I’ve always been a tough cookie. As a kid, I always had scraped knees, some new bump or bruise from climbing trees or riding my bike or whatever. One of the toughest challenges for me on this journey is realizing when to rub some dirt on it and walk it off, and when to take things seriously and accept that I’m not invincible.

Time doesn’t heal all wounds.

I hate, with a fiery passion of seven hells, hearing the phrase, ‘well, you’re in your 40’s now.’ Like age itself is an illness. There are people much older than I rocking amazing physical feats every single day. However, I do recognize that old warrior wounds will come back to haunt me if I don’t pay attention to them.

Case in point, my recurring calf/tendonitis issues. I have gone through some serious PT over the years. So I must remember my stretching regimen while I am out here, otherwise I am hobbled the next day. Of course, I expected to be sore when I started out in Georgia. Where I failed was discerning what was ‘soreness’ and what was ‘something is wrong.’ I just assumed that my life on the trail consisted of me shuffling around for a good hour or so in the morning before the body warmed up. The hiker shuffle is real for most of us out here. What I was seeing on other hikers was stiffness, what I had going on was Pain with a capital ‘P’. I thought everything was going through what I was, especially people in my age group.

Then came the morning of almost TMI. Normally, bodily functions wake me up in the morning. I very ungracefully emerge from my tent – because seriously, who has figured out a way to get out of the tent in the morning smoothly? – and make my way to the privy or the woods to answer nature’s call. I imagine the sight is pretty amusing. But then one morning, it HURT. I could not make my calf and ankle move without extreme pain. I grabbed one of my trekking poles and used it as a cane. I lurched, there was no actual walking or even shuffling that this point, past the other tents as quickly as I could, because the body was now insisting I participate in our morning routine RIGHT NOW. Why was it that morning, when I had to go past every other hiker?!? Fortunately, I made it to the privy without a moment to spare and no major catastrophe. It literally took me almost shitting my pants to pause and think, ‘OK, this can’t be normal. Something is WRONG.’

My legs didn’t warm up that morning. I limped in pain a few miles where my husband, who was on his way to see me anyway, picked me up and we drove to see an amazing friend of mine who is also a massage therapist and had done work on my issue in the past. She got me on her table, and that’s where we discovered that sure, my calf was inflamed, but I had giant knots all up my hamstrings. Wait, what? My hamstring?? But my hamstrings didn’t even hurt, they were just a *little* tight. All this time I had been focusing on old injuries, and forgetting to assess the rest of me. She worked her magic. I took two days off. After I was back on trail a few days, I called her in tears. I had no idea that hiking didn’t have to hurt as much as it had. I had tried to muscle through it, to embrace the suck, to rub some dirt on it and walk it off, when all the while I was ignoring an ever-growing injury. Moral of this story? Stretching is your friend, but all your parts are connected, so make sure to stretch the ones that don’t hurt, too.

And then I fell.

I’ve fallen for every state so far. Wait, wrong preposition. I’ve fallen IN every state so far. The roots and rock trip me, or I slip in some mud. It’s pretty much par for the course. I was just healing up a fantastic abrasion on my leg from getting Meg caught in some low branches that horse collared me and threw me down. 15-yard penalty, Virginia! I want to relax and enjoy this journey, but it always seems like when I’m relaxed, I trip more. And that’s just what happened, on a beautiful day after several days of rain, just before Waynesboro, VA. The terrain wasn’t particularly treacherous or wet. I wasn’t exhausted from hiking all day. A stone just caught my foot and forward I went. Full face plant, had I been in water it would have been a spectacular belly flop. It happened in slow motion and really fast at the same time. My hands never moved, I didn’t even attempt to bring my poles forward to stop the fall. One moment I was vertical, the next I was horizontal, the wind completely knocked out of me. I have never been so thankful to be a busty gal, as that was probably all that saved my face or my head from a concussion.

My response was to push myself up, but all 30lbs of Meg made that tough, and both of my hands were singing from the impact. ‘This is where the coyotes will find me tonight I guess’, is the usual thought that goes through my head in these situations. When I was able to get upright, realizing that my right knee was banged up, too, I momentarily burst into tears, but then the mom in me kicked in, shut down the waterworks, and assessed the damage. Sure, I’d fallen before, but never like this. Ok, toe stubbed, right knee throbbing, left knee scraped, right hand really hurting, left forearm stinging, wind knocked out. Can you walk, girlfriend? Yes, I think so. Alright, let’s do that because tonight the coyotes are going to have to dine elsewhere.

I immediately called a few of my support circle and reached my best friend. ‘Don’t freak out, but I fell, and I just need you to talk to me for a while to make sure I don’t have a concussion.’ Fortunately, she is also a mom, and while I’m sure she completely freaked out on the inside, she went into mom mode and started talking me through it. She first insisted on some selfie pictures to see if I had any lumps or abrasions on my face and head. Smart thinking! Then I started hiking, only 5 easy graded miles to the next shelter and hopefully people. We chatted while I hiked, and after an hour when the adrenaline and shock started to wear off, I noticed that my breathing was labored. Something in my diaphragm didn’t feel happy, expectedly so. I promised her I would get to an urgent care the next day in Waynesboro, where I had already planned a zero.

Trust and believe, I’d rather be hiking.

I slept fitfully that night and woke up to spectacular bruising all over my chest and my knee was now a lovey purple. I am a person that does NOT bruise easy, so if there’s a bruise, you know I did something serious. I struggled to breathe on the small ascents to Waynesboro, but I was so very thankful that it was a shorter day. I was picked up, got cleaned up, and went straight to the nearest urgent care. Prognosis? One banged up body, one fractured rib, several more seriously bruised. The doctor gave me the ok to hike, on the condition that I let my pain level dictate my miles for a month. Again, I took two days off, and when I tell you it sucked when I first returned to trail, I mean it. Who knew you needed to breathe to hike, ya know? Returning to 8 mile days was humbling and frustrating. That was the real suck I was now required to embrace. After all I had just gotten my feet figured out, and wham! two steps back. But I begrudgingly followed doctor’s orders, fell behind all of my friends, and let my body heal. Moral of the story? If you think something is wrong, GET CHECKED. There’s no shame in an urgent care visit. If that’s what you need to do to get to Maine, so be it.

In the end, I am back to my normal hiking pace and miles, but this time hiking stronger than before. I am so grateful for this body that has carried me this far and I look forward to standing on top of Katahdin.

Back and better than ever!

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Comments 5

  • Sherry Rouse : Jun 8th

    I’m so impressed with your tenacity. You will make it, just take it easy, you’ll get there. I have figured out I’ll never be able to hike it all, I’m getting too old, and I’ve just been diagnosed with cancer. My husband and I have hiked 3/4 of the AT in Georgia, and a little in most of the states near us. I’m hoping we can do WVA soon and maybe complete one state. That’s my goal now (like it was back in the 90’s. And I love that picture of you on McAfee!

  • Kelli : Jun 8th

    I am a massage therapist, too.
    Just listen to your body and take your time.
    Check in with your feelings both physical and emotional several times daily( set a reminder ).
    You can do this.

  • Dottie Rust : Jun 9th

    Hey Dandelion! Finally caught you on The Trek…we met briefly on the MD AT, I was hiking with a group from

    Hope things are going well, no more of those surprise falls ok?!
    Dottie “.com” Rust

  • Johny : Jun 9th

    Thanks for sharing all and bringing up how important stretching is.
    In my seventies and walk as much as possible. The other thing I do is sit on my ass in front of this compu !
    I used to sleep on my side. But my hip started hurting–I blamed the mattress!
    Then one day went out for my daily walk. Except I could not walk. Pain in hip, buttocks, and leg. Could not even make it 100 feet.
    Did days of looking on the net for Sciatica? Did all the stretches and little or no relief.
    Then Eureka! I found the stretch for **Piriformis Syndrome**. Muscle not nerve but often confused. AKA Pseudo-Sciatica.
    Now sleeping on my back and doing stretches each day. Like a miracle, thanks to the correct stretch, I can walk again. I am grateful to no end.
    You are so right. You must pay attention to the bod and do your stretches and exercise — even when bored out of your mind doing them
    Thanks again. GREAT POSTING

  • Sarah : Jun 9th

    You really ARE a tough cookie. I love reading these blogs.


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