Note to Self (And Other Middle Aged Long Distance Hiker Aspirants):
Never, EVER, underestimate the power of the trail to humble you. And maybe hurt you a little. Or a lot.
Your body is not fucking kidding when it says, "STOP."
I didn't listen and I didn't stop when my right ankle started whining at Top of Georgia Hostel.
By the time I was forced to stop, 40 miles later at Winding Stair Gap, the right ankle funk had infected the left ankle and I cried with pain and relief at the sight of my husband, my fearless rescuer, at the trail head. It helped that he brought beer.
I crawled into the back of the van, slept all the way home and asked him to dust off the crutches in the basement when we got back to the house.
The next two weeks were devoted to the standard protocol: RICE. Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation. With multiple helpings of Advil, Curcumin and an X-Ray just to be sure nothing was broken.
Nothing was broken.
Not even my spirit was broken.
As soon as it eased, I made a plan to finish this southern end. The benevolent universe smiled in my direction.
And put in lots of road crossings between Winding Stair Gap and Fontana Dam.
All those road crossings meant I could ease back into the thing with a series of slack packs. I could treat my ankles with the respect and care they deserve.
Let the Slack-Pack-O-Rama begin!
Like that, over the past seven days and with nary a whimper from my ankles, I've completed 50.6 more miles of the trail up to Fontana Dam.
I know. Not exactly churning up the trail. But that's how I want these last 450 total miles to go.
I want to luxuriate in the miles. To spend time discovering all the treasures along the way. To stop when I want without feeling like I'll be left behind or like I'll never make it.
Every day I'm on the trail, I'm making it. Whether I get "there" or not. If I'm on the trail, I am there, exactly where I want to be.
And if I'm not churning up the trail, I can spend more time sketching the experience. Which is just another way to deepen that experience. With a chance to relive it every time I look back through my sketchbook.
Here's how it went down:
Friday, June 29. Winding Stair Gap to Wayah Road, 5.9 miles.
Saturday, June 30. Wayah Road to Burningtown Gap. 8.7 miles.
Sunday, July 1. Burningtown Gap to Tellico Gap. 4.5 miles.
Tuesday, July 3. Tellico Gap to the NOC. 8.4 miles.
Wednesday, July 4. NOC to Stecoah Gap. 13.4 miles.
Thursday, July 5. Stecoah Gap to Yellow Creek Gap. 7.6 Miles.
Friday, July 6. Yellow Creek Gap to Fontana Dam. 8.0 miles.
I'll be off the trail for the next week. I'm presenting my foundations of Intentional Hiking at the Trail Dames Summit next weekend. Can't wait. YAY!
And starting to get ready to go to Maine in August where I'll get to luxuriate in the trail some more. With loons!
I may squeeze in the rest of the Long Trail in September.
And I'll finish the Smokies, and the last 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail in October.
Then I'll promptly start planning the next long distance hiking and sketching thing.
At some point, I'm going to go for a swim.