The last couple of days have been wonderful. As many of you know Leslie came to meet me in Hot Springs, NC and we have just been enjoying our time together. Leslie was kind enough to ask what I wanted to eat and went shopping for the ingredients. Our first night we had filet with a brandy cream sauce, garlic mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts with cheese and bacon. I actually had been craving that specific dinner for quite a while on the trail, so to have a chance to actually make it and enjoy was fabulous. I have not been craving much so to satisfy that craving was wonderful.
On the way into Hot Springs a couple of days ago we hiked about 13 miles. I have been having two issues with hiking. As many of you have read on Facebook one is the achilles pain that has been cropping up from time to time. More about that below. The other is some chafing issues that came about after the first day in the Smokies. If you read about that day that was the day of the 9 miles or so of solid up in a 12 or 13 mile day. I tend to sweat a lot and on that day I was literally soaked through like I had gotten out of a pool. Well I had chafing issues under my arms and on my thighs. I have been dealing with it ever since and thought it was under control, until the day I hiked into Hot Springs. I had already stopped once and re-applied Desitin which was the recommended solution. However, it was not working on this day. I knew the answer was to stop and put on my leggings under my shorts. In order to do this I had to strip naked from the waist down and put on the leggings and then pull my shorts back on. So I calculated in my mind….let’s see, I passed “Best Wife” (Best Wife is the trail name of the wife of Pappy, a couple that is doing the whole trail this year) quite a while ago and a mother and daughter pair a little while ago. So, if I let the mother/daughter pair pass me by I’ll have plenty of time before “Best Wife” comes through to do the changeover. Now the night before the mother/daughter pair camped at the same site we had been at and hardly spoke to us, so I had no reason to believe they would talk to me at this moment in time. Well, I was wrong. They chatted for about ten minutes before moving on. I decided at that point to quickly change out and “Best Wife” missed the show by 30 seconds. Whew. The challenges of trail life…..
So on Wednesday I did some research on my achilles/heel pain and it seems like it is a simple tendonitis type of thing in the lower portion of the tendon. From what I read the answer is to raise the heel slightly and avoid the constant full stretch of the tendon that occurs when hiking uphill. When going up your foot is in an extended position on the trail and the rest of your body is perpendicular to gravity, resulting in a fully extended position for the achilles tendon. After all of the up we have been doing no wonder I am having some issues there. The big thing is it is limiting my miles. After about ten miles, I can force another few, but that is about it. That would be a long way to Maine at 10 to 13 miles per day.
Yesterday we went into Asheville to see if I could get some answers for my achilles/heel pain. I was concerned it might be the shoes themselves, so I took my shoes along fully prepared to drop another $120 on a new pair of trail shoes. The first guy we saw knew what he was doing, but did not have a pair of non-waterproof shoes that would solve the issue. He gave me two other stores to try. At the second store the guy tried to sell me a pair of Altra shoes. Altra is known for their zero drop technology, which means that your heel and front of the foot rest on the same plane. Most shoes raise the heel slightly, so this means that my heel would drop more, instead of being raised, thus extending the tendon further and for longer periods of time. Clearly he did not have a clue as to what he was doing, so we left there and went to the third place, Foot RX. The guy at Foot RX knew exactly what the issue was and sold me a pair of heel lifts that will raise my heel about 3 millimeters. That does not seem like much but apparently that is enough to help release that tension that occurs on every single step. I’ll find out Saturday how this works. That and some gentle isolation stretching and hopefully that will be the end of this issue and Crooner and I can make up some miles.
Today is a relatively boring day of laundry and repacking. I am considering swapping out my backpack and going back to my old external frame Jansport. This afternoon or tomorrow I am going to pack it up with all my stuff and see what I think. The ZPacks is OK, but without that external frame it tends to need some readjustment all of the time and by the time I have a few hours in does not seem to fit right anymore. Sometimes it is the right shoulder that seems to take a beating, and other times it is the left. Or it seems unbalanced and I have to constantly try to readjust it back to center. Not sure what the issue is, but once you are used to a solid external frame pack, at least for me, it is hard to switch I guess. Crooner and I have had this conversation a lot. Everyone out here is an expert. They will tell you what you need in order to be a successful thru-hiker. For one it is a specific tent or hammock or pack or shoe or whatever. I have told Crooner the key to successful backpacking is you have to find what works for you. Every piece of equipment has its positives and negatives and you have to find the balance that works for you. He has been learning a lot about it, but so have I. Absolutely love my sleeping quilt and my new tent, but the backpack is not working as well as it should for the money invested.
Tomorrow I think Leslie and I will likely go check out the naturally occurring Hot Springs from which the town receives it’s name. Hopefully that will help the body recover some from the beating I am giving it as well. Not sure what else is on tap for tomorrow, but Saturday Crooner and I will head North yet again. Next stop for resupply is Erwin, TN and not too long after that is Damascus, VA and the fourth and longest state on the AT.
And now for the big news. Some of you may know that there was a reorganization at Leslie’s place of employment and her position was eliminated. Her last day of formal employment is June 2nd. What this means is that she will likely have the summer off as she looks for a new job. We found out about this a while back and probably should have thought about it a bit more before I departed for my summer adventure. Not only am I not home to support her through this period of transition, we are missing a chance to have the summer of a lifetime and go for more extended weekend camping trips and just have that opportunity to spend a lot of time together without her having to worry about using up vacation days. This has weighed heavily on my mind as I trudge up some of these incredible climbs the AT tosses in my direction. Instead of killing myself, I could be home with Leslie. We have discussed it and although she will not tell me to come home, I know she wants me there. Her big concern is that if I don’t do this I will regret it and she does not want to be the cause of that regret. So I have decided that I am going to hike to Harper’s Ferry and stop there. That is the psychological halfway point of the AT and at over 1,000 miles it is nothing to sneeze at. Perhaps at some point in the future I’ll come back out and pick up at Harper’s Ferry and hike to Katahdin. If so I could start later and it won’t take five or six or more months either. It seems like a good compromise as God willing I should be done by mid-July and we will still have at least a couple of good months of weather that we can enjoy. So there is the big news. A new finish line and time target.
Pray all is well with everyone.
PS – Got cleaned up. Feel like I have lost 10 pounds. 🙂