*breathe in* *breathe out*
This is going to be long on words and feelings, and short on pictures and snark, so not really the typical fun bullshitting.
First, a quick chronological summary of what has happened since my last post. I spent two nights at the hostel in Hampton, which is referred to as the castle hostel, though it looks nothing at all like a castle. Here’s my puffy hand after spending two days at the hostel.
The morning of the third day, I optimistically returned to the trail and limped/suffered through seven miles (one back to the trail and six on trail) over Pond Mountain. I ran into Pinecone and Rock Licker and sobbingly admitted to both them and myself that there was no way in hell I could keep going.
I returned to Hampton, defeated, where one of my friends picked me up and drove me to Knoxville. I’ve been convalescing here since then. For those of you not keeping track, that means four weeks have passed, and single-digit miles have been hiked, since I fell.
Accurately describing the emotions that I’ve experienced since then is a difficult task. I continually try to remind myself to be grateful that my injuries are fairly mild; I really should have broken some bones and there is some likelihood that I could have died. But my injuries happened to be ones that heal within weeks, not months.
This gratefulness tends to be overwhelmed by a bevy of negative emotions. I’m disappointed that it’s taking so long for my stupid fucking body to heal, though I should have expected it because my body has always been slow to recover from injuries. This is peak hiking season, and I’m increasingly frustrated as each long, hot day slips by that I’m stuck in my boyfriend’s apartment not getting in any miles. I’ve expended significant mental energy trying not to determine what mile I’d be at if I hadn’t fallen and ignoring all AT-related posts on my Facebook feed.
I’ve also been mentally beating myself up for falling. I’ve always been hard on myself ever since I recognized that I’m entirely responsible for my actions and no one else is to blame when I do something stupid. And this was stupid. I made a mistake that was completely preventable because I was careless. Shortly after I got back, one of my friends told me to be gentle with myself, which is hard for me to do. Forgiving myself is a long, slow process and I don’t imagine that I’ll ever not regret the moment I stepped out on that waterfall.
(For the record, I wasn’t playing on the waterfall or anything quite that stupid. This was the water source for the shelter, but getting water required walking out on rocks slippery from rain and there were no handholds.)
Dealing with the pain has also not been easy. While I was optimistic about the extent of my injuries in the beginning, I hurt myself more than I wanted to admit. My boyfriend was shocked that I’d managed to hike at all based on my condition when I showed up in Knoxville. Even just sitting was uncomfortable for the first couple weeks, and I was pretty crabby. This was amplified by exhaustion because I was only able to sleep for erratic, limited periods of time. I was reminded of the fall every time I moved.
Let’s just say that I’ve paid dearly for my mistake, both physically and mentally.
But everything got better every day, incrementally if slowly, and I’m nearly better. This was the first time I’ve had a rib injury, which are notorious for being painful and slow to heal, but the pain has finally died down to a dull ache. My hand and foot are both very close to 100%. Simple tasks such as bending over, walking down stairs, turning door knobs, and standing up no longer hurt. The night I fell, putting on dry pants was such a struggle that I almost had to ask the other hikers at the shelter to pull my pants over my ass for me; dressing myself is, thank goodness, no longer a problem.
This was also the first time I’ve had a lot of time in which to do whatever (as long as it didn’t involve moving) since I was a kid. I binged on OITNB and Pretty Little Liars and watched almost every rom com on Netflix, probably exceeding my lifetime TV quota, spent hours scrolling through my newsfeeds and watching cat videos, and even read Deliverance while in Hampton. I don’t like doing nothing, so at least I can be certain of that.
I’m beyond ready to return to the trail. I was so incredibly happy before this mess happened and I want to get back to that. I’m making peace with this setback and trying to appreciate how lucky I am that I’ll be able to continue this journey.
This is my plan from here on out. Because I started pretty late in the first place, and taking this many zeros has put me even further behind, I’m going to have to do a flip flop. This generally means doing something other than hiking the entire trail in one direction continuously, which is how thruhikes are typically done. The most common flip flop is to hike from Springer in Georgia north to Harper’s Ferry, WV, which is about the halfway point, then jumping up to the northern terminus in Maine and hiking back south to Harper’s Ferry.
My flip flop is going to be a little more complicated because I don’t want to do that. I’m going to skip about 300 miles in VA and get back on at Daleville, VA on Sunday. If I picked it back up in Hampton where I got hurt, there would be basically no other thruhikers and the social experience is one of the primary reasons I’m doing this. I’m hoping to catch up to at least some of the people I know (though I just found out that Postman, my hiking partner, has decided to get off booooooooo). I’ll hike north from there, hopefully to Katahdin (the northern terminus), then afterwards jump back down and do those 300 miles I missed in VA. I say “hopefully” because Katahdin technically closes on October 15 and there’s a possibility I won’t make that. If so, I’ll have to do another flip flop, but I’m not going to worry about that unless it becomes more certain.
This is all non-ideal, but part of hiking this trail is trying to learn how to chill the fuck out and go with the flow. The consequences of my fall provide me an opportunity to do this. I get really upset when my plans have to change due to uncontrollable factors, which is exactly what has happened. Even though I am upset about the flip flop, there’s really no need to because I’m still able to continue my thruhike and have plenty of fun, and that’s what I want to focus on.
I lastly want to thank everyone who’s helped me through this. My friends in Knoxville have been great at keeping my mind off of the pain and thinking of fun things to do (like always). Also, when I sent them a message about needing a ride from Hampton to Knoxville, three of them offered. Within five minutes. On a Thursday afternoon. How fucking awesome is that? Special shoutout to Marisa for actually picking me up. And winning the costume contest at the Pride Fest party…
My parents have been really great. My mom and I talked a lot the first few days, which were the hardest, and I really needed that. And of course Wes, my bf, who let me crash at his apartment unexpectedly for almost a month and has gracefully dealt with my bitchiness and been his generally awesome self. I’m lucky to have so many supportive, helpful, wonderful people in my life.
Speaking of fun things, in the midst of recovery I went to Bonnaroo. It was about as awesome as it usually is. The bands that I was looking forward to (My Morning Jacket, Twenty One Pilots, Shakey Graves, Moon Taxi) were as great as I was expecting, and we saw some excellent bands (Jungle, Flying Lotus, Woods, Jamie xx) that were new to me.
I’m really excited, and slightly nervous, about getting back on trail. Let the adventure continue!