Derail – Conclusion

The final blog posts of the season are going up, and with them, the triumphant images of people standing at the Northern Terminus. The sign of a successful hike.

However, I am not to be one of those lucky few. For all of my best efforts, after all of the wildfires, the delays, the detours, and the dangers, a minor injury to my Achilles tendon took me off-trail.

It all began with my first dose of the COVID vaccine. After my COVID scare, I wanted to take no further chances, but I was in a rush, and side effects quickly changed the game. I was terribly sick for the first twenty-four hours, only to wake up the second day feeling better but having little energy.

Finally, I thought, it seemed the side effects were done and as soon as that door opened I was out like a shot, and on my way back to the trail.

After a short three miles uphill, I stopped and set up camp for the night. It was already the end of the day, but I was nearing the Bridge of the Gods, and excited. My last month of the trail was at hand, and soon I’d be there at the border after all that effort and trial.

The next day, I began to push hard and felt amazing. The weather was blustery and grey but still gave way to stunning vistas of Mt Hood. I ran into old friends and crossed yet another river, but shortly after that, I felt a burning pain in my shoulder and the feeling of two pinpricks.

At first I thought it was a bee but it turned out to be a spider. Almost immediately, I began to feel a bit nauseous, but still, I had to press on and began a two-mile climb, when I began to notice pain in my back that was radiating down to my knees.

My pace slowed down as the feelings of hurt increased and with it fears that something was wrong. Finally, I sent a message to my husband to come pick me up. My body was on fire, and I couldn’t figure out what was happening.

It was a perfect storm. I had rushed to return, not given my body or my immune system time to recover, and the spider bite was the last straw.

By the time I got picked up, I was as sore as I had been the first day on the trail, my legs already cramping. By the next day, I could barely manage a limp.

My recovery seemed fast, but as I regained full mobility and began to plot my return, another problem arose. Every time I climbed the stairs here at the house, there was a burning pain in my left Achilles tendon, forcing me to dead leg my way along. It would hold no pressure without severe pain, so I remained immobile.

I couldn’t climb, I couldn’t handle any kind of elevation gain without pain, so I delayed, and hoped rest would get me back to the trail.

Sadly though, by the time I was able to make a solid go, it was already too late in the season. This was not to be my year. Yet with all that said, with me failing to meet my goal, I still cannot think of my hike as a failure.

I wish I had finished. It haunts me that I came so close, only for something so minor to knock me off, but I want to make it clear that it wasn’t the vaccine’s fault. It was my impatience, my unwillingness to take another delay that truly doomed my hike. If I had waited till the weekend I firmly believe I would have been fine, but I didn’t and that was my call.

Don’t use my story to skip the shot. It was a freak occurrence, borne on the wings of my own impatience and susceptibility to the inflammation side effect.

I learned a lot. I grew and had a good long look at my soul. All the while, I  got to enjoy some of our last wild places that are slowly fading under the assaults of a changing world. I’m lucky, because I had my chance, because I was there, and I lived it every day, tried every day, and met people who lived, tried, succeeded, and failed right next to me.

It was the experience of a lifetime, and I’m not done. This isn’t the end of the song, but a pause before the chorus.

I will finish the PCT, and I still have plans to go for the CDT in 2023. The attempt itself is noble and worthwhile, but the end is never guaranteed.

Thank you for following my journey!


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Comments 3

  • pearwood : Nov 1st

    Back when I was flying Army helicopters, they told us the 180 degree turn was the most important maneuver we would ever learn.
    Hang in there.
    I’m finally starting my AT NOBO next February after having postponed in 2020 and 2021.
    Steve / pearwood

  • Mike : Nov 2nd

    As they say in Yorkshire, “life’s a bugge#”. Falling down isn’t loosing but getting back up is winning – well done lass. Wishing you all the best for the future.

  • Erhard Gruber : Nov 3rd

    Congratulations to your hike! I accompanied your hiking of the PCT from the first days on. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and impressions with us. I am dreaming of hiking the PCT since three years. Next year, if it is possible to enter the USA for Austrians, I will hopefully start.
    (sorry for my poor english)


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