Monday, April 30, 2012

What I'll Do Differently When I Get Back On The Trail

In the time I was out there I learned a few things before my knee got angry with me. I hiked 12 days, and was on the trail 14 including the two zeros in the woods. I did 115 miles, averaging 9.6 miles per day. Hiked in the rain, lost my food bag to a bear, climbed the equivalent of Mt Everest, and avoided shelters every night for the luxury of my tent. I took too much food outta the gate, and otherwise found some opportunities to reduce pack weight.  When I started hiking farther and faster, I uncovered a skeletal problem that caused me a lot of pain and anguish. All in all, a pretty good shakedown ...

So what will I do different when I get back on the trail?

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Underlying Cause

Saw Dave - my Physical Therapist at Holland Hospital Rehabilitation Services today. I've seen him before, and he always got to the root cause of my pain. With two conflicting diagnoses, I was eager to hear what he had to say. After I described what happened, and he did an initial assessment, he agreed that I was dealing with a pes anserine bursitis, along with some lingering tendonitis. He said it was clearly an overuse injury. But the fact that it did not occur till I was ten days in, and then only after I had increased my mileage, suggested that there might be a bio-mechanical issue causing it.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Second Opinion ...

Saw a Nurse Practitioner at my primary care facility today. She's calling it a pes anserine bursitis vice a patellar tendonitis. That's the bursa that's under three conjoined tendons at the point they attach to the tibia - right where I feel all the pain.

Treatment in the short term is the same - rest, ice, compression, elevation ... and anti-inflammatories. Maybe a lidocaine/cortisone cocktail injection. I did get a referral to my PT, which is what I was really after.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Well ...

Doc told me to give it a few days, and I've given it six. I've been a good boy - resting my knee,  taking anti-inflamatories, icing it, using a compression wrap ... But the bottom line is that I'm spending a lot of money staying in this motel, and I still can't walk without pain.

I have a shuttle to Asheville tomorrow, where I'll pick up a rental car and drive home to Michigan. There I'll see my ortho guy, get a better picture of what's going on, and get on any treatment/therapy to repair the injury.

I'm bummed. But I've had a great outpouring of support from my friends and family.  Everyone urging me to get healed, and to get back on the trail.

Which I will.

If I'm ready by June, perhaps I'll flip-flop by going to Maine and hiking south. If I have to wait till July, I'd consider a Flip-Flop where I'd start in Harper's ferry, VA, Hike north to Katahdin, then return to Harper's ferry and hike south to Springer Mountain.  Otherwise, I'll start again on Springer next Spring.

What is certain is that the trail will be here when I'm ready for it.

I'll be posting throughout the process, and I appreciate all your support.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Mmmmmm... Ramps!

Sly, Bag-O-Tricks, and Bookworm are staying in the room next door. Yesterday the latter two went hunting for ramps along the AT, and came back with a nice bunch.

Ramps are a wild leek that resembles a scallion, but with broad, flat leaves. The flavor is described as being like an onion, but with a very strong garlic smell. And they are pungent. Those who eat a big meal of them tend to be shunned by others ...

For days.

Because they are one of the first greens to grow in spring, their appearance in spring is a big cultural event throughout Appalachia. Large regional ramp festivals are held annually in North Carolina and West Virginia. Lately, ramps have become the darling of chefs and foodies.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Stupid Meaningless Milestones

You know like arbitrary lines in the ground, or big round numbers, or some construct someone comes up with that folks latch on to? Usually completely meaningless in the grand scheme of things?

In the last few days, I crossed my first state line, passed the 100 mile mark, and have climbed the equivalent of one Mt. Everest.

Without Sherpas.

Of course if you push too hard to make one or more of these milestones, and end up in a motel for days popping pills and icing your leg, they may be meaningful - Just not in a good way.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Doc Says

With the help of the prednisone, naproxin and norco, and a madingly slow pace, I made it to Rock Gap by 6 pm. It had been raining steady with hail for the last three hours. So when Ron Havens himself showed up in a warm van, I could not have been happier.

He grew up in the area, worked for the Forest Agency from when he was in eighth grade, and have been all through these mountains since. He was a wealth of knowledge, and it was a pleasure talking with him. 

He told me to just ask at the desk, and there would be someone to take me to the clinic in the morning.

Sure enough, one of his friends showed up to take me, and waited for me against my objections. These people go way out of their way to help us out.

The First Temptation of L Dawg

I had spent two days and three nights in camp, more or less babying my knee. When I got up the third morning, it was feeling noticeably better. The sharp pain was gone. It was time to leave camp and get to Franklin, NC.

Ron Havens is a respected friend of the trail who operates three motels catering to hikers. He picks up folks at several nearby gaps, one of which was only eight miles away.

Relatively easy miles with the exception of Albert Mountain. Not the highest, not the longest ascent, but the first to be steep enough to require using hands to climb over rocks.

Several hikers pointed out that there is a blue-blazed trail that circumvents the mountain...

My Walking Stick

After any period of rest, the first several steps were real painful. I needed a walking stick since I use my hiking poles to hold my tent up. I found a nice piece of rhododendron, and cut it down to size.

It fit great. Nice bent handle. I used it everywhere I went during those days, tended fires with it, and when I was bored, I started whittling on it. One knot became a part of a bear paw for the one that got my food bag. Another was my knee with the hot spots showing. Bands around the grip featured the mountains.

When I was ready to hike out, I wrote this URL on the handle, and left it against a tree. If you found it, that's the story. Hope you make it yours, and that it's as good to you as it was to me.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Pampered in the Woods

One zero stretched into two as I wanted to give that knee a good rest. I was rarely alone, seeing something like 20-30 hikers a day. And they were all good to me.

I traded a Snickers Bar for an ace wrap with a Scoutmaster.
I was limping around gathering fire wood when one group came into my camp to take a break and hear my tail of woe. One of them got up, scoured the gap, and came back with an armload of wood.

One morning a couple came in and the woman offered me some Badger muscle rub. Then, a big ole, tobacco chewing boy asked me if I had any chondroitin. When I told him how the bear got it, he pulled out a big bag and gave me a handful.

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Snail's Pace

After three days of a literally blistering pace, I woke up at Beech Gap, crawled out of my tent, stood up, and it felt like someone had shoved a red hot poker in my knee.

"Mr Garlinghouse, on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate this pain


It felt like another inflamed tendon. It hurt every time I put weight on it, and it felt slightly better after I walked on it a bit. I delved into my first aid kit, took some naproxin and some norco, and hit the trail.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Trail Angels

Back when I got on the trail at Dick's Creek Gap, I was greeted by a group of ladies set up to feed hotdogs, chili and homemade angel food cake to hungry hikers.


I was still pretty full from breakfast, but graciously accepted a slice of cake. My mom made great angel food cake ...

I'm sure it powered me up those first few hills ...

A Blistering Pace

I was 11 miles from Dicks Creek Gap, the point where I could get into Hiawassee to resupply, and I banged them out. Longest mileage to date, and I was hustling in the afternoon to get to the gap before dark. Found no cell service to call for a shuttle, so I hitched a ride. The young man drove me right to the motel and wouldn't accept gas money.

Took my first shower in too many days! Also found my first blister on my small toe, and figured I had found my blistering pace.

I went to an all you can eat Chinese place, and put a dent in that buffet. Then to an Ingles supermarket, (a Fresh Food franchise),  and bought way too much food. Took it back to my room repackaged it for the trail, and passed out.

The next morning I took my smelly hiking clothes to a laundromat, ate a big breakfast of eggs, grits, and bacon with biscuits and gravy.  Checked out of the motel and hitched a ride back to the gap. By 1:00 I was on the trail with the goal of doing 9 miles to the GA/NC border.

Had to hustle to get to the border before sunset, and  I set up camp next to the spring at Bly Gap.11 miles in, 9 miles out, not bad for a town visit day, eh?

I decided since I was on a roll, to hike 12 miles to Beech Gap where there is good camping and water. The profile looked pretty easy. It hit the highest elevation to date at Standing Indian Mountain, but the approach and descent both looked easy. ...

It started to rain that afternoon during the descent, so I hustled a bit more than I should have to get to camp and into dry clothes. Two more blisters ...

I'm beginning to understand why Pirate told us "Never hike after 2:00"