International Appalachian Trail Family

ECT Day 189&190

IAT Day 20&21 

Day 189: 24 miles

This morning I woke up around 5am and then rolled over for a few more minutes. Then we all began to pack up and get ready to head out. It was cold out when we began walking so I was happy that we slept indoors last night. The refuge was such an incredible place to camp! That’s the most luxurious shelter that I’ve ever stayed at. And unlike the AT it doesn’t have to have a caretaker or someone watching over it at all time.

Views from the porch of the refuge that we camped at last night.

We were walking by 6pm and had a steep descent to start. The climbs and descents that we’ve been doing so far in Quebec have been rugged and steep. From there the trail followed along a river for miles. We crossed over about 6 bridges and walked along the trail which was right on the edge of the river.

The river that we followed along for miles.

For the first 10 or so miles of the day I was feeling really good. We wound up walking from about 6am until 11am before taking our first break. The knee pain that I had been feeling yesterday had seemed to subside entirely today which was great. I got little inklings of it here and there but it seemed like the KT tape was keeping it at bay.

An SIA marker painted on a tree.

We took our first break of the day at a refuge which was fully enclosed. I think I actually nailed this resupply for the first time ever. By the time that I get to town I’ll be totally out of food. Another extra bar or two and it would have been truly perfect.

The refuge that we stopped at to eat lunch.

After sitting for a while we continued along. The terrain today has definitely been slowing us down. Once we got back to actual trail walking here in Quebec the elevation picked back up. There were a bunch of climbs yesterday and today. Some of the grading had been unbelievably steep too. Arguably steeper than anything that we did on the AT. On the AT the trail would have turned into a rock scramble using your hands long before it would have gotten so steep. On the IAT the trail is just truly the steepest possible grade that a person is capable of even walking up. It was pretty funny in some stretches just how steep it was. Plus it went on for miles.

A wood carving of a man? This was out in the middle of the woods.

At one point during the day we did a super steep and long climb. It probably went on for a couple miles but felt never ending because you never got a break. And by the time that I was getting up to the top my left knee was really hurting. Whatever I had irritated yesterday had flared back up. Even once the grade leveled out and calmed down a bit my knee was still really hurting. Practically every step hurt.

The last few miles of the day were super slow going for me. Even when we reconnected back to a road I was still hurting. Whatever I had bothered in my knee was just not calming back down. Even the KT tape wasn’t helping me anymore.

Sparkles and Trucker walking down the dirt road into town.

We got into town around 6:45pm and headed over to a small store. I was able to do a light resupply there and grab some drinks for tonight and tomorrow. Then we went downstairs to the restaurant to see about grabbing a bite. The place was just about to close so we were only able to get poutine. But we got a massive spread and it was delicious. Sparkle and I devoured a family sized plate just the two of us. It was truly an impressive endeavor.

The family sized poutine that Sparkles and I split for dinner.

Then we walked over the camping area near by to set up for the night. There was a fully enclosed shelter there but we had seen a couple other hikers. They were already occupying it so we just set up our tents outside. There was a large grassy pasture. Once my tent was set up I got right inside to stretch and rest. My knee was absolutely killing me. It had me pretty worried about what tomorrow is going to have in store. I don’t want to take time off right now. The timing truly could not be worse. But I’m not sure what I’ll do if it doesn’t get better.

Day 190: 28 miles

This morning we broke down camp and were walking by 6am. It was about 10 miles by road to get to a small town with a grocery store. That’s where we planned to resupply next.

Almost immediately when we started walking I could already feel my knee flaring up again. My hope was that I could keep the pain at bay at least for most of the morning. Having it flare up right away definitely made me start to grow concerned. It’s a really intense sensation that grows and builds up similar to IT band pain. But rather than being outer knee pain it’s inner knee pain. Something I’ve experienced once before but never on a thru hike. And in the past all I had to do to get rid of the pain was put on KT tape. But I think it’s just way too flared up now to come back down.

Crossing a cute bridge first thing in the morning.

I managed to find a way to walk without hurting my knee too badly. But I could feel my gait changing to accommodate to the discomfort. Once you start walking different then other issues tend to arise as well. When I was squeezing through my glutes a lot I could eliminate a bit of the pain. But doing the stretching that I usually do for my IT bands isn’t touching this pain at all. I’m not sure what I’ll do.

The beautiful river that we crossed over.

About 5 miles into the day we stopped off so that I could try a different KT tape technique. It felt a little better but was hard to tell. Resting makes the pain go down a lot. But then it flares right back up when I get going again. The 10 miles to town really dragged by. I normally would have loved a 10 mile road walk. Especially going from one town to another. But even the flat road walking was uncomfortable. It’s really starting to get to me. I haven’t had any major pains like this on the whole trail. This is the first time that I’ve even considered taking a day or two off for pain on this whole trek.

When we got to the gas station all of us grabbed some drinks. Then walked down the road to the grocery store. I got enough resupply for a day or so. Just to make it to the next town tomorrow. I’ve been trying to resupply just on items that excite me. Like a baguette, butter, and elephant ear cookies. I also got a couple slices of pizza to eat before we got back to walking.

The massive baguette that I packed out.

I didn’t realize that the pizza here puts the toppings under the cheese. So I thought I got two slices of cheese pizza but I actually got two loaded meat slices. They were delicious but incredibly filling. I stuffed my face out on the curb before we continued on.

From there we would continue walking the road to the next small town. There was a store there and apparently an IAT shelter that we could stay at or camp by. I was able to walk without any sharp pain for that whole next stretch. But my knee, hip, and butt are all so sore. I’m knotted up from overcompensating. I would have been sore regardless from the intense elevation gain that we have been doing the last couple of days. Being so flared up in my knee and walking weird has much the soreness much worse.

A few miles into the road walk everyone stopped off for a break. I had messaged Blaze, a physical therapist that I met on the AT. She focuses just on thru hiking PT and has saved my ass time and time again with her skills. She gave me some advice for stretching and taping differently. I tried out the exercises that she suggested which felt pretty good. My knee is just so irritated that I know the only way to resolve anything is to let it calm down. Which means resting and taking time off. But I don’t want to do that!

After sitting for a bit and stretching out we continued to do the last handful of miles. Then got into Lac au Saumon around 3:30pm. We stopped off at the general store first to grab some things. They were open late so we would probably be coming back again.

The shelter that we got to camp in! It was fully enclosed with bunk beds and mattresses.

The inside of the shelter.

The guy at the store had a key to the IAT shelter and let us have it. No one else had reserved the shelter which was awesome. It was a 4 wall entirely enclosed shelter with bunks, mattresses, and a platform outside with picnic benches. The shelters here in Quebec are so nice! All of us were so excited to get to sleep inside the refuge for the night. We dropped out backpacks inside and all ate something. Then walked over to the nearby lake to hangout.

The beautiful lake in town.

I haven’t had service at all ever since entering into Quebec. Even in New Brunswick I hardly had any service. But now I’m surviving entirely off of wifi whenever I can get it. Luckily the campground right by the shelter had wifi. That meant I was able to do a couple things that I needed which was great. Then all of us sat out by the lake. It was so beautiful and the water was so still. Sparkles and Trucker went out on one of those peddle boats across the water. My knee was so sore. I just wanted to sit and rest. But even resting is uncomfortable. If I’m not lying down entirely then my knee is bothering me. What is happening.

Sparkle and Trucker heading out onto the lake!

Around 7pm we all walked back to the general store one last time. I got some snacks and drinks and then we walked back to the shelter. There I devoured loads of bread and butter. What an amazing dinner. We all lounged in the shelter and had a really early night. I did some writing and then stretched. The new stretches and exercises feel ok, but it doesn’t feel like it’s doing anything. I’m really conflicted. The new taping technique didn’t feel like it did anything either. It’s as if it’s just grabbing on the wrong part of the knee and not supporting the area that’s in pain.

A cute bench on the lake.

After I stretched and did some writing I finally decided to call it a night. We are now less than 30 miles from the Matane refuge. Which is a very rugged part of the IAT with few bail out points or resupply options. If my knee is still hurting tomorrow then I’m going to have to stop in the town of Amqui which we will pass early on in the day.

I can’t risk having pain like this and entering such a desolate part of trail. I really hope that I’ll feel better tomorrow. Or maybe just have to take a day off to rest. The idea of taking off days at a time is terrifying to me. I don’t want to stop or slow down. But I know better than to hike past Amqui and into Matane. This is my last chance to stay somewhere and rest before the refuge.

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Comments 8

  • Elizabeth Pageotte : Sep 16th

    I hope your knee is feeling better . love reading about the IAT.

    • Kevin M O'Connor : Sep 16th

      I hope your knee gets better. You might need to ask your phone service to add the international data plan for 10 bucks a day. I just googled it and there’s a physical therapist in Amqui.

      Good luck, you are very brave!

  • Kevin M O'Connor : Sep 16th

    I hope your knee gets better. You might need to ask your phone service to add the international data plan for 10 bucks a day. I just googled it and there’s a physical therapist in Amqui.

    Good luck, you are very brave!

  • thetentman : Sep 16th

    Your knee needs a day or 2 for rest. Too much Poutine and not enough beer are also contributing to your issues.

    Oh. and burn 3 down and call me in the morning.


  • John Rutkowski : Sep 16th

    Lots of people on The Trek care about you.

    Get the knee checked out, could be a cartilege issue.

    Canada has great health care

    Your knee and health is more important than the trail.

    It will be there in the future, could be in a day or two, could be next year.

    You don’t want the knee pain when you are older.

    AKA Tertius

  • JB : Sep 16th

    Yes, you certainly have a lot of people on The Trek that care about…stay safe and sheltered until you are able to ride out the heavy weather. Wind to your back, J

  • Ted : Sep 17th

    Maybe try some Voltaren gel, if you can find it. It’s a topical NSAID that works directly on the affected area, without having to be metabolized thru your liver. It was a lifesaver during my July trip in Yosemite.

  • John Sewell : Sep 17th

    even a 26 year old body can have issues. As Rutkowski recommends, take care of your body and your body will take care of you.

    If the pain is just a flair up, 2-3 days with comfortable rest will certainly help the mending process.

    A visit with a therapist could reap rewards.

    Good luck
    Think smart…


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