Appalachian Trail – September 5, 2013
O M G….how could something so small hurt so much! It was a minor abrasion, but it felt like someone was sticking a hot poker in my foot. I hate whiners, and now I had become a MAJOR groaning, sniveling baby. My feet seemed much better, so I decided to hike back out. The largest abrasion on the right foot had not scabbed over yet, so I had surrounded it with moleskin to relieve pressure, wrapped it well, and wedged it into my shoe, expecting some discomfort – but holy crap! I stood up, took a step, and growled as I jerked my foot up, quickly relieving any pressure. “Freakin son of a bitch,” I muttered as I hopped around, trying to keep my balance.
I hobbled to the car, where Ms. M commented on my slow, limping gait. “It does not seem any better,” she said. “It is better,” I said, attempting a smile that was just a push of broken syllables through gritted teeth. “Huh?” she said. “Good, I’m good,” I said as I moved towards the car, throwing a handful of Ibuprofen into my mouth as I turned away. Due to sitting still and fear of overstaying my welcome, anxiety was pulling me back to the Appalachian Trail.
We reached the trailhead, and Ms. M hugged me goodbye quickly. She then headed up the trail with her friends. This was an active community. She had met a group of friends here, and as I organized my pack, I watched them practically jog up the mountain. I gimped up the trail behind them, muttering as I gingerly tried to place my feet around the many rocks and roots. As I moved up the mountain, I was already dreading the downhill resulting in more pressure on my feet.
It was a fantastic day for hiking. The temperatures were in the mid to low 60s, and the sky had cleared to a robin egg blue. Best of all was the rolling, rockless terrain that began after the first climb. I loved these old hardwood forests and the spruce/pine needles that gave a slight bounce under my feet. I wanted to stretch my legs and soar like an…hmm, definitely not an eagle. I will go with waterfowl or duck. They beat and thrash to leave the water, but once they get going, they can move. They are also often in the air for a limited time before crashing back into the next body of water.
I limped on over Holt’s ledges and Moose Mountain, stopping for lunch on the south peak of Moose Mountain. At the top of Moose, I looked off to the side of the trail and saw a large, flat slab of granite that appeared perfect for lunch. I gently made my way through the brush and laid out my gear. I had brought a sandwich from town and had alternated between obsessing over that and my feet, so I was stopping early to eat.
I heard voices as I sat enjoying my sandwich, and a few minutes later, a large group of kids came around the corner and stopped at the peak sign for Moose Mountain. They appeared to be college kids, and as I watched, they spread out on the rock in front of me – about 8 feet away. Amazingly, they never seemed to realize I was sitting right there, and I watched them play word puzzles and do some chanting. Throughout their conversation, I learned they were from Dartmouth, and this was some orientation week. They seemed pretty happy, but most complained about foot pain due to the long hike. I wanted to show them my feet, but they still did not realize I was practically part of the group.
The group leader finally stood and told them it was time to go. He then lied and told them they were only a few hundred yards away from their destination and did not have far to go. Many of them were not even wearing sneakers but different types of loafers and even flip-flops in a couple of instances. The following 3-4 miles would not be much fun for many of them.
I began packing, and a couple whirled around to stare at me. “How long have you been here?” said one of the young men. “Just a minute,” I said in feigned shock. I walked past you to sit down. He looked puzzled and then suspicious. I’m sure I would grow in mystique as they chattered away, making their way back down the mountain. Maybe I would help stall some of the impending foot pain for them.
The afternoon was languid, and I finally stopped early at a good campsite. Pulling off my shoes and socks was the best pain I had experienced in a long time – sugar, sweet agony as I slid the hindrances off my feet and fell back, gasping onto my sleeping bag, waiting for the sharp spikes of pain to subside slowly. After that, I never wanted to move again.