Friday, June 28, 2013

Flies and Feet

6/24: 4.8 miles. Duncannon to Clark's Ferry Shelter. We meant to do more this day, but we ended up sitting at the Ice Cream parlor in Duncannon for 4 hours. Blooper.

6/25: 24.6 miles. Clark's Ferry to Rausch Gap

6/26: 17.6 miles. Rausch Gap to 501 Shelter

6/27: 15.1 miles. 501 Shelter to Eagle's Nest Shelter

6/28: 9 miles. Eagle's Nest Shelter to Port Clinton


Do you see a pattern in the past 4 days? The days are getting shorter, figuratively. I can't really imagine how the days would literally get shorter, unless we somehow screw up daylight savings time, don't save enough daylight, and completely run out, leaving the US in perpetual darkness. That's how it works, right? Arbitrary human concepts affect the workings of the cosmos! That's why my horoscope is 100% accurate. I write my own horoscope. Today it reads "You will hike."

Over the past week and a half, there has been a growing pain in my left foot. I've named it Kirk Cameron: for the early 90's feel good family sitcom Growing Pains. I would call it Alan Thicke, but that name has already been relegated to my leg hair. Kirk began as a small pain, just a strange tugging sensation in the space between the two foot bones connected to my big toe and second toe. With each passing day, the tugging became a tearing. Then a ripping. This is happening beneath my skin, so I can't actually see what's wrong. There is a constant dull pain, but each day I am be able to hike less and less miles before the dull pain turns into constant, nagging screaming. Not unlike the constant nagging screaming that comes from banshees, tornado sirens, or spoiled children deprived of CAAAANNNDDDDyyyyyyYYYYYYY!!!

I tried to ignore this while hiking. Luckily Pennsylvania provides all manner of distractions. First there is the constant heat and humidity. Then there are the rocks that are irregular, jagged, and sized anywhere from a bowling ball to a yoga ball. They cause hikers' feet to twist, bend, slip, and contort to all sorts of angles not meant for feet. These rocks come from a glacier that slid across the landscape millions of years ago, cheerily pooping out rocks behind it as it went. The trail follows this ancient pathway of glacial excrement, reminding us of two essential truths: life is fleeting, and glaciers climb over mountains for fun-zies. 

Next on the head parade of distractions:  hordes of 17-year cicadas. Cicadas are absurdly large, humming insects that are black and rimmed with bright orange. They're actually pretty cool looking and they don't bite, so they shouldn't be so bad as far as insects go. However, there are more cicadas in these woods than there are freckles in Scotland. The combined humming of their wings sounds like a hundred alien spaceships searching in vain for thier lost E.T. Sometimes it also sounds like robot children shrieking. I will have you know that the cicadas don't actually bother me much- aliens and robots are calming in comparison to the traffic of NYC.

Speaking of distracting insects, there are a gazillion gnats. The gnats are inexplicably drawn to ears and eyeballs. I have gotten quite good at catching gnats by clamping down my eyelids at just the right moment, crushing their little bodies against my eyelashes. Unlike the cicadas, these bugs drive me CUH-RAZY. They like to be the most aggressively blinding when one is trying to navigate slippery, dangerous rocks. I have a solution to this, however. I have made a sensory deprivation tank for my head. 

I have a pair of ridiculous green leopard print $5 sunglasses. The gnats collect on the glasses, but not in my eyes! FOOLS. I then have a rainbow bandana that I drape over my head and secure in place with my buff. This keeps the bugs from buzzing incesssantly in my ear canals. Whistle and Dumptruck say this makes me look like a pharoah, or the only chick in a groovy 70's band. I call it my Pride Moses look, and I like to imagine myself parting the Red Sea of Bigotry while techno music plays and RuPaul stomps a mean catwalk down the trail behind me. 

I told Whistle to pose for this, so she showed me her partially chewed granola bar. She's going to influence my children one day!

Finally, there are huge thorn bushes that have overgrown across the trail, forcing hikers to bushwhack through spiky, angry plants at all heights. My skin looks like I got into a fight with a small army of furious kittens.

My elbows! It's everywhere. 

All of these distractions have not proven to be distracting enough. Kirk Cameron is not content to be ignored. He was becoming more powerful and complain-y every day. I want to keep hiking, so I knew that I needed to find out what was wrong.

When we got to Port Clinton, a small town along the trail, Dumptruck and I decided to try and find a Walk-In Clinic. The pain wasn't bad enough for an ER visit. We were in town only 5 minutes when the Post Master, Russ, happened to drive by and told us to come by the post office later. He said he would talk to a local trail angel and get us a ride. Dumptruck and I consulted with Grim and Whistle, who decided that they would continue to hike, and we would meet them once my foot was taken care of. Dumptruck and I went to wait in front of the Post Office, which was just in the first floor of an old townhouse. 

We were sitting in front of the PO for a few minutes when across the street the door to the Barber Shop opened. A man looked out, and beckoned for us to come over for free cookies and coffee. The barber shop was small and cozy with wood panneled walls. It was filled with musical instruments, two beautiful old-fashioned barber chairs, NetGeo magazines, and several large taxidermied birds. Lynyrd Skynyrd crackled perfectly on the record player. Frank, the barber, handed me a gorgeous several decades-old Flatiron Mandolin and asked me to play. Several older gentlemen who clearly hang out regularly in the shop, sat around and shot the wind while I twiddled around on the mandolin and Dumptruck answered questions about the trail. 

By 4pm, Russ had gotten in contact with the local trail angel, Fred. Fred is a hearty, kind septuagenarian who wears his sunglasses over his glasses and don't you give no nevermind about it. He drove us to the Walk-In Clinic 20 minutes away, and waited with us while I met with the doctor. The doctor was absolutely wonderful, informative, kind and sweet. She didn't tell me to stop hiking. To the contrary, she told me we'd try and figure it out as quickly as possible so I could finish the trail. Unfortunately, what she figured out was that I probably have a stress fracture in the bones of my left foot. 


She sent me to another little clinic to get an X-Ray, and Fred graciously offered to take us there. Dr. Spencer had told me that often, X-Rays don't catch fractures, but that we should try anyway. The X-Ray did not, indeed, catch any fractures. The doc said that the next step would usually be to get an MRI. However, she told me that an MRI is ridiculously expensive, and that I should wait a few days to see if rest will make it better. If not, then I should get an MRI to see if it's a torn ligament or muscle, or fracture.

So- I am resting. I am planning on trying to hike again starting early next week. In the interest of actually finishing the trail and not maiming myself or making Kirk Cameron more ornery, I might skip the rest of Pennsylvania. The rocks are rumored to get even worse in the Northern section. Several hikers farther North of us have said that they'd rather have the Hiker Flu Noro-Virus again than hike Northern Pennsylvania because of the rocks. 

Otto says that a thru-hike still counts as a thru-hike if you do any missed miles within a year; a thru-hike can be an accumulation of many sections. So I'll see how it goes over the next few days, but when I start hiking again on Monday or Tuesday it may be North from the Delaware Water Gap, just at the PA/NJ border. If we do that, then Dumptruck and I will come back to battle the rocks sometime this fall. Good news is that means I'll have more to blog about even after we summit Katahdin!

Clever Girl

My prescription healing bootie. I've never been more attracted to myself.

Look at Dumptruck's calf muscles!


  1. I am jealous of your healing bootie; it is way prettier than the one I was wearing a few months ago! My attempts to regain foot health have turned into a time consuming battle to retrain my entire body so that it relearns to stand, sit and walk properly. Apparently, this requires daily targeted exercise, long soaks in the tub, self massage, wearing funny toe spreaders, custom orthotics, and constant mental attention to inhibit all of my bad postural habits developed over the past 55 years. Needless to say, there is not enough time in the day to accomplish all of the self care that has been prescribed by my mainstream and alternative care providers, and actually continue to live life:-) I have great hope that your young and supple body will heal in a miraculously short time and you will be back on the trail next week! Also, Whistle's Grandma and other relatives are looking forward to meeting all of Shanty Town for a 4th of July celebration! Rest, rest, rest; lie around ensconced in bed and allow Dumptruck to take care of you:-)

    Happy healing,
    Mama Whistle

    1. Thanks Mama! I'm sorry to hear that you've also been plagued with foot problems, but it's very validating to know I'm not alone :)

  2. I have a great idea if your foot doesn't heal, and it would be FAIR. Dumptruck can carry you, and you can carry both backpacks. Share the load... Once again you have us in stitches and bummed out both...we're working to minimize the bummed out because we're confident all will be well. The Pride Moses picture is our new favorite; Whistle is like a visual back up singer. Your idea to jump to the Water Gap is a good one. Stay safe and keep having fun. Let us know if you need ANYTHING. We love and miss you! Hope your weekend is fun, relaxing, and restorative. Love, Mom and Dad

    1. If I can't carry it, Mr. Frodo, I can CARRY YOOOUUUU

  3. Sorry to hear about your set back. It sounds like you are way OK with the decision to rest. Mom and I are are so amazed with the pictures you send. Especially the relaxed and easy attitude you guys have about your adventure. Yes, the Pride Moses picture is priceless. A suggestion for your foot is to try Magnesium Oil spray. Goes on skin and work it in over the sore area a few times a day. It is a letter carrier favorite! If it is not a fracture, it will help tremendously. I'm not a doctor, but I play one at the PO. :-) We love you and miss you bunches. Enjoy your rest. Love Mom & Dad

    1. Thanks for the advice Dad! The rest has definitely helped. Dumptruck took great care of me!

  4. Oh, Clever Girl, I hope Kirk Cameron goes away with a little rest. I went down your route in May with the x-rays and then MRI. No stress fracture, thank God, but a possible tear of the plantar fascia. I have been praying for you and Dumptruck every day. You are a gifted writer - so "clever." I too love your Pride Moses look. You may know this but the doctor told me to take 2 Aleve (8 am and 8 pm) for two weeks. That is a higher dose than normal but effective to relieve inflammation.

    1. Hey Prayer Walker! Thank you so much for your support and prayers- it seems to be working! It's still not 100%, but definitely on the mend :)

  5. We hope you heal fast but take the time you need. Enjoy your resting days! Margie & Maurice

  6. Even if you have to stop walking for awhile. Don't stop writing! I need my Cleaver Girl fix.

  7. I delightfully bumped into your trail journal after my husband and I met another woman in Harper's Ferry who was also hiking the appalachian trail. She told us we could follow her on and so we had fun looking her up. I sort of became obsessed with this whole trail thing and started reading other journals when I came across yours which led me to your blog. I was looking for a good read for the summer and I must say this is it! I landed somewhere in the middle of your journey and decided to start at the beginning to try and catch up to you on the trail (so to speak). I have breathlessly (from laughing so hard) caught up and I am so sorry about your foot. I pray it will heal quickly! I agree with someone else that said not to stop writing! You have so much talent, Clever Girl! Dumptruck, too, with his pictures!

    1. Hi there Yvonne! Thanks so much! I'm glad you've had fun reading, I've surely had fun writing. It helps me not to forget everything. Keep in touch! I hope you are having a lovely summer