One Month Until My Thru-Hike
The days are counting down much faster than I imagined they would and here I sit with around 30 days until I hit the Long Trail. In the past few months the weather in New Hampshire hasn’t been the best for shakedown hikes. The snowpack up north has been relentless, and even now in mid-May there are several feet of snow on most of the trails above 2,500 feet. I would’ve loved to spend more time up in the Whites in the past few weeks, but have had to settle for spending more time farther south.
In late April I was able to complete my first overnight backpacking trip, on the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway. This two-night adventure tested me physically and mentally, but it also showed me how ready I am for the Long Trail. I was surprised at how strong my legs are considering how little hiking I’ve done since winter started. My feet took the brunt of the learning curve and I came out of the woods with many blisters and several black toenails. It took over a week of taking it easy for my feet to finally get back to normal (as well as a new pair of shoes a half-size bigger).
I plan on hitting two more overnight shakedown hikes prior to leaving for the Long Trail. My next big adventure will be the Tully Trail, which is only 22 miles long. I can easily split this into an overnight and won’t even need a ride back to my car at the end. Then, I’m not sure what I’ll do for another overnight. It really depends on how much snow is still up north in the coming weeks.
Taking a Step Back
Unfortunately, after making big gains in my self-confidence coming off the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway, I was hit with an unexpected injury. Originally, the first week off trail, I had to take it really easy because I was questioning whether I had a small stress fracture in my right foot. I’ve had stress fractures before so I know how they feel. I took it really slow and finally after about a week and a half babying my foot I was able to crank out a nice short nine-mile day.
However, after completing that hike I got up the next morning to debilitating lower back pain. I’ve suffered with ongoing back and foot problems for many years now, but haven’t had a flareup in my back since 2016. I was terrified that it was happening all over again. I just kept thinking about the endless visits to the doctor, being put on more medications that just mask the pain, being poked with needles, and the unending disappointment. I saw my thru-hike a month away and knew I should be cranking up my training not backing down on it.
Several appointments later, one trip to the urgent care, and many prescriptions, I am back on track. I still have more appointments in the upcoming weeks to see if there are other issues going on which could be causing the pain, but one thing’s for sure: I need to keep moving. Sitting still or lying for long periods of time only aggravates the inflammation I’m experiencing. I went on an eight-mile hike yesterday and started the day off in pain. I was afraid to move wrong because I didn’t want to injure myself further. But by the end of the hike my pain was gone. I was back to my old self and my back felt great. I’m hopeful that whatever caused my back pain was a onetime thing and that I’m going to be OK for my hike. I refuse to give in and let this minor setback derail my hike.
Besides more shakedowns and getting in as many miles as I can handle at the local park I’m finally starting to realize that the logistics of leaving your life for even a few weeks is somewhat stressful. I need to make sure the bills are paid, my husband doesn’t eat only Hungry-Man dinners for three weeks, and that someone will clean the litter box. I know that my support system at home is strong, that I will have a lot of people cheering me on, but I’m still unsure about one detail of thru-hiking. How do I handle getting into town for resupplies as a solo hiker? I know it’s discouraged to hitch rides solo, as a female especially, but I don’t really see that I have much of a choice. I suppose it will all work itself out, as it always does, and if that’s my only uncertainty as a first-time thru-hiker than I guess I’m doing OK.
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