I haz a blog. But no pictures. I wrote this about two weeks ago and still haven’t had time to go through the pictures…
The short version* of my hike:
It started out great, then it was two days of rain where I did too many miles because it’s never fun to stop and enjoy a view in the rain. I ended up with a few blisters, two very painful and one infected.
Since skin is skin, and I’m prone to those types of infections, I was prepared with antibiotics packed in my emergency gear. Day 4 it was very easy to road walk a few miles to a motel room right across the street from a great restaurant.
I stayed there all of day 5, resting and popping pills. (The restaurant supposedly has a full bar. I wouldn’t know because I didn’t drink. Not even once. THAT’S how committed I was to getting better and continuing the hike.)
I drew a circle in permanent marker around the angry redness on my foot and by the next morning most of the red was gone and the swelling had reduced greatly.
Day 6 was pretty awesome; not too hard miles and I treated myself to a campsite at Gooseberry Falls State Park so I had access to water, bathrooms, and trash cans. It’s very surreal to be a backpacking camper among car campers though.
Day 7 kind of lagged. The antibiotic best for me (given the type of infection I get and other medications I take) is probably the only antibiotic ever prescribed that requires an EMPTY stomach. And I had to take it 4 times a day for peak effectiveness. The first and last doses of a day weren’t too difficult, but as I tried to hike, fuel, and medicate during the day it was tricky. I was also in a good bit of pain from walking on blisters, infection or no.
I rallied that afternoon by meeting some cool kids (probably in their mid to late twenties) and hanging with them for a bit. I had another reservation for Day 8 at Tettegouche State Park and we were too far away on the trail for me to make it so I left them and camped solo at a beaver pond complete with active beaver making a dam. That was pretty cool.
Day 8 started OK, had some high points of some really great views, and then hit a huge low point that evening. A miscalculation plus poor trail signage meant I was mentally prepared to be done hiking around 6pm yet it was 7:30pm before I got to my cabin.
When I got to my cabin – a rustic walk-in only site – the park staff had been nice enough to open it for me, but they forgot to leave me the key. Which is also the only way to get into the bathroom and shower facilities.
I had been counting on the shower to clean my feet and to wash my clothes. It was yet another mental setback. There was no phone service, although there was a landline courtesy phone outside the shower house. I tried calling the office but they were closed for the night.
I made the best of it with pump water and a basin I’m pretty sure was meant to wash dishes and not feet. It was set to be the coldest night since I started hiking and I was inside, with a wood stove. It had rained the night before so I used more emergency supplies (fire tinder) to get the place FIERCELY warm (I had to open the windows after a few hours!) and set my tent up to dry. Things could have definitely been worse.
Luckily I didn’t need to take a sh*t during the night, so I made do with watering the grass outside my cabin. In the morning, I left the office a message and a park ranger came down with the key, coffee, a certificate for a night’s stay, and many apologies.
So in many ways Day 9 started quite well. I showered, got to wash my hands with soap after a good flush, and got an extra caffeine buzz. I also was shocked at how short the spur trail seemed walking back OUT to the Superior Hiking Trail. It seemed 5 miles long the night before.
Unfortunately I hadn’t slept well the night in the cabin. I kept getting up to regulate the temperature (more wood, open windows, close windows, more wood?) and my mind just wouldn’t shut off. I also was having a more and more difficult time eating. Dinner was about the only meal I could complete.
The antibiotics, while requiring an empty stomach for absorption, weren’t any more delicate on my stomach than those taken with a meal. I would get horrible chemically burbs about a ½ hour after a dose and feel very queasy.
Basically, my stamina was shot. After I took the wrong turn at a fork, I sat down to re-orientate myself, figure the way back to the trail, and call a shuttle.
Originally I thought I might get a shuttle just a little further north up the trail, to a lodge where I had a food box waiting. I could spend a night or two and try to get back on the trail. But the more I texted back and forth the shuttle service, the more it made sense financially and physically to get back to my car, go home, get better, and come back to finish another time.
I had originally planned to spend 15 days on the trail. So I was short by a little less than a week. It’s unlikely I could have finished in the time planned, although I was technically only one day behind my schedule. I was very aware that it was taking me longer and longer to cover less and less miles. And I was in pain while I did it. (I have yet to speak to my doctor. I can just hear her, “You have the antibiotics so you don’t die. Not so you can continue to try and kill yourself.”)
If anyone wonders if I was sad to quit this hike, the answer is no. Yes, it’s discouraging to have made some small mistakes in the beginning (I knew I was hiking too many miles before my feet acclimated to all day hiking) and have it cost me the trip. But since I could not go back and change the past, looking at the situation I was in and how I was feeling, I know I gave it my best and I was very happy to quit. It was the right decision for me.
It was also the right decision because many of the mental reasons I yearned for this hike were satisfied. I turned off my email for over a week. I pretty much ignored social media. I did not have to juggle two jobs plus a foster dog plus a regular household. All I had to do was put one foot in front of the other. It’s an incredibility freeing sensation. One that I have missed and was glad to feel again.
I plan to go back in October. Maybe to finish it all. Maybe just to do another section. We’ll see.
*Daily write ups of my itinerary and some reviews will be forthcoming as time (HAH!) permits. (I actually have lots written, but all in first draft fits and starts as I find a moment or two.)