When My Body Hit a Breaking Point

I woke up to a chill in the air surrounding my tent. It was a clear, sunny, and beautiful day in the Great Smoky Mountains.

I set off on the trail late that morning, after some yoga and breakfast. By the time I left my little corner of the shelter area, I realized most other hikers had already scurried onto the trail to take advantage of the day.

I was lagging, so I started playing catch up.

I suppose this was the point where my decision made a big impact. The road diverged between my body and my ego, both pulling in opposite directions for what they need.

I had always heard trail stories of the Smokies and the challenges they bring, but I pushed on simply trying to grind through some tougher terrain and find my way back into a bubble of hikers.

I did not listen to my body. I allowed myself to become fatigued under the weight of my pack. Maybe I didn’t eat enough. Maybe I didn’t drink enough.

Whatever the cause, my mind didn’t connect fast enough with my body when a large rock (that appeared to be stable on the surface) slipped out from under me. And the sea of loose rocks surrounding it made a recovery from that misstep impossible.

I went down. Hard. I felt the weight of my pack thud onto the trail. A numbness entered my leg and the wind was sucked from my lungs.

My only thought: please don’t let this be the end.

As I’ve talked about in previous posts, the trail provided me the support to get out of the Smokies and into recovery. But I still had a treacherous 18-mile trek from the point of injury to the nearest road.

Early on in my hike out of the Smokies, I twisted my foot (just slightly) again and filled the valley with a chorus of cries and groans. I looked back to my hiking companion to ask how much further we had to go to the nearest shelter.

She paused and looked at me with empathy. I didn’t want to know.

And she was right not to tell me. It took seven hours for me to find a place to fully rest my injury for the night. It was grueling.

The next day required a hike over Clingman’s Dome. A challenge for an uninjured hiker. With each step, I thanked my body and asked for just one more.

I made it to the top of that mountain, and that was enough to keep me smiling.

My smile faded in the coming days. No one could prepare me for the heartbreak of being separated from the trail. The pain of watching others live my dream while I awaited an uncertain end to my injury. I love and worked hard to have this life, and suddenly it was ripped out from underneath me.

People often look to me as a source of optimism, and I try to be strong, but I can’t always be Sparky. Sometimes I’m just me.

I didn’t listen to my body that day. I made a mistake, and I can choose whether that mistake defeats or teaches me.

I chose the path that’ll take me to Katahdin. I chose Sparky.

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 1

  • Gerry Regan : Apr 22nd

    So sorry to hear about this setback, Steph. Hopefully you’ll regain your footing and rejoin your fellow sojourners. One day at a time — that’s all we have!


What Do You Think?