Georgia, You Went Beyond Our Hopes and Fears
It’s been almost three weeks since Conner and I started our journey from Springer Mountain, and the amount of lessons learned, sights beheld, friendships formed, and memories made have been nothing short of incredible. Now we’re in Franklin, N.C., having tackled the first 100 miles, and anticipating the weather and climbs we’ll be facing in the Smokies.
The first few days of our hike were filled with rain, chilly nights, and fatigue from failing to eat enough calories to sustain this new lifestyle. Getting used to putting on cold, wet socks every morning, pitching our tent in the rain, and snuggling up with strangers in the shelters right off the bat was crazy, but the gratitude we’ve felt for every dry day since has been so worth it.
Some mornings, we leave camp just before the sun comes up and watch the sunrise through the bare tree branches that cover the mountain ridges. Occasionally we pass through patches of lively rhododendrons. Their green leaves block us from the cold wind, and small buds remind us that spring is on its way.
Other mornings, we savor every moment wrapped up in our sleeping bags, avoiding the elements for as long as we can. Eventually we’re coaxed out by the cheapest coffee enjoyed in settings that go beyond even the best coffee commercials, and conversations with our trail tribe comparing today’s worst blisters and last night’s loudest snorers.
With injuries being one of the primary reasons for people quitting their thru-hikes, having a recovery routine at the end of each day has been one of our top priorities. We stretch, do yoga, massage our feet and legs with trigger point balls or trekking poles, use toe spreaders, do toe and arch exercises, and are wearing the same barefoot shoes that we’ve been wearing for years in hopes to cut down the chances of hurting ourselves.
That being said, shit happens.
Just over a week into our hike, Conner and I were descending Powell Mountain into Moreland Gap when we came across a particularly steep and muddy corner of a switchback. Despite the snow earlier that morning, a majority of the trail had consisted of mud that day, and I had gotten too comfortable in my avoidance maneuvers.
I lined up my poles and feet to step over it, but my heel still caught the mud in that first step, and I’d almost slid off the trail entirely before my other leg found solid ground to stabilize me.
The pain was instant, but the swelling came gradually throughout the two miles we had to get to town.
The next morning we went to a doctor in Hiawassee who told us that I had torn my lateral meniscus. Thankfully, she said my trekking poles and overall physical condition likely saved me from requiring surgery at this point, but we still ended up having to take five days off trail to let the swelling in my leg to go down. When we hit the trail again, it was with a fancy new knee brace, and a much slower hiking pace.
Going from standing on new summits each day to being unable to simply walk to the grocery store with my tramily for a resupply was harder to cope with than any of the bad weather or hard climbs we have had up to this point. As with every other placeholder on the suck spectrum though, there are lessons we’ve learned through this situation, and brighter days to work toward.
We’re grateful to still be on the trail, enjoying all the breathing room in our new slower stride, and ready to see what the next 2,080 miles has in store for us.
Until next time,
Beamer and Nugget
We’re walking for water.
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