Hiking while healing a broken bone is no joke. It takes a great deal of energy to hike in the Appalachian Mountains, and it takes a great deal of energy to heal a bone.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when starting to hike with a cracked collarbone:
First, spend two weeks recuperating in a quiet place.
Second, find a hiking companion who will carry your food and community gear. The term, ‘sherpa’, may or may not come up in the negotiations. If you are lucky, the hiking companion is a much-loved husband (Jay) or wife or sister or brother or friend.
Third, find an engineer to redesign your pack with only one shoulder strap, preferably across your good shoulder. Jay took the straps on my ArcHaul Zpack and rigged a y-shaped harness holding the pack onto my back.
Fourth, wear a really good sling. I’m very grateful to my doctor for insisting upon an excellent sling for my arm.
Fifth, listen to your body. The third week of healing, and simultaneously, the first week back hiking the AT, we only walked about eight miles a day. I knew it was time to stop when the fire and brimstone would start glowing inside my broken bone, usually sometime during the last mile of each day.
Sixth, walk slowly, stopping often to admire the scenery. Walk slowly, stopping often to talk to your sherpa, um, I mean loved hiking companion. Walk slowly, stopping often to just sit and rest. Walk slowly.
Finally, try not to gag when people on the trail say, “Oh, you’re so brave to be still out here hiking!” I am not brave. Bravery and courage happen when one takes action even though the action scares one silly. Although there are scary situations on the AT, especially regarding weather, I do not see hiking with a half-healed clavicle as scary. Perhaps I just have an astonishing lack of imagination. So what adjectives describe hiking while healing? Persistent – possibly. Pig-headed – probably. Set upon one course – certainly. Obstinate – obviously. But the adjective I like best was given by a local man walking his dog today. “You are one determined woman!” Yes, determined – definitely!
We decided to visit Sarah’s parents for two days when we reached Newfound Gap. Those two days stretched to four days when snow hit the mountains and the road to Newfound Gap was closed.
Now, more snow plus icy temperatures are pummeling the tops of the Smokies, so we are still waiting. Sarah’s parents are paying for our room at their retirement center, and we are helping them sort their storage unit. The arrangement gives us a work-for-stay status until temperatures in the Smoky Mountains climb back into the double digits.
Hiking as a couple is different than hiking alone. It was hard for me to stay off the trail. I felt compelled to test our skills against the cold, to continue hiking no matter what. But Sarah and her parents helped me agree to the right decision. Margins for error are slim when temperatures dive to near zero. If we were to slip on snow-covered ice, or be hit by an ice-covered tree limb dislodged by the wind, it would be hard to stay warm until help arrived. It would be foolish to risk our safety, not to mention the safety of our potential rescuers.
When we decided to start our thru-hike in February, I assured Sarah that we would wait out the storms in towns, and hike during milder weather. Now it is time to keep that promise and to remember how lucky I am to have someone to love and to share this adventure.
The mating call of the bobolink filled the air as Jay recorded his cd of Birding by Ear Eastern/Central (Peterson Field Guides) onto his smart phone. Gear covered the bed, as once again I unpacked my pack. I had to slough at least three more pounds. What could I possibly live without???
I weighed my gaiters as I thought. Only four ounces, but realistically, how often would they be worn? Ruthlessly, I banished them. Only 2 pounds 12 ounces to go…
In a place where the Appalachian Trail is simply known as “The Trail”, Jay and I gave a presentation about our upcoming adventure to the senior center, where my parents now reside. Many in the audience had been avid hikers, and the questions we fielded were specific and insightful. We hope we will live up to their enthusiastic proclamations of allegiance!