Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Decision Time

Hi friends -
It's time to decide what to do about continuing my adventure on the Appalachian Trail.

I really have two choices:
  1. Grab my winter gear now and hurry up to Mt Katahdin in Maine and hike southbound to finish my thru-hike where I left off at Harper's Ferry, WVa.
  2. Call it a year for now, recoup my strength and heal my feet, and return to the trail next year at Harper's Ferry and finish the last 1000 miles northbound to Mt Katahdin.
I have decided to halt my hike and finish next year.  Here are some other considerations that helped me make my decision, both physical and psychological:

  • While my Plantar Fasciitis did not return during my second stint on the trail, other foot issues arose that make hiking painful and may be causing damage.  I have two bone spurs or calcium deposits on the back of each heel that for some reason created huge open blisters this time, as opposed to the first 700 miles.  It got so bad that I took a knife and cut two holes in the back of my shoes to give these protrusions room without rubbing.  I also have developed some nerve damage in my toes, both from the Morton's Neuroma in each foot, but also some nerve degeneration causing numbness in my toes.  Needless to say, my feet are a mess right now and hiking isn't helping them get better.  I want to discuss surgical options with my doctors and see if we can fix these problems during the winter months.
  • I have planned for this hike for more than 5 years, all with idea of starting in Georgia and ending on top of that mountain in Maine, clutching the sign and signifies the end of the trail.  I just cannot seem to come to grips with touching that sign in the middle of the hike and turning south to finish at a stone building in the middle of the trail.  I want to finish at that sign and know that I am at the trail's end.  I can't do that by flip-flopping my hike just to finish it all in one season.  The trail will always be there and whether I finish it all in one season or it takes portions of two or more, I am still committed to finishing the entire trail.
So, I am still very proud of the fact that I have hiked 1,000 miles of the Appalachian Trail so far.  And I am happy to pause my adventure on my terms and not because of an injury.  When I got off the trail, all I wanted to do was quicken my recovery and get back on.  But as I was nearing Harper's Ferry, all I could think of was all the other things I needed to do or wanted to do after I stopped hiking.  That in itself was a strong signal that I should give the hike a rest for a while.  I still like hiking and backpacking and camping.  I want to do some more during my off months if my foot issues permit. 

I have still lost about 35 pounds and feel very fit.  I am also committed to not overeat now while my physical exertion winds down, causing me to regain the lost weight.  I do like seeing my toes instead of my gut first again.  I like this weight loss and don't want to revert to my old ways.

Well, there it is - my decision - mine alone, after all, it's my hike.  Stay tuned.  I will keep you up to date on my foot issues as options are explored and plans are made for my return to the Appalachian Trail next spring.  When I do, I will have made some gear changes that will lighten my hiking load by several pounds.  More on that later in some future posts.

As I get access to my main computer I will put together a photo montage of all the pictures from Springer Mtn to Harper's Ferry.  Look forward to that - there are some great shots you have yet to see.

Happy trails, y'all.  More later.

Six-Six on the AT
Bob Ziegler

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