Just like an Old Pair of Boots – Worn Out
There are days I feel like an old worn out pair of boots. I know they still have some life in the them, but are they past their usefulness? The body is just like this!
How do you know you are getting old? You spend an astronomical amount of your time at the doctor’s office. You have aches and pains, You’re teeth are ready to fall out of your mouth… Or is it all of these? As a planned 2017 AT Thru Hiker over the age of 50, I felt I needed to get a few things taken care of before heading out on a 2,200 mile hike for 6 months in the “wilderness”. AND this meant a trip to the doctor’s office…or make that many trips to the doctors office.
It all started after I decided “It was ON!” to do this AT Thru Hike. I mean, I’m not getting any younger and I have had a few “issues” that needed to be addressed. After years of beating my body up in the Armed Forces, I find that the punishment of keep on pushing through the pain has taken a toll on me. I have many aches and pains that need to be dealt with even if I wasn’t planning to hike 2,200 mile.
It all started with making sure I was “ok”! Over the years, I’ve had a few aches and pains that I’ve let go. “Just deal with it” or the “No Pain No Gain” mentality have been the standard for dealing with life’s many (and I do mean many) pains. With of life a doing what had to be done serving our country around the world, as a Veteran I chose to “Just Do IT” versus going to the doctor for early signs of pains which could impact later life. So now I find myself plATaying catchup at the doctors office to ensure my body is OK!
As I began to prepare for this Thru Hike, I read of trail warriors who had hiked 600 miles on broken legs, strains and sprains. In fact, after seeing these beasts of the AT, I wondered if I had the ability to push through the pain. So the only option was to go see my doctor and get “things” taken care of BEFORE I headed out on the trail.
It all started off with some nerve issues in my arms, knee pain and my teeth…boy how teeth pain to really sideline you. The knee issue was an old injury that I knew (or at least I thought) needed to be repaired. If I planned hike up and down the hillsides of the Smoky Mountains, White Mountains and every mountain in between, my knees needed to work and work good. With a meniscus tear, that pain could easily turn into a “your done on the trail” after only a few miles in.
However, after visiting the doctor to setup a knee surgery, he felt my arm nerve issues were much more important to address which lead to two surgeries in the fall to help with the nerve damage. In the meantime, I headed into see the dentist to take care my teeth. As a preventive measure, I needed a few crowns so that I wouldn’t have teeth pain in the backcountry. However, after 8 months of dealing for one after another tooth issue, I hope I’m on the road to no teeth pain for the hike.
In preparation for the AT Thru Hike, I find myself pained with the aliments I wanted to fix. The knee is still “ok”, the arms are not working and my teeth are still be worked on. In fact, I will have to delay my start date by 30 days to deal with my teeth.
This is NOT what I had planned as a ramp up to the AT Thru Hike. If I can deal with these pains for the last 8 months, I’m sure I’ll be able to deal with the pains of the trail.
So be forewarned. If you have ailments, go and get them taken care of before you hit the trail. I’m sure there will be medical care facilities along the trail, but you don’t want to find care for something that could be taken care in advance. You’ve done all of the preparation work by doing a few shake out hikes, buying the gear and reading all there is about hiking the Appalachian Trail. So why aren’t you making sure your body, that will take a lot of punishment over the next six months, is as prepared as it can be.
What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. I am stronger, but just how much pain can one guy take? I know pain is part of the game…and it started long before my first steps on the trail as I hike the AT approach trail from Amicalola Falls State Park to Springer Mountain, the southern terminus to the Appalachian Trail.
BTW: My hike date has been pushed about a month. The original start date was March 21st. However, to finish up some dental work, my new projected start date is 18 April. It should still be plenty of time to make it to Mt Katahdin before the cold closes in at the north terminus.
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