Day 44: Abort! Abort!
The plan was to eat breakfast, get a ride to the trail, and meet back up with Firefly this morning. Breakfast was delicious. Getting to the trail was a bit more challenging as the bus I hoped to take does not run on the weekends. Fortunately, there’s a trail angel here that regularly shuttles folks around. Quick call to Plans Too Much and 10 minutes later, I was on my way to the trail with Triangle, another flip flopper that was seven miles further south than me. All he asked for was a few dollars in gas money, too easy.
Got my gear on, extended my trekking poles, and then first step onto the trail and my left knee buckled. It took several minutes to make the first few hundred feet.
From there, I knew my day was over. I sat down on a small hill overlooking a creek and went through a wide gamut of emotions. I was angry, frustrated, disappointed, sad. Cycling through them one by one and all at once. Despite the fact the knee was still not very painful, there was simply no stability or support there to continue on. Or should I just push forward and hope for the best? How far would that actually get me? Stranded further in the woods? Just go back to town and jump on Amtrak home? Take a few weeks off until the wedding, then resume and do what I can in the remaining time?
I texted Dusty back-and-forth a little bit; her trying to talk me off the ledge. Meditate for a few minutes. Go to Walmart and get a brace. 800mg of Ibuprofen every six hours is safe. Get lunch and reevaluate. RICE (Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate).
So, less than an hour after stepping foot onto the trail, not even building a sweat, I was at the side of the same road I was at a day earlier trying to hitch a ride back to Rutland. I had already decided I was done for the day and probably the next. I got a ride from Amanda, a school teacher, and her son Isaiah, who actually hiked the 100 mile wilderness and Katadhin with a school group this summer.
I dropped my belongings back off at the Yellow Deli who were welcoming as always. I went to Walmart and got a big brace, because of course I had sent home the one I used earlier as the right knee recovered. Oops. Then I went to Gill’s, a local deli that was recommended by Amanda and had been voted best deli/sandwich shop in the Rutland area for 21 years running. The place had a line the whole time I was there and the sandwich was worth it.
Then I just laid up in bed. Bored. As tedious as the trail seemed the last few days, what I would’ve given to be there rather than stuck in bed! Eventually, I got up to see the Hitman’s Bodyguard which was entertaining. Now to figure out a plan for tomorrow. I’m quickly running out of movies! Tentative plan is back on the trail Monday. If things don’t go well, I might get off the trail through the wedding.
Day 45: Laying Around
Breakfast at the deli and a whole lot of laying around today. I realized how swollen my left knee is, although there’s not much pain. I think the swelling actually started towards the end of the White Mountains…
The most exciting thing I did was take a 20 minute walk through Walmart. Nothing that I need, even if I were home. So much clutter. Saying that, I did leave with 100 Ibuprofen (Walmart Brand), white-chocolate pretzels, and a Dr. Pepper. The pretzels were delightful.
Then I took a long nap back at the hostel with my knee elevated. I had dinner back at the Deli, which reopened today after the Sabbath, and then a big step towards real life; boredom motivated me to download Netflix on my phone. I need to get out of Rutland soon!
Day 46: The Farm
Perhaps not my greatest decision, but I volunteered to go to the farm today. Initially, three people were needed so I was the third to volunteer, although we eventually ended up with seven. I felt a sense of obligation based upon how long I’d been at the hostel, although I was concerned about my physical state.
As it turned out, physically I definitely noticed the balky leg, but it did not hinder me from working throughout the day. The wisdom of volunteering for a day of physical work is probably the choice that needs to be reevaluated.
Getting to the farm was more than an hour long car ride, and being as how we had too many people for the minivan, I took the trunk area behind the third row of seats which was surprisingly roomy enough to elevate my knee and just rest.
The farm was totally organic and they had 60 acres which included goats, cows, apples, tomatoes, berries, corn, watermelons, cantaloupe, carrots, cabbage, lettuce, potatoes (of many varieties), and a plethora of other things including herbs, flowers, and bees. It was beautiful just to walk around and amazing to see the amount of produce.
Prior to lunch, we pulled weeds out of the carrot beds. Ironic because I don’t even weed my own house. Then we were served lunch. After lunch was the heart of our labor. We spent over two hours and half a mile following behind the tractor collecting potatoes. What we accomplished in two hours would have taken a day to a day and a half without our labor. It was rewarding seeing the spoils of our work.
Along the way, we ate some cantaloupe fresh from the field and sweet corn off the stalk, which didn’t even need to be cooked. Of course, it was all amazing.
This farm supports the other twelve tribe communities in New England and extra produce is sold at a farmer’s market in Boston. The community is very focused on trying to make itself self-sustaining, although they emphasized that their initial focus was sustained-relationships and those relationships are the impetus for everything else that follows as they work to take care of each other. There are certainly some values that I really like about the community, although they are a bit too conservative for me. Their hearts are in the right place, though.
After the potatoes, some people milked goats and then we went to the river that passes through the property. It was nice to rinse the dirt off and give my knee a chance to soak in the cold water. In appreciation of our work, we were given two boxes of produce with things like cherry tomatoes, apples, and chips (okay, so the chips were packaged). Our work was definitely valued.
Getting back to the hostel, I quickly showered and went to get a beer. The time gave me an opportunity to think on my knee.
My knee feels slightly improved although the swelling persists. I still move with a clear hobble, but I don’t know that it is much different than prior to my first step on the trail a few days ago. I think buckling on that first step was an even greater injury mentally than physically. It shattered the confidence and perception that I’d held that I could continue to push through anything. Suddenly, I felt vulnerable, damaged, and uncertain. I feel ready to return to the trail tomorrow, but I don’t know what it will take to rebuild that confidence. 500 miles and more than anything, I’m afraid. Afraid of failure. Defeat. Judgment. I feel that so much of my success can be attributed to stubborn pride and the confidence that ultimately, I’ll find a way. I hope that I can rally my mind and body through this challenge. I can’t cope with quitting until I’m sure that I gave it everything I had, not always for the better as sometimes that means my physical destruction…
Day 47: Lazarus
Interesting day. Knee did not give me any encouragement, and thus at 8:30am I was looking at the AMTRAK schedule to Orlando. As it turns out, the train only leaves at 8am during the weekdays. Had I checked earlier, would I have been bound on a train home to recover through my cousin’s wedding? Maybe.
However, as fortune would have it, I was encouraged (bullied) by my athletic advisor to just go out and try seven miles to the next pickup point. Can’t let fear win… Well, I’m a terrible quitter. Here we go.
I got another ride from Tom (Plans Too Much), who luckily for me, did not remember me or giving me a ride to the same location just a few days prior. He asked where I was from and I said Orlando, Florida. He said he’d transported like ten people from their this year. Inside I was laughing and sighing relief. It was a bit embarrassing.
I started back onto the trail, a little bit of cursing directed at coach. Unfortunately, not atypical. But, I get over it. The leg did not initially feel much different, despite the brace. However, the legs got into the flow and just kept moving.
Now, I was extremely slow, doing little more than two miles per hour and was leap frogging with a family of four (a mother, grandmother, and two children, a son and daughter that appeared fourteen and twelve, respectively). In fairness, they were moved really well and they’re going all the way to Georgia, too. Impressive.
Climbed up to an area called White Rocks and there was a small area filled with rock pillars and designs. It was really cool. Probably another mile or so later, I came upon another one. This was definitely the high point of the day.
I ate dinner alongside a river, something I need to do more often. I filled my water bottles for the first time of the day. The weather has significantly cooled with a high of 73 and cool night ahead. The advantage of that is that I consume far less water! Then I continued into the evening.
I went a little past dark. The problem now is that my headlamp is really light and not-so-strong. Trying to scout spots in the woods to sleep are difficult when I can barely illuminate the trail in front of me. Nevertheless, I found a good spot. I’ve stuffed all my worn clothing (minus my shoes) into the toe box in my quilt so I can awake and not freeze in the cool morning. Hopefully, tomorrow will be productive. Trying to get to Bennington in about two more days, nearly 50 miles. I did 18ish today with a very late start and bum knee.