Everything was going so great … until it wasn’t. We had nearly made it to the VA/ WV boarder when my left foot started to hurt. It wasn’t much at first, just dull pain at the end of the day, but hey, I had just hiked 15-20 miles. It should hurt or at least that’s what I thought. A few days later, the pain was ongoing. It hurt with every step I took. We had planned to stop and see Andy’s childhood friend for the night and that stop couldn’t have come at a better time. I was hobbling! Every time I pushed off the ground with my left foot a shooting pain would run up my spine yanking my head back in agony. I used both trekking poles as crutches when that foot touched ground and it helped. Slightly. My foot had swollen up about double its regular size by that point. We got off the trail and I expected the worse.
We planned on taking a long weekend off so Andy could go to his sister’s wedding while I visited a friend in Philadelphia. Timing could not have been better for this to happen. Andy went to the wedding, I took it easy for 5 days, and boom, my foot was back to normal. I took the train to Philly and the first thing I did (after getting a cheese steak at Delessandro’s) was visit the ER. They took an X-Ray and the results came back negative. No break! The doctor said after a few days of rest it should be good to go and gave me some pills for the inflammation.
After those few days of resting, icing, compressing, and elevation (RICE) not much had changed. I was still in pain and the swelling was still there, but I figured it would go down like the doctor said, so we got back on the trail. Remember, when I said listen to your body? Well, do as I say, not as I do. We hiked maybe 13 miles the first day back on relatively flat, but rocky ground. I was fighting back tears most of the day. The next day we hike another seven miles and I had to call it before 2pm. I didn’t know what to do. Andy was smart enough to say we should go back home and rest for a week or so while my foot healed. I begrudgingly agreed while holding an internal debate and questioning my manhood.
“You can do this, stop being a wimp.”
No, no I couldn’t and shouldn’t do it. I was injured. No matter how much I didn’t want to admit it, I was injured. We went back home and I continued to RICE. I visited a PT who said I had a “stress reaction”, which is the precursor to a stress fracture. He said had I kept going I would have probably fractured it. He then put me in a walking boot and said to wear it until the pain went away.
It’s been difficult to go from walking 15-20 miles a day, burning 5000 calories, and truly challenging myself to sitting on the couch nearly bed-ridden. The first two weeks I went through depression, no doubt about it. I had never really been injured before and it was tough to handle, but I’m glad to say that the pain is gone and I am up and walking again. I know walking and hiking are two very different things, but I feel strong and have been going up and down the stairs testing my foot. As far as I can tell, I am ready to hit the trail.
Because we have taken such a long break we will have to start again from Maine and head South in order to beat the winter. Baxter State Park closes October 15th and while I believe we can finish before then, I don’t want to risk it. Not ending at the summit of Katahdin will be strange, but it’s something that I have to do in order to reach my goal as a one-season thru-hiker. We are throwing ourselves in the fire as we are starting in the toughest stretch of the trail after being pretty sedentary for nearly a month and a half. I am so excited to get back on the trail and to summit Katahdin within a week! I’ll keep you posted on how it goes!
I'm thru hiking the AT north bound to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. If you're interested in finding out more, and contributing to my cause, please visit my HikeFor account. Remember to follow my journey here at HighlandFrog.com and to "like" the HighlandFrog Facebook page to be notified about future articles and updates! Thanks for your support!
One step at a time,
Geoffrey, aka Messiah
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