First I would like to apologize for taking so long to write. It seems that some people are worried already. Just because I don't write every day doesn't mean I've been eaten by a bear.
Anyway, let's start off with THE GOOD! The lead up to the hike was great. After D.C. I took the train to Gainesville, GA where I caught a shuttle from the folks who run a place called "Hiker Hostel." I'll get some pics in as soon as possible. But if you must see it right now.... go to www.hikerhostel.com to see where I started. They are running a great special right now where they pick you up from the train, plane or bus and bring you to the outfitter for a "Shake Down." Basically what that means is they go through your pack. You dump everything on the floor in the middle of the store. There is plenty of space and they have several packs strewn out on the floor in different corners. It's a little comical because some of the "pro's" are more brutal than others.
Their job is to get your pack as light as possible but still leave you the luxury items you feel you must have. They come just short of public flogging for having an old 8 pound tent when you can carry a 4.5 pound tent or better yet... a ground cloth and a tarp that can be tied off (in case of rain.) Or better yet... "who needs a tent... the shelter isn't full until everyone is in it!" And after they get you down to almost nothing they start adding in a few ounces here and there by reminding you about the little things that you might have forgotten like a clean up set for your "mess kit." One poor girt actually forgot toilet paper and they gave her the "lecture" on which leaves are best and how to spot the poison ivy!
After "Shake Down" I was lucky enough to experience what is know as "Trail Magic." There are people know as "Trail Angels" who occasionally appear out of nowhere for no apparent reason and just do something nice for you. (Wouldn't that be a nice Life Lesson!?) So these "Angels" set up a little cookout in front of the store. The Trail literally goes right through the building! That's a little AT trivia for you... The only place where the AT goes under shelter is at Neel's Gap.
After eating a few burgers and meeting some of the passing hikers... they are a very friendly bunch-- I was getting ready to call the Hiker Hostel to get a ride back and one of the locals said he was going that way (and had been meaning to stop in to "see the place..." ) so he brought me back. I hadn't even been out on the Trail, yet and already experienced Trail magic twice!
Back at the Hostel I ate dinner had a pretty good night sleep and a great breakfast in the AM... Ready to go!!
So the first day on the Trail is a sunny day. The weather is great. And everybody is ready to Walk. I decided to take my time to start out. In order to finish in six months, you need to average 12 -15 mile days. But I planned on my first three days to be just 10 mile days to break myself in... I could make up miles later. So off I go, taking my time enjoying the fresh air and the great weather.... stopping at every opportunity to take some pictures to chronicle my Adventure. Which leads me to....
THE BAD... I was taking pictures of everything- trees, plants, waterfalls, streams, kids and families (that were in the Park on day hikes and picnics) --just about everything. Anyway, one shot took me a little off the path. After taking the picture and going back onto the Trail, I caught a loose rock that caused me to lose my footing.
Now those of you who know my background in dance, know that I am pretty graceful. But I have been plagued lately by a recurring calf injury that will occasionally tear if I make sharp, sudden movements. I have been fortunate lately to work with choreographers who are willing to work around my limitations. No jumping, no running and no quick direction changes! I think you can see where this is going...
So back to the loose rock. I had to make a quick decision. As I started to catch myself from falling, I could feel the pressure on the calf. Did I want to catch myself from falling and ruin the calf or take the tumble and save the calf? Keep in mind we are not just talking about my own body weight but an extra 40 pound pack of gear! Well, if any of you have ever ripped your soleus from your gastrocs, you know it was an easy choice to make. The pain of that kind of tear is something to be avoided at all costs.
I opted for the tumble... I figured drop and roll... just like in modern dance. Luckily I still had the camera in my hand. (Remember it was a picture that instigated this whole situation.) In order to protect the camera, I brought it in close to my body. This was great because if I didn't the direction of the fall and the 40 pound weight of the pack would have broken my arm. But now with the arms in to protect the camera and the forward momentum... I just twisted as much as I could so the weight of the pack took the biggest impact. But... that brings me to....
THE UGLY! Even though the pack took the biggest hit... I still landed on the leg and arm first. So, I am now sporting a big ugly bruise on my arm, a minor cut on the leg (must have hit a rock or branch or something) and a little swelling in the calf from trying to catch myself (before quickly changing my mind!)
Now. Having said all that. Have no fear! I am fine. Except for the bumps and bruises, and the minor pull in the calf that is...
So, I had a decision to make. I literally sat at the next bench I came to for about an hour. I ran the whole range of the emotional spectrum starting with angry for not being more careful with the leg, to disappointed about possible failure, to motivated to continue on, etc. Finally I did come to a decision. And that is that I was glad that it happened so early on. If I had been days out into the trip when this happened, I would have had to sit and rehab the leg in the woods (I brought all the stuff to do that just in case!) The problem with that is... I'm not making mileage (and losing valuable time) and when you are walking the cold is bearable, but when you are just sitting still it's hard to shake the cold. Not to mention that cold and flexible do not go together well.
As I started walking back down the Trail, I realized that I had made the correct choice. The calf was really sore, which made the knee achy and by the time I reached the bottom of the Trail, the opposite hip was in on the action.
OK, that's the Good, the Bad and the Ugly... but wait! There's more GOOD! Because I caught myself in time... the calf didn't really TEAR, it just feels like a muscle "pull" or "strain." The first two times I really ripped it, it took months to fix. But the last time I did this (in December at the Christmas Show) it was pretty bad... but not as bad as the first two times. Partly because I felt it start to give and stopped as soon as I could. Luckily, the dancer's are all pro's and they covered my parts for the rest of the show!! BRAVO! That tear took about a month to get back to normal. And this tear was not as bad as that (because of my decision to take the fall.)
I'm thinking that after three or four weeks of rehab... I will be ready to get back to it. But the other tough decision I had to make was that I am going to have to "section hike" rather than "thru-hike." So instead of the original plan to hike GA to ME, I will start with the CT and MA sections which are a little easier than the 5 and 6 thousand foot mountains in GA and ME. Also, if the leg still is not holding up... I can just call someone to come get me. It's not too far. If that goes well and I still have time in the summer, I may attempt to continue on into VT and NH (again close by.) Then next summer I can do ME and the southern states.
So I have some projects (that I have been putting off) that I will be working on while rehabbing the leg. And by mid- April I should be back on the Trail. I will keep you posted. Keep in mind this is only a temporary set back.
Thanks to everyone for your support. And please don't worry!
I will add some photos of D.C. and GA (hopefully tomorrow.)
Peace and Love,