Healing is Hard: Injuries and Setbacks on Trail

I sat precariously on a rock adjacent to a perfect foot-soaking pool formed in the river running through Standing Bear Farm.

My aching ankle always felt better following a cold soak in a nearby river. But the brief moment before submerging in bone-chilling water always hurts. Often, it hurts more than the water itself.

Being forced off-trail with an injury is heartbreaking, and all you can do is hope you’ll be back again soon. It feels like a frustrating imbalance of 95% of your being ready to hike, while the other 5% renders the former incapacitated.

However, what I’ve learned in my days of rest and reflection is that most things in life happen that way. Things make us stumble when we don’t expect it, but it’s often the thought of that pain that hurts the most.

The thought of no longer hiking the trail was worse than the pain from the injury itself, and I think healing (both on-trail and off) is much harder than we give ourselves credit for.

We have to make difficult decisions, or difficult decisions are made for us. But no one tells you how to get through what those decisions can bring. So, we tough it out. We freeze when we want to fight, or we fight an invisible enemy to no gain. What’s done is done, what’s broken remains.

I think the saving grace to that fact is what sets us apart most as people and thru-hikers: the strength to persevere and keep trekking on. Sometimes the world even offers a bit of luck and serendipity to aid our healing. Other times can be startlingly isolating.

You can’t change the fact that your injury, or any other form of pain, happened. What you can change is what you do from here. Take care of yourself, or push on too soon. Be willing to ask for help, or brave it alone. The choice is yours.

No matter how you heal, all pain is temporary and we will find our way from here.

If the trail provides, then nature heals, and I’ll find my wounds being mended with each passing mile. After I get this ankle looking good — of course.

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Comments 1

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    DB : Apr 21st

    Steph, looks like you’ve got a lot on your plate right now. I’ve been reading your posts and admire your grit. I’m an old guy with a hiker’s heart and the bruises and sprains to go along with it. I want to encourage you to persevere. You will come out the other side of all the things you’re dealing with in fine fashion. I look forward to keeping up with your progress. Keep moving forward. You’ll make it.

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