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, stepped, 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, which resulted in more pressure on my feet.
It was a fantastic day for hiking. The temperatures were 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 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, much different from groups on other trails, 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 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 had nowhere 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, returning 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.