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!!!

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 20

  • Victor Sudano : May 17th

    So is this blog about you or the AT? I think you have taken a lot of the magic and mystic out of the trail. Sounds more like your reports are about your aches and pains and your slack days. Hmmm

    • Ryan : May 18th

      That’s what hiking the AT is about, the trail is always there and always roughly the same from person to person in it’s literal interpretation. What makes each hike unique is the trials and tribulations we each go through mentally and physically along the way.

    • Julia Molina : May 18th

      Hi there, I’ve hiked the trail from Georgia to Maine. Just curious as to know if you are or have done very much hiking on the trail. Reason for my asking is because I think you would understand her blogging is an emotional release. To say she is doing something wrong doesn’t feel fair. Just a thought.

    • Nagatoro : May 19th

      I disagree. To each his own when it comes to taking on an endeavor such as this.

    • Sabrina : May 19th

      I read to learn about your take on the trek, and by seeing the trail through your eyes, and through your aches and pains, I have a chance to explore it in a new and powerful way. I like reading about your personal journey, and how it is impacting your mindset. Plenty of others will feel the same way! Keep it up, Katie!

  • Stephen : May 18th

    Have you consulted a physiotherapist about your ankles?
    Walk for one with your pack on and they may be able to diagnose a cause.
    Many of us have bad walking habits, not a big deal in normal life but when you add the weight of a pack, rough terrain and long days, those little bad habits can cause a lot of damage.
    Being strong and brave is good but not at the expense of losing the joy in your adventure or long term damage to your body.
    Take care AND enjoy. 🙂

  • Daniel Paradis : May 18th

    Always tough to figure out.
    1 New footwear ?
    2 Hike a little slower?
    3 Lighten the pack ?

    Try to mix something up. At your age your ankles shouldn’t be giving you trouble like that. Every break over 5 min long take your footwear @ socks off.

    At 55 nothing ever hurt until my knees in New England.

    I’m sure you will figure it out. Good Luck. Terodactyle Ga- Me 2016

  • Trailrunner : May 18th

    Take a couple of days off, ice your ankles in cold streams, take IBUPROFEN then take as needed on the trail. Certain parts of your body are stressing out. Shorter miles, lighter pack, more comfortable boit like Merrell, buy ankle sleeves for compression and support. You can find them in a Rite Aid or CVS or even Wall Mart. Coming off trail and completing next year or section hiking the rest would not be a first. When you get a chance have x-rays taken, you may have the start of arthritis. Enjoy the journey !!

  • Trailrunner : May 18th

    PS. You could have low arch of flat footed. Low arch may be brought on by the extra weight you are carrying. The feet are know to expand and flatten when doing long hikes like this. Go to one of those foot machines you see in Wall Mart and test it at least twice as to what the correct arch support is needed. Start off using 2 days on one day off. If it helps but you start to feel discomfort else ware like hips or knees, then use it just enough to be comfortable everywhere.

  • Linda : May 18th

    I want to be positive but you need a couple of x-rays to know if you have stress fractures. Having just gotten out of a boot myself the pain and swelling are telling you that you did damage.
    Don’t feel bad about a big break on the trail to be up with your known tramily again. You can become more dependent on them than you realize. You can come back later and make it up. I love your attitude and , yes, you can vent in your blog as these are trials and tribulations that some hikers go through. This is hiker life. It’s not how fast you complete the trail, the journey itself is most important.

    • Robert Fitzsimmons : May 22nd

      I agree. It sounds like stress fractures are behind the pain. Pack weight and footwear may have played a part but now the damage is done and it won’t heal unless Katie gives her feet a rest for a few weeks. Hey, it’s a thru-hike so long as she gets it done within a year.

  • Bigfoot91 : May 18th


  • Doug : May 18th

    Did you talk to anyone at Outdoor 76 about your feet?

  • Edward Benton : May 18th

    What do I think? Nothing you want to hear about. Probably an Evaluation from a Podiatrist, or an Orthopedic Doctor. Rest, most likely for more than a few days. If it’s possible to start again, hiking a lot fewer miles per day. I think you foundation is lacking a bit. Not ment as a criticism. Changing the mechanics of your shoes and inserts and starting a epic walk, not a good idea. All The Best to You

  • Howard Rollins : May 19th

    My comment should not be taken as judgmental or snarky as I do not mean it that way. I have not attempted a thru hike on the AT as that was not my interest when I was younger. It is now but I am too old to take the risks. I do many section hikes and have an idea of the extreme physical and emotional challenge that a thru hike entails. Katie seems like a wonderful person and I truly wish her well. She and every other person alive have every right to prioritize their lives as they wish and do the things that make them most fulfilled. Now for the “but”. The focus on the Taylor Swift concert indicates a fissure in the total focus and prioritization that I believe is crucial to the success of such a daunting goal. (Truth be told, if I had been interested in a thru hike at that age, I would probably have been worrying about missing a leg of the Grateful Dead tour.) Again, not judging. Just saying that I am not detecting the level of seriousness and focus that it is going to take to complete this hike in the way she had hoped. I think that to do so will require a higher level of focus, as all extreme challenges do. Again, her choice and there is nothing wrong with it..but it is predictive of an outcome that she may find disappointing. I still applaud Katie, hope that she proves me wrong and wish her a safe and healthy experience and a fun time at the concert.

  • Dan M : May 22nd

    Advice from fractureclinic doctor and 40 years of distance hiking in mountain terrain. Sturdy quality leather hiking boots may be heavier but ankle and foot support worth it. Good orthotics. Soak feet in stream water when available ibuprofen does the best to keep swelling down.

    • Measha : May 23rd

      Hi I where the copper sock ankle support besides cushioned intersoles which helped me.

  • Vince : May 23rd

    It’s should be about you. Not the trail. It’s the crucible that makes you stronger. Slow down, rest up. Hang in there. Heal up, take a step, then another. Not sure where you are. Virginia is a great place to walk slowly and heal up. I’m your mind you have already moved mountains. Look forward to the NE. From MA onwards I started to have fun again. Oh and Jersey is a darn nice part of the hike (easier and the locals are awesome).

  • Steve : May 24th

    Voltaren gel really helps my knees and ankles. About $12 at Walmart and the generic works as well. It is a topical nsaid that seems to help the swelling and pain. Nonprescription now.

  • Josh : Jun 2nd

    The reason why your folks are behind you and you’re more injured than they are is because you’re pushing yourself too hard. And you will continue to insure yourself until you learn this lesson. Lower your mileage, take a few days off, buy shoes that are a half size larger than what you have currently, and take it slower. The AT is a marathon, not a sprint. Take it easy!

    — DRL, c/o 2015


What Do You Think?