PCT Days 34 -40: On Pins and Needles

Limping Along

While hanging out at Donner Ski Ranch, several hikers commented on my very pronounced limp. True, my knee felt better than it had in the days leading to Burney, but it was by no means without pain. While the initial steroid injection had seemed like a miracle cure (I finally understood how elite athletes – especially gymnasts – can screw themselves up so badly with a cortisol injection), the effects didn’t last.

One hiker asked me what was wrong. After I explained my issues, she told me that she’d had the exact same problem, until she took a week off in South Lake Tahoe and got acupuncture. Now, I’ve got nothing against more traditional medicinal approaches, but I’m usually a gal who looks to hard sciences first. Plus, it sounds uncomfortable. While I’m okay with getting the occasional shot, I didn’t really want twenty all at once. But this hiker told me that the acupuncture had been a miracle cure and she now felt better than when she started, so I kept the information in the back of my head.

I arrived in South Lake Tahoe after a smoky morning on the trail – a somewhat foreboding omen, especially considering the whispers about fires in Yosemite that I’d been hearing for the last week. Almost as soon as I arrived, I decided I’d take a zero and look into acupuncture. I couldn’t stand the thought of continuing to hike any more miles with my knee as bad as it was.

When the acupuncture clinic heard that I’d been recommended by the other hiker, they couldn’t have been sweeter. They managed to squeeze me in (though I still had to take an additional zero in town) and were so understanding of my situation. In a big town like South Lake Tahoe, I was worried that the PCT wouldn’t even be on their radar, but they were happy to do what they could to accommodate me.

Now I’d imagined that my session would be something like Ben Wyatt’s in the original treat yo self episode of Parks and Recreation. Getting needles poked in my skin is just about as far from relaxing as I could imagine. But instead, I took to it like Donna and Tom. I have never been more relaxed. Even if my knee hadn’t felt better afterwards, it still would have been worth it.

I continued to keep the miles low at first when I left Tahoe, as I didn’t want to push too hard too fast. But I was amazed at how good I felt. I was finally moving a little faster and felt like I could keep piling on the miles. I ended up making it to Kennedy Meadows North nearly a day earlier than planned.

The Trail Provides

When I approached Ebbetts Pass, I saw several tables laden with food, a grill, and chairs filled with hikers. My heart leaped – could this be trail magic, finally?

Since my hike is a flip-flop – and not even a “normal” flip-flop – I’ve been in the wrong place at the wrong time. But over the last weeks, I’d been passing through the nobo bubble, and I was thrilled that I was finally about to get some good old fashioned trail magic.

This was provided by the good people at Limit Situation Trail Magic, who apparently have been coming out for several years to (literally) cater to hikers. They had a medical station, hiker box, pizza stove, grill, and fresh salads. I couldn’t have been more excited.

The morning I hiked the last few miles toward Kennedy Meadows North/Sonora Pass, I encountered a different kind of trail magic.

A crew of at least 10 trail volunteers were working on the trail. They had large rods and were moving hundreds of pounds of rocks – at 11,000 feet. Suddenly, the pack on my back felt even lighter as I considered all the hard work they were putting in to make my hike a little easier.

Needless to say, I thanked each volunteer that I came to – and was very glad that all I had to do was hike a couple thousand miles, rather than literally move the earth!


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