This is not the recap of the day I wanted to write but it’s reality.
I woke up around 4:30 after a fitful night that included some locals driving around the woods on the logging roads in their pickups and ATVs gunning their motors. It was Friday night after all. It’s funny how sounds in the woods carry a long ways at night. The vehicles weren’t that close and certainly weren’t going to get near me since I was up on a ridge accessible only by the hiking trail. But they were still very loud. On other nights, I could hear coyotes and other animals clearly.
When I climbed out of the hammock, my knee almost buckled and I could barely stand on it. I had to use my trekking poles to move around. Hmm… this was much worse than other mornings.
Every day the knee had been getting a little worse. As I wrote in the first post, the bad knee was from my college days at Florida State (go Noles!) where a bunch of us were rough housing and a buddy clipped my knee from the side. That blew out my ACL and a couple of the meniscus, but I didn’t realize it until I was in my forties and started feeling a lot of pain. Until then, I played basketball, ran, biked, hiked, golfed, etc with not too much of a problem.
In my forties when the pain started to be significant, I finally went to an ortho doc and learned the ACL was completely gone. He offered to fix it but right or wrong I declined. Since then I was able to run a ton including several marathons and do other activities. So I thought I was smarter than the doctor. But things have been getting a little worse and after I decided to do this trip, my knee was sore enough that I wasn’t able to do much running, mostly just walking a lot.
The weeks before the trip I was going to the physical therapist (shout out to Jeff Swartz!) who was helping me get things strengthened up and properly aligned. The week before the trip I also got a couple of steroid shots in the knee and top of the tibia where the most recent issue was. That stuff is great – no pain at all! I thought I can do this now! But of course those shots are temporary and I guess as my hike progressed the shots wore off.
So I had to make a decision that morning. Keep hiking and likely making things worse (I don’t want a knee replacement!) or ending it that day.
I opted to do that day’s hike and then declare the knee the winner.
So I called Anne and we arranged a place where she would pick me up and allow me to do one last twenty mile hike.
I set off and like the other days was hiking some back roads and trails. The twist of this day was that I managed to get myself pretty lost. I had decided to follow a road that ran parallel to the trail since the road looked a little easier (going around the big hills instead of over them). All my maps from the NCT and Google Maps showed a clear route back to where the road met the trail. But that wasn’t the case. A mile or so from reconnecting to the trail, the road ended. Nothing. Just briars and woods. Hmm… did I miss a turn? Nope. Google maps shows me on “the road”. Could I go back and take the trail? No way – that would have meant four miles of wasted effort. So I decided to bushwhack ahead. I put on more bug repellant and off I went.
About a mile and a half later and picking up a few ticks as passengers, I found the official trail. As I meandered along, I thought about my father who took me out in the woods a lot rabbit and pheasant hunting. I definitely learned some navigation skills from him.
After taking a break and checking the distance I still needed to go to meet Anne, I decided I wouldn’t be able to make twenty miles. Probably just as well since I was basically limping. So I hiked to a little stream that crossed a road and where she picked me up. It wasn’t the ending I wanted, but it was great when I saw her.
I don’t like to lose, especially to a body part. And I don’t like to fail especially when I had put so much effort into preparing for this trip. And more importantly, when many people like Anne had put in so much effort and given me so much support.
I do feel like I failed. But on the other hand, I have to look at the positives. I tried to do something that was on my bucket list (I hope I inspired others to do the same!) I hope I entertained those of you who have been following me and made you laugh a few times. I also hope those of you who didn’t know much about SewHope do now and might want to get involved in some way. And I’m glad and very grateful to those of you who contributed financially. You’re a great blessing and I thank you.