Down, but Certainly NOT Out.
“Change of Plans”
Out here, it seems that his phrase is a staple. Whether it be from an unexpected weather shift or the findings of an amazing campsite (even though it’s only midday). These factors can change our short term goals at the flick of a switch.
I’ve come to accept these daily changes as just part of trail life. But what about a more significant change? A change that starts to crowd out and threaten your dream? What about the goal of reaching Katahdin?
Getting Back to the Woods
At the end of March, I got back on trail after a short break. I was serving my bridesmaid duties for a dear friend. It was a blast seeing some friends back in Indiana, but I was ready to get back out to the quiet of the woods. Ready to get in the swing of things, reconnect with my hiker friends, and hit those upcoming AT milestones. But one night, my knee swelled and the accompanied sharp pain encompassed my kneecap; preventing any type of bending.
I faced my ultimate fear of not being able to hike. I balled inside my tent that first night. It’s the most debilitating feeling… where you know you’re mentally and physically (fitness wise) sound and determined to complete this, but this one nagging problem is preventing a move. Frustration was at an all time high as the pain didn’t even allow me to walk on smooth surfaces. I was shooting for a wobbling penguin, but I’m not quite sure I even achieved that level.
Stuck at mile 655, at the Captain’s house (not a bad place to be stuck though!) for 5 days because of the pain. Eventually got a hitch into Pearisburg, VA and one big steroid shot in the knee joint later… I began my 3 weeks of hiking single digit mileage for a couple days, with the needed four zero days to recuperate the knee after making minuscule progress. Made it to around Glasgow, VA before making the hard decision to get off trail and travel back to the midwest.
So yes. I’m back home currently. Taking the needed time on the sidelines to recuperate the knee (and taking advantage of the plethora available ice-cream… no shame). I could’ve stayed in a nearby trail town, but that would get expensive. Fast. Besides, I would go crazy being so close to the trail and not able to step foot on it.
The days leading up to my ride back home, I was a mess. But a soft, reassuring voice simply stated, “you’re still not getting it.” When my thoughts of “I’m falling even more behind my trail family, I need to get miles in,” yada yada.. raged war inside my head, this direct voice sliced through the air and quenched my worrying. I realized my hike thus far has been dictated by celebrating (maybe a little too much) those big mile days. I found my worth from accomplishing those long days. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been having a blast out here. The AT has been beautiful, challenging, and it’s change landscape is breathtaking.
I have absolutely NO intention of NOT going back to the trail. I have something to finish, to experience, and I want to live on the Appalachian Trail. This second chance (if everything works out from a diagnosis; keep ya’ll posted) will be a different journey. One, which will be driven by the people I encounter and the reflection and lessons the AT is oh-so-good at teaching, just a willing and inclined ear required.
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