Things Are Not Going Well
…but i’m still having fun. I’m trying my best to embrace the suck. Sometimes that means crying and hiking at the same time. That’s AT life, baby.
Since Gatlingburg, about 200 miles ago, my ankles have been acting up. Sometimes it’s not that bad, sometimes it’s to the point where every step hurts so bad it’s making me nauseous, so then I have to hike all day with no food in my system because I know i’ll just be sick if I eat. As a registered dietitian, trust me, I’m very aware that’s not good. I’m not sure what’s up, or why they get seemingly better and then worse again, and I’m not sure how to deal with it. I’ve only made it 200 miles this month despite doing bigger daily miles because I’ve taken so many days off for them. It’s getting very frustrating. I’m writing this from Station 19 Hostel (where the Hiker Mac and Cheese cured all my other problems last night, and will again tonight).
I’ve stayed at more hostels in the past week and half than I have the entire rest of the trip so far, partially because of convenience while my boyfriend was visiting (so he didn’t have to bring all his backpacking gear on the plane) and because it’s been so rainy, laundry has been needed more often to get dry clothes and limit rashes and chafing. I love hostels, but I’ve been trying to avoid/limit actually staying at them due to norovirus (which is going around) and to save money. I usually camp outside of them and just use the shower/laundry facilities. Unfortunately that’s not an option at Station 19, but with the storm that hit last night I was very glad to be inside hard walls and not in a tent.
I slacked packed a few days out of Nature’s Inn and Uncle Johnny’s, anywhere from 11-20 miles on those days, and my ankle felt okay on most of them. Now it’s the other ankle that is flaring up, and the other day when I woke up at Stan Murray shelter it looked like a ping pong ball was under my skin from swelling. I’m icing it today at Station19, hanging out with the bunnies, horses, and emus and just trying to will it to get better. I’m mentally not even close to ready to give up on this yet. I’m willing to reevaluate my plans and consider a flip flop if timing for Maine doesn’t look like it’s going to work out down the road, but for now i’m trying to stay positive and not get stressed over things I can’t control. I’ve always been a competitive person, and my own worst critic, but at the end of the day, this is supposed to be enjoyable and for fun. I’m doing this for nobody else except myself, and i’m proud of myself for just giving it a shot and not letting it turn into something I wish I’d tried to do when I was younger. Regardless of if I make it to Maine or even another mile, this is my longest backpacking trip ever, and i’ve met some incredible people and had the time of my life.
BUT this week isn’t meant for stress, it’s meant for celebration! It’s Trail Days weekend!!! I was really hoping to be to or past Damascus by now, but with how the last 2 weeks have gone, it’s not gonna be possible. I’m about 70 miles short. So I’m going to shuttle up there tomorrow from Station 19 and enjoy the weekend (try not to spend too much money) and then go from there. I’m coming off trail for a few days to go to NJ for the Taylor Swift concert next weekend, and I’m considering going home in between for 4-5 days and just icing and resting and maybe seeing my podiatrist, but i’m not sure what my plan is yet. I think that may be my best option at this point, since I’ve tried taking 2 days off a few times until it doesn’t hurt as severely and then it ends up hurting again once i’m back on trail. I’m a bit nervous i’m going to get to the point I can’t walk while i’m 20 miles from the nearest road crossing and be trapped, and the last thing I want it to make it someone else’s problem to help me. I’ve been hiking tramily-less for a few weeks now (some members started skipping sections and are a bit ahead now, and the rest are behind me because somehow even injured i’m taking less off days than them) and though i’m still surrounded by people and rarely go more than a few hours without seeing someone, it’s kind of isolating. I feel like i’m on my own out here and even though I’m confident in my skills out here and I know what I’m doing when it comes to hiking, backpacking, and being in the outdoors in bear country, it’s got me a little nervous. The only one truly looking out for me out here is me, and if I get to the point where I can’t walk or get injured, I’m not sure what the plan will be. I have a sat phone to communicate without cell service if needed and have been packing a little extra food in case plans don’t go they way I want them to, but I’m hoping to avoid anything like that.
Well, what else has happened lately? Lots of rain, I told you that already. Lots of slipping in the mud, lots of newts and snails (my favorites!!!), lots of being wet and cold and uncomfortable, but all of that was expected and accepted before I came out here. I got new shoes a few days ago a size bigger to try to alleviate the blisters I’ve had since day one, only to get new blisters (i’m blaming the fact that they’ve been soaking wet since the first day I wore them). They are completely mud soaked now, you’d have no clue I bought them less than a week ago. I also forgot my inserts in my old shoes, and I have extremely flat feet, so i’m sure that adds to the ankle issues at the moment. I’ll grab some new ones in Damascus or at home though!
In less painful news, I was the caretaker for Hector the Magic 8 Ball last week! Basically, there is a Magic 8 Ball that has been passed on to a new hiker every 8 days since Georgia, and it is supposed to go to Katahdin and back. I had fun with it, asked it lots of questions on where I should go and what I should do, and then passed it on to a new hiker a few days ago. Hectorthe8ball is his instagram account, go check it out. Just a little bit of fun to keep things interesting out here.
Well, I’m going to go enjoy trail days, try to not get norovirus, and see where the next few weeks take me. My new current goal is to be in Virginia by June. A little later than I’d wanted, but i’ve got to try to roll with the punches. Also, Taylor Swift takes priority in life, sorry not sorry about that. Once I get the pain and swelling under control, I think I’m going to try going back to shorter mileage days, but less off days and see if that helps. Lots of stretching and cold stream “ice” baths. Positive Vibes Only!!!
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