I’m at home. I’m currently wearing soft cotton clothes, in my air-conditioned home, sipping real coffee out of a ceramic mug and feeling terribly sorry for myself. Sarah Mclachlin is playing in the background, forcing me into appalling posture, and there’s a big fat wrap around my left knee.
About a month ago, I did something dumb and put all my weight on a boulder which fell on top of me. It was on a slight incline, but luckily I was able to get my legs into a squatting position as the rock and I fell to the ground. The boulder landed mostly in my lap, for which I am very thankful, but it did trap my left leg. The worst point of impact was right above my knee. Eventually, I was able to find a small but strong and valiant rhododendron branch to lift myself out with. Unfortunately the more I lifted, the more the boulder cut into the inside of my left thigh. My knee started to instantly bruise, but I paid more attention to the abrasion because blood freaks me out.
The next day, my left leg gave out on me and I fell on top of it again. I was in a lot of pain. I hitched a ride back to Damascus and took four days off.
My doctor scoffed at me when I told her that part. “You took FOUR days?” she said incredulously.
“I know that’s a lot of zeroes,” I said. “But I really needed my knee to heal.”
She told me that she was being extremely sarcastic and that I was crazy.
Since Damascus, I have fallen more than a few more times. I was starting to notice a constant pain in my left leg that I knew was more than achy hiker knees. I fell again last week, hiking through the dark in order to catch the sunrise over McAfee Knob. Again, I paid more attention to the blood running down my left shin rather than what was going on with my knee. But I knew I needed to come home and see a doctor.
Turns out, I have a partial tear in my quadricep. The doctor told me she would normally recommend crutches for this type of tear, but it was up to me since it had been almost a month since the initial injury. She also recommended 3-4 weeks of staying off it completely. This is no good, as I was planning on resting for a week MAX.
Does this mean I can’t be a thru-hiker anymore?
I have been home for six days now. I’ve washed my old pack, bought a new smaller one, packed that with my new and lighter summer load, unpacked, cleaned all my gear, worked on resupply boxes, revamped my first aid kit, and I have taken SO many naps. My poison ivy and various bug bites have gone away but I’m still itching to get back out on the trail. The most frustrating part is that it seems the pain in my knee gets worse everyday. How is that possible when I’m not even hiking? Some days I can walk without a limp and some days I can barely walk down the stairs.
I’m scared of losing my trail legs. I’m scared that I won’t be able to keep up with what was my normal mileage when I get back out on the trail. I want to go running in order to somewhat maintain my level of fitness… but you know, that whole knee thing is really getting in the way.
The best I can do is keep a strong mental attitude.
I will not drown my sorrows with pints of ice cream and beer. I will celebrate my friends and their accomplishments when I see them hitting huge trail milestones instead of berating myself for not being with them. I will work on my upper body strength. I will take this time to finally post all the blog entries that have been sitting stagnant in their first drafts and have not been published. I will turn off Sarah Mclachlin immediately.
Most importantly, I will celebrate all the experiences I have had so far. All the sunrises, the sunsets, the people, and the profound shifts of perspective remain vivid and close to me. It’s easy to feel down, but I am still lucky.
I am still thankful.
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