Sometimes Your Heart is Broken
In an ideal world…
meticulous planning, preparation and training can come together and produce a successful experience on the AT.
However, there are some things you just can’t control.
For me, it has been crippling pain that intensified during my final week of hiking. No way around it. It literally stopped me in my tracks.
Trying to deal with injuries…
Many, many thanks to Dr. Pippa Chapman at Angels Rest Hikers Haven in Pearisburg for helping me work through this.
4 days of rest at this welcoming hostel and 3 sessions of acupuncture with the doctor helped reduce the pain and swelling. I had high hopes and gave another day of hiking a try.
It started out fine, but by the last third of the hike, it was obvious that I shouldn’t continue. Not this week, this month, perhaps this calendar year. Both the cutting pain and extreme swelling had returned with a vengeance.
The AT is steep. Relentless. Demanding. It requires being in top form, in a variety of ways, for the long haul.
I thought I was. I had trained hard. I was totally prepared mentally. But the body still had its vulnerabilities, or Achilles heel, you might say.
So…a visit to an orthopedist resulted in a diagnosis of severe tendinitis of the front of the right tibia (shin). I left the hospital with an orthopedic boot for 2-6 weeks (!!!), a week on steroids and up to a month on anti-inflammatories. And no hiking.
(Smiles can be deceptive)
Adding to my regret of how things had unfolded was my bittersweet reunion with Little Bear Stumbles. We had hiked together during my week in April, and I had hoped to get a day or two on the trail with her, as she hiked (FAST!) to completion in Georgia. Not to be. Sigh..
So everything has changed.
I’m now in Nashville with Short-timer, who is watching our two granddaughters for a week. My hiking and trail sleeping clothes look a bit out of place in this stylish neighborhood. My hiker hunger is still raging and, frankly, I’m very sad.
But I’ve learned through many past experiences that there are some physical issues that you can work through. And some that demand cessation and healing. This extreme pain I’ve had would have only led to compromised physical capabilities on the trail and potentially even more serious injuries.
In fact everything has NOT changed.
I still have my AT goals: to hike the entire trail. But the plan of how to do this has changed.
So I am now a long distance SECTION hiker, not a flip-flop THRU-hiker. I will do this in smaller segments each year, and with fewer miles per day when possible.
I do have the satisfaction of having hiked over 500 miles of the AT in all, just shy of 1/4 of the full distance. I have hiked from mile 1112.9 (Mt. Holly Springs, PA, in 4/17) south to 608.5 (Trent’s Grocer, Bland, VA, 7/17 -8/17). That’s something.
Its hard emotionally, nonetheless. I wonder at times if I’m being weak in not pushing through this as so many hikers have done, and I wrote in my list of reasons why I would not quit. But the physical pain says I’m right in this decision.
My new plan:
- First, healing
- Second, strengthening
- Third, an hiking trip to Patagonia in South America this winter. This is already booked and I will not jeopardize it. I realize I am very fortunate.
- Fourth, back to where I left off on the AT in the spring, 2018. Fewer weeks, fewer miles per day.
I will do this thing. I will not give up. Once again, I’m heading toward a light at the end of the tunnel, as I have done many times in the past.
Thank you for your past, present and future support.
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