What’s better than one blown out knee? Try two blown out knees.
If I hadn’t been so stubbornly prepared with my own trail name, the trail would have given me one. Thus my alternate name came to be early on “Just Call Me Grace”, or Grace in short. Because I fall down. A lot. If there was ever a point in my life when I thought I was smooth or suave, the notion has been completely humbled out of me.
So it came to occur that just outside of Erwin, Tennessee, I fell down. One foot slid off the side of the trail, attempting to pull me, pack-and-all, down the side of the mountain. Luckily my other foot valiantly threw itself to the opposite side of the trail, bringing my left knee down solidly on a very hard root. A minor mishap, and not an unusual one for me either. So the saying goes… Walk it off.
And then a few miles later… I fell down again. This time it was the thick layer of dead leaves padding the trail that took my feet out from under me. That’s been going on a good deal since the change in seasons. My butt has become accustomed to the clumsy abuse. It was when I went to stand up that I caused exception to the rule “lift with your knees”. With a 7 day food resupply on my back, my knees did not appreciate the advice. The strain was noticeable and even Treasure Hunter commented on how long he had to wait for me to get up the mountain. But, we walked it to the shelter.
The next day when I woke up, my knees were swollen and sore. They had been bothering me through the night and despite what felt like an extraordinarily long walk to the privy in the morning, I thought I could keep going. That was a mistake and by the tenth mile of what was supposed to have been an 18 mile day, I was in tears.
We made camp near a shelter and Treasure Hunter did all the camp chores so I could rest. By the morning, he had to half-carry me to the privy. Both knees felt like pineapples and were roughly the same size. So we zeroed. Treasure Hunter took care of me (The man has the patience of a saint.) and made sure my legs were elevated all day. He made wraps for them out of my t-shirt and my bra.
Today, we were still plotting our next plausible move in the tent when four men came to the shelter. Older gentlemen in their 50’s, they were out doing a 40 mile section. They were upset to hear of my misfortune when Treasure Hunter went out to talk with them a bit. So, before they went, they left us with some well-spiced deer jerky, an actual ACE knee bandage (which proves indispensable), and a Nicaraguan cigar. Wonders never cease in the woods.
Ultimately it was decided that we had to backtrack to the nearest road. We had crossed I-26 two and a half miles back and while we are loathe to hike north (SOBOs rule and NOBOs drool), it was the best thing.
Three surprisingly easy hitches later (a total of 53 road miles!), we find ourselves in Hot Springs, NC at the Laughing Heart Hiker Hostel. Which I must say is one of the most top notch hostels we have seen and for a very reasonable price.
I am resting for the weekend. My dad and my sister will be here on Monday to help us get back to where we had stopped and hopefully we can continue on south to GA.
I have much more faith in that tonight than I did yesterday when I couldn’t even stand up by myself. (Thank God for Treasure Hunter). I have been injured and sick on this long journey multiple times and I have always been able to walk it off, no matter how slowly. It felt truly terrifying to be literally immobile. The feeling that my body has failed me; or rather I have failed it by not taking care. A soundly working body is a gift. It is freedom. I’ve never seen it that way so clearly as when it is the key to my goal, which has felt so near lately (only 300 more miles!) and now seems fearfully far.
I can walk a bit better now and I hope by Monday, I can try working my way back up to pace.
Until then, Sweet Josie and I will be getting better acquainted.
Just Call Me Grace