get on a soapbox, so if you’re looking for hiking content, skip the next couple paragraphs. Many people can and do find excuses to limit themselves. I’ve heard countless times, from people who hear  we are thru-hiking the AT, “Oh I could never do that.” Well not with that attitude. People can and do whatever they set their minds to all the time. You just don’t WANT to do it (which is fine also, hike your own hike. Or don’t, IDC).

But far too often I hear from patients “I have bad knees,” or “I have a bad back,” or my personal favorite, “I have bulging discs.” I tell patients all the time, “If we took an MRI of everyone in this building, you’d see bulging discs all over the place, but rarely are they a source of pain or disability.” I’m not belittling true injuries here either.

I’m going to sound like your old high school football coach here but, there’s a difference between an injury and being hurt. The later is an excuse. People expect to go through life with zero pain. Guess what, life is pain. Zero pain is unrealistic.

We’ve all heard the term “no pain, no gain,” and while not an absolute truth, it’s also not an untruth. Growth happens between what is comfortable and what is uncomfortable. An excuse solidifies you in that comfort zone where growth stagnates or worse, deterioration happens.

There’s a stat I love (only partly because it proves the point im making) that >90% of low back pain is non-specific (ie: the cause is unexplained) but most cases go on to self resolve without intervention in under 30 days. The long winded point I’m making is that we use excuses as a boogeyman to remain inactive or avoid responsibilities. I have bad knees, bulging discs, and I started in Georgia with an active achilles issue. But I’m out here hiking and experiencing minimal ill effects. It would be easy to use any of those as an excuse. It’s time we stop making excuses and start living. End rant.

By the time I reached the top of Kinsman I was socked in by clouds and it had started raining again. Luckily I had long abandoned any hope of remaining dry on this day. The bog I had to cross halfway up the mountain made sure of that. I sunk one foot shin deep in water and the other foot did not escape dry either. This gave me the freedom to splash from puddle to puddle the rest of the day.

I experienced more hand-over-hand rock scrambles on this day. For most of it I had my trek poles collapsed and packed away. The hike down was not as bad as I had expected it to be. The rock faces were steep and most were mini rivers from the active rain, but the rock surface provided enough traction to get down safely.

I made it to the Lonesome Lake Hut, the first hut in the whites headed northbound. The rain had stopped but I went in to hopefully score some free food leftover’s and get the down low on the huts in the whites. The DL is that the huts allow a couple hikers per day to do “work for stay” which earns you free lodging (sleeping on the floor) and leftovers from dinner and breakfast after the paying customers have had their fill.

I was invited to do work for stay at this hut but I had plans to hike 3 more miles and stay at a hostel. The hut did have a great vibe however, totally affordable art work, and a prime proximity to a picturesque lake. I made the tough decision to push on and head into town.

I got a ride into Lincoln to stay at The Notch Hostel. En route I got a food resupply to get me through the whites. I arrived at the hostel to find a large portion of our bubble staying there. Neo, Hot Feet, Corndog, Toto and Sunshade were all there already. There were no rooms available but they allowed me to tent in the backyard. I made a frozen pizza to go along with my pineapple, kiwi, and orange soda from the grocery store (some might mistake me for pregnant, given my food combinations).

We settled around a projector to watch Terminator 2 before turning in for the night. I made a dog friend who gladly ate my pizza bones (crust) but our selfie sadly turned out a little blurry. Overall it was a good day. Miles in the whites are tough sledding, complicated by unpredictable weather, sparse shelter options, and steep terrain. But the views when weather cooperates are unmatched. The rest of the week is supposed to be good weather so fingers crossed that holds true.

Stow away in my pack for day 139 on the Appalachian Trail

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Comments 8

  • Steve : Aug 31st


  • Lisa Long : Aug 31st

    I love your rant about life’s aches and pains….. it’s life, suck it up, move on and live all you have to live

  • AmaSue : Sep 1st

    So proud of ya kid, love your posts and the great attitude you have on your adventure! I look forward to reading your blog and following along with your walk, have an awesome day!

  • Russ Hobgood : Sep 1st

    Hey Derek. You are spot on about the joint injuries ( of course, you are a Doctor). I am coming up on 74 next week and the pain is dealt with as you prescribe. Tylenol and Advil, in travel size containers. Rotator cuff and reattached bicep last year. Fell near Wolf shelter south of Rockfish Gap. Right knee replaced last March, lifetime wear & tear. Left knee soon. I keep hiking.

    I look forward to your commentary daily as it reminds me of many trails hiked and peaks bagged.

    Take care, trek on

  • CB : Sep 1st

    Like I’ve said, I like the comments you elicit. The pictures remain excelente! I do wish the Labrador had been clear. I see a movie! Not from a projector, though.

  • CB : Sep 1st

    OK, I’m back. I just re-read a previous post (Everything Happens For A Reason) and I’ll first say that I’ve been meaning to tell you that I like your post’ titles. That’s not why I’m back, though. It occurred to me that I might have always misinterpreted that expression. ‘Everything happens for a reason.’ I’ve always thought that meant that a reason preceded everything that happened. For some reason, though, when I read it this time I wondered if it meant that everything that happened caused a situation that gave that thing a reason for happening. Now I’m wondering if it’s not a situation where I’m wondering if I see all the same colors as you, but I just have different names for them! No, I have not burned one!

  • Marty Smith : Sep 2nd

    This “Day 137” update is by far your best yet!

  • Jerico : Sep 2nd

    I have been enjoying all of your posts, but can relate and agree the most with this one. One of my favorite quotes: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” Henry Ford


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