Bum Knees Take Me on a Wrong Turn Off Trail
The two blazes on the tree are a change of direction and in this example it’s a turn to the right. I am taking a right turn off the trail temporarily. My knees have betrayed me. Years of construction work have taken their toll on my knees. The rest of me physically and mentally is in great shape. I could have continued with the help of Aleve and ibuprofen but I don’t want to risk permanent damage as I want to backpack the rest of my life. I have gone from a thru-hiker to a LASH and it’s OK with me but it does hurt a little. I feel that at 700 miles I was becoming a skilled trekker. I miss the group I was traveling with and I miss the trail life.
I woke up on day 58 knowing my knees could not take much more and decided to go home at Hanover just a couple of days away. Two miles into my day I realized I would have to bail at the next road crossing. I stopped at the Lookout to eat lunch and make arrangements to leave the trail as it was one of the few places in Vermont that I had cell service. The Lookout is a cabin with a rooftop deck that is popular with day hikers as well as thru-hikers. With my ride and room secure for tomorrow I slowly made my way to my last campsite.
After a cold-soaked dinner and breakfast I hit the trail for an easy four miles downhill. My fuel canister had mysteriously run out early. I was taking my time and photo shooting trees when I came across a gnarly, twisted dead-looking tree trunk, but when I looked up it was alive with a huge canopy high above all around it. Then I looked down to where under the canopy there was no growth. This tree had been here a long long time. For some reason I started talking to the tree. I told him how mighty and majestic he was. I told him he still had a lot of good years to go. I told him goodbye and good luck, then started down the trail. As I was walking away I started to cry. I knew he didn’t have long in his life to go. I knew I was getting off the trail, but for how long I didn’t know. I knew that like the tree I was living the final chapters of my life. The release of emotions was cleansing. I felt that like the tree I had risen above the distractions of everyday material life and was stretching upward toward the sunlight. The tree and I still have a wonderful life to finish and we will live it to its fullest. I do not know why I thought the tree was male but it felt right to me. I will always remember that tree.
I am home now and have seen my family doctor. He took X-rays of my knees and I have no permanent damage. I need to rest my knees and then at some point it’s back to finish what I have started.
Bear Chaser out temporarily.
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