The best laid plans……maybe it was the 25 mile day on Sunday, maybe it was the cumulative miles, maybe it was too many hills…..or probably it was the new shoes. Whatever it was, I had to cut today’s hike short with a very sore right Achilles’ tendon. From the outset I realized that an adjustment in miles would be necessary before the day ended. Since I have hiked relatively injury free for 53 days, I knew it was inevitable that I would eventually suffer a setback. Now I just hope it’s brief. Having had tendinitis on many occasions over my years as a runner, I know how to treat the ailment. More significantly, I realize that the most important component of recovery is rest. So I’m back in Daleville for at least three or four days.
A cool, pleasant sunny morning greeted Speck, Little Seed and me as we headed up the reasonably level trail from Harvey’s Knob. After less than a mile, however, I knew the day would be a challenging one. Not due to the terrain, but instead due to an Achilles that began talking to me in a language that I unfortunately had heard before. It repeatedly asked me to give it a rest until I finally realized that I needed to slow down. So I gingerly attempted to hike without a limp throughout the morning. Finally, I gave up and limped. Relying heavily on my poles, I somehow still got in 12.1 miles.
My hiking companions were nice enough to stop at the first crossing of the Blue Ridge Parkway to allow me to catch up. It was then that I told them to hike on and not worry about me. Surprisingly, for a couple of miles I stayed with the two as the soreness temporarily subsided. Then just as quickly, it returned with a vengeance. I hobbled the next few miles, finally reaching the Cove Mountain Shelter where my two buddies were having lunch. Also at the shelter were the two Jersey boys we had met yesterday, Calves (not Cabs) and El Gato. They had been joined by three other section hiking friends, Sandbaggers, GG, and…..I can’t remember the strongest hiker in the group. Shoot me an email when you get home and read this, Calves.
As I dejectedly ate two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Speck finally asked me what I was going to do. Reluctantly I told her I felt like my best option was to try to get to VA 614, Jennings Creek, and go back to town. The other option was to hike on to the planned shelter and face a more challenging day tomorrow, with a very sore tendon. I think I made the only sane decision. All the others commiserated with me until I tried to alter the gloom with laughter. It hurt, but I knew walking away from my friends of only a few days was really all I could do.
Watching Speck walk into the distance and eventually disappear over the horizon was one of my lowest moments on the trail. We had become good friends in a short period of time. I will miss her. Still I have to move on. As I continued to very slowly make my way toward the road, I called Linda. She too felt for me. After a brief emotional moment I knew I had to walk on up the trail….for now to a road where old reliable Homer would be waiting, but in a few days back to the same spot to continue north. Again, there really wasn’t any other choice.
When I finally reached the road, Homer too showed remorse over my situation. On the drive back to Daleville I outlined my rehab plan to him, mainly so that I could hear it aloud rather than just in my thoughts. Part one was to call my good buddy John Teeples. John is overnighting a new pair of Cascadias one half size bigger, along with some other items that should help with the injury. But for the rest of the night and the next few days, it will be ice, anti-inflamatories, and rest.
As I assess the situation, I’m still determined to stay positive. After all, I’m over a week ahead of schedule with 15 mile days. I can still take ten days off and finish on the day I planned, and even if I need to finish a little later, Baxter State Park usually remains open until mid-October. So I’ve had a little setback. I’m really grateful that it didn’t come earlier and that hopefully, it isn’t that serious. Trail news may be somewhat diminished for the next few days; however, I hope to see a few of the hikers I’ve passed recently as they arrive in Daleville. My brother would say, “Rest, get better, and get going.” I’m listening Don. In just a little while I’ll be walking again on the Appalachian Trail.