Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Surgery over the winter

Hi friends -
Here's the latest:

I visited with my GP last week with good results.  My doctor is so pleased with my physical condition and lab results that he has taken me off all regular meds.  My numbers are all normal and my weight loss is stable at minus 25 pounds.  He says I have the physical shape of a 45 year old.  Not bad for 60, right?  Except for my feet that is.

I met with my podiatrist yesterday and he agrees that surgery is the final solution to the bone protrusions on the backs of my heels.  But, he won't do them both on the same day.  First the right foot, followed by 3 weeks immobile and 3 weeks in a boot, followed by physical therapy.  Once the 6 weeks have past, we will do the left foot, followed by the same 3/3/PT pattern.  This will get it all done by the end of the year and let me have 5 full months to get back into shape for the second 1,000 miles of the AT starting in May.

We haven't set the date yet but it will be in two or three weeks.  In the meantime I have a short window to do some more traveling and visiting family and friends before I am down for a while.  The good news with being laid up is the chance to do some photo editing and posting my pictures and videos of the trail on the blog. That will keep me busy for a while.  Then there's my book - a civil war ghost story - that I have started a dozen times before.  Maybe I can get it out of my head and onto the computer.

Have you seen the movie "The Way" with Martin Sheen?  It's about the Camino de Santiago that goes from France to near the coast of northern Spain.  It's on my list of things to do in 2014.  Anybody want to join me?  It's easier and shorter than the AT and an inexpensive way to see Europe.  Check it out - I would welcome the company if anyone is seriously interested.

That's it for now - time to hit the road for Knoxville.

Happy trails,

Bob Ziegler
(Six-Six on the AT)

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

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Bear's Den Hostel

Hi y'all -
No signal, low batteries, slow computers and all have contributed to not posting regularly lately.  This will be short as the bandwidth on this puter will not allow the upload of photos.  So,

I am at the Bear's Den Hostel, just 20 miles south of Harper's Ferry, WVa.  It's in the middle of what's known as the 'Roller Coaster' section of the mountains - it's a constant change from uphill to downhill and back again over 15 or so miles.  I did the first 10 miles of it to get to this hostel and it kicked my behind.  But the reward has been worth it - the hostel special includes a bunk, shower, soda, pizza, Ben and Jerry's ice cream, and a wonderful old stone building to stay in.  Now, considering that there's a storm coming in and I didn't get much sleep at all last night, I am going to stay another night and let the weather pass. Besides, this is the best hostel on the trail - owned and operated by the ATC itself.  You will have to wait for pictures, but trust me - it's really neat.  And, you don't have to be an AT hiker to visit or stay.

For the past 7 days I have been hiking in the Shenandoahs.  For all but one or two days it has rained all or part of the day or night - when it wasn't raining it was clouded or fogged in and the trees were dripping as much as the rain itself.  Everything is wet and remains wet - I smell, my clothes smell, my pack smells, and even my food smells of mildew and such.  So, to be here at the hostel and have a chance to wash and dry everything is a real treat.  I don't smell anymore.

My feet are swollen from the roller coaster hiking, the blisters are healing, and there's no sign of the Plantar Fasciitis returning.  I will have to post pictures of my solution to the blister problem - cutting two big holes in the back of my new hiking shoes.  Hey - it's a custom shoe!

So - two days to Harper's Ferry and arrival on my birthday.  I plan on taking the train to DC, then Amtrak to High Point.  At that point I must decide - on to Maine to flip-flop my thru-hike, or call it a year and finish the trail next year.  I change my mind every mile it seems.

That's it for now - more pictures to come when I get to a faster computer.

Happy trails!