View Full Version : Ready to continue my hike

05-05-2012, 22:33
As some of you may have read or not, I started hiking north from Springer on March 29, and made it 52 miles to Unicoi Gap before injuring my knee.

I got off in Hiawassee and spent almost a week there hoping to recuperate enough to get back on trail from there. But after five days, I wasnít feeling much better so I rented a car and drove home to Pennsylvania.

I had an xray taken which showed no breaks, and I have been waiting for an MRI, but because I am doing it through the VA, I have not been able to get it done yet. In the meantime, I have been staying here for the last 3 weeks or so, applying ice, taking anti-inflammatories, elevating, and resting. I have been getting better slowly but surely. I am now able to walk fairly well with a brace. I think my knee should be pretty well healed in a few more weeks and I would like to get back on the trail.

The question at this point is where to go back to or start again?

I could start back at Unicoi and head north again, which will probably require a flip at some point.

I could start at harpers to maine and then flip back to harpers and work my way south.

I could do the same, but start at Damascus instead of harpers.

Or I could start in maine and go south, which doesnít so much thrill me.

I could wait until next year and start fresh, but the trail keeps calling and I really donít want to give up on this year, even if I donít make it the full distance, or finish as a thru.

Though I am certainly no expert with only a few miles under my belt, I am also no longer the naÔve romantic that many of us start the trail as. Things that seemed important about the trail before I started no longer seem as important.

But I miss the hiking. And the beauty. And the people.


Mountain Mike
05-05-2012, 23:11
I'd suggest either Harpers or Damascus leaning towards Harper's Ferry. Although you do start with a climb up Weaverton Cliff it is not as hard as going back down south. It allows for a gentler hiking to build up your hiking legs. Pleanty of places where you can slackpack if you can arrange shuttles. By the time you hit the Whites you should be in great shape. It also allows for easier access to public transportation. I'd look at elevation profiles & resupply options. Lots of store/deli, farm stands close to the trail where you can grab a meal or two you don't have to carry.

What ever you decide, good luck.

05-06-2012, 00:07
hi Pages,

I understand your eagerness to return to the trail after hiking to Unicoi gap, but from what you said, I would advise some caution before getting back on the AT with a full backpack load so soon after a knee injury. As you described your knee injury, it could be several different problems. If the xrays showed nothing, and the Dr wants an MRI, he suspects some kind of soft tissue injury, either torn cartiledge or a ligament is injured. If it is cartiledge, it could be a mild tear if you are already walking with a brace with no pain. But hiking with a full backpack on the AT will put your knee under a great deal of stress again, and a minor tear could become a major tear. If its a MCL or ACL problem, those could be aggravated also. I have been down this road with knee problems before also, we're both in our 50s, healing soft tissue injury takes longer, and it can be very aggravating!

If it was me, I would wait for the MRI, and just use this time to do some dayhiking with lighter weight daypack, and work on stretching exercises, hamstrings, achilles tendon, calves. Its the stretching that can also help the knees also.

good luck buddy

05-06-2012, 16:50
I was doing my AT thru this year and a day out of Hot Springs I fell. Not thinking to much about it I continued on hiking when I started to get a pain in my right groin. I took my 800mg of ib three times a day. The pain in my groin seemed to have not as much pain so I continued taking my daily regiment of ib. I continued on like this for several days. While heading into Damacus, I stopped at the last shelter,abingdon, to get a snack and when Iput on my pack I got a severe pain on the out side of my upper femur. I could hardly walk and i was at the point of calling for medical assistance. Luckly for me that i had my hiking poles and i hooped into Damacus on Easter day. Saw a doctor on Monday and she prescribed some pain pills and steriods and muscle relactens and told me to stay off the leg for a week and after a week if the pain persisted to have xrays taken. The pain did not go away, so i flew back to California saw my doctor and he sends me right to the emergency room. I was there for ten hours, the xrays showed no breaks and the doctor there was going to release me. The nurse and my wife ,who is also a nurse, insisted on having an MRI done. The MRI showed a crack in my upper right upper femur bone. Iam now on crutches for eight weeks. My point is have an MRI done and complain like hell. The xrays will not show hairline cracks in bones when there is alot of fluid around the injured area. I will continue my thru starting from Damascus next year.

05-06-2012, 17:34

Nitrojoe makes some more excellent points about getting that MRI. He's right. Get the MRI before you return to the AT.
Hairline fractures in bones can be difficult to see on Xrays. I had a hairline stress fracture in one foot bone years ago during my distance running days. The pain at the time radiated up my shin, and I thought for sure it was nothing more than shin splints. But the pain would not go away as long as I kept running. finally I went to a podiatrist who saw it on the Xray. Had to wear one of those soft walking boots for 6 weeks while it healed.

Hopefully your knee does not have any major problems, it could just be tendonities or bursitis. RICE (rest, ice compression, elevation) are the recommended therapy if that is all it is. Take advantage of this time to heal up properly before getting back on the trail. Maybe this year would be better for you to concentrate on some training hikes, stretching, and delay a thru hike til next year. The trail will still be there. Good luck

05-06-2012, 17:42
I'm in the same boat. Started my nobo this spring, and had to get off at Franklin. Starting to heal and looking forward to getting back on the trail.

I'm most inclined to go sobo from Katahdin, back to Springer. It kinda appeals to my traditionalist side. If I'm 100% ready to rock by mid June, I'd take that option. A flip-flop would give me time to get my trail legs back before I hit the Whites. If I have any questions about my readiness, or if I can't start till July, I'd likely go from Harper's Ferry to Katahdin, then flip from Harper's to Springer. Amtrak service to Harper's is a big consideration.

I'd suggest asking your doctor for a consult to physical therapy ... Make sure yer ready!

Pedaling Fool
05-06-2012, 17:42
I'd head south and pick it up where you got off, just the way I like doing things. But I wouldn't worry about finishing the trail, it's all about your health, just take it easy and do as much as you can. If you make it to Harper's Ferry, you'll be just as healthy as if you did a thru-hike and if you feel like getting off there, do so or continue on.

Rusty Nail
05-07-2012, 14:31
Pages, I met you my first night on the trail at Hawk Mtn shelter. I had heard you were off trail and now I am as well with a bum hip. Good luck with your recovery and dont push it if your body is not ready.

05-07-2012, 14:41
thank you all for your comments. the knee is healing nicely and i can walk half a mile with a brace and no problem. i'll see where it's at in a few weeks. rusty nail, is your name russ and were you feeding a HUNGRY hiker named sam? if so, is sam still hiking? sorry to here about your hip.


05-07-2012, 14:42
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05-07-2012, 15:08
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max patch
05-07-2012, 15:26
Walking 1/2 mile a day doesn't give me a whole lot of confidence that you are physically able to backpack 6 days a week. Especially since the cause of your original injury hasn't been identified. I'd want to find out the root cause before I started hiking again.

If you decide to give it a shot anyway, since you live in PA I'd start at the closest trailhead; if you are able to hike great, if not, then you won't be out much money for transportaion.

05-07-2012, 16:44
I got off the trail after 288 miles with severe back pain. Can't see the orthopedic doctor until May 25. I have decided to get back on at Harpers Ferry if I can get back on. My reasons are many. Not too far from home so I can get there pretty easy. Elevation gains and loses are a lot less to start going northbound from there so will have time to ease back into hiking a little. Resupply is plentiful so don't have to carry as much. If the problem should reappear I will have less trouble getting back home. Will still have good weather in New England and when I flip and head south should still have pretty good weather there. Was really hoping to finish on Katahdin but now would just be happy if I can get back on the trail.

05-07-2012, 18:37
Walking 1/2 mile a day doesn't give me a whole lot of confidence that you are physically able to backpack 6 days a week. Especially since the cause of your original injury hasn't been identified. I'd want to find out the root cause before I started hiking again.

If you decide to give it a shot anyway, since you live in PA I'd start at the closest trailhead; if you are able to hike great, if not, then you won't be out much money for transportaion.

my thoughts exactly about starting in harpers...not too far from home if i can't go far. on the other hand, i couldn't walk without crutches a week ago, now i can walk 1/2 mile with only a knee brace. i'm hoping in 2 more weeks i might be ready to take the plunge.

if not, then not. there's always next year, but not quite ready to give up on this year yet. there might be a number of us "old lame ducks" starting in harpers in june, eh? maybe we can all get together and if we are unable to hike, at least maybe we could start a band!


Rusty Nail
05-08-2012, 06:54
Pages, Yup. Sam is doing great, he had to take a zero in Hiawassi to have his toenail looked at and I lost him after that. He popped back up at the NOC and was going strong, I lost him again and found him in Hot springs, lost him again and found him in Erwin. He is out there still going strong, moving fast and eating a lot. I hopped off at Erwin but ran into Sam and Beatnik minutes before I left. They were asking about you. Strider is still out there, he was with me everyday until Fontana. He was forced to wait for a mail-drop and fell behind but I have him on Facebook. K2 (the PCT guy) always seemed to be near, I found him in every town as well.

My hip is okay but it felt like I just needed to remove the ice pick that was jammed in my joint. Only painful on the ups I could do 20+ of flats and downs with no problem. My ups had turned into 200 yards and stop, another 200 and stop. Whereas before I could get a mile or two of up before needing to stop for a minute.

05-08-2012, 20:36
Your story sounds familiar as I too was in Franklin nursing a sprained ankle and spoke to a woman talking about her husband with a knee problem and having to drive out of Franklin. I've been on the trail since March 11th and am in Hampton, TN at the moment but have taken about two weeks of zeros and lots of sub ten days but am finally about ship shape and doing 15s easy now. I'd recommend focusing on the goal and your abilility to do it and when that window will be. The body has a remarkable ability to heal and you want to give it the time to do so and then build up to a trail fitness. That doesn't mean pushing it to extremes right off the bat but with a big enough window of hiking time or perhaps switching to a section hike plan all is possible. It is beautiful out here and there is no need to rush this experience. Take your time, heal and hike your own hike at your speed. Happy trails!

Jeremy hess
05-09-2012, 20:28
Im pretty much in the same boat you are. I made it to Hiawassee as well, forced off because of knee pain almost like needles behind my knee caps. have an appointment with an ortho doc on the 15th hope it's nothing bad. Can't wait to get back to the trail I look at my pics from GA almost eveyday, I so miss the peace and serenity that the trail offers. I am also thinking where to start or whether to start over next year, and I don't want to wait. Hope all works out for you as you go back out.

05-09-2012, 21:04
Looks like I'm in the same boat, started March 20th fell and twisted my left ankle leaving the smokies hobbled down to I 40, went to standing bear hostel, made it to hot springs but looks like I did a lot of soft tissue damage and will have to plan a 2013 ( hot springs to Maine ) should of taken better care of my ankle!

06-18-2012, 21:57
Headed back to the trail!

06-20-2012, 11:24
Hi Pages - glad to know you're healing well. I am off the trail too - Plantar Fasciitis got me in the left foot and limping/compensating caused more problems in both legs. So here I sit at home dreaming of the trail. I am going through the same decision process - got off at Glasgow myself. Best of luck.

Six Six

07-21-2012, 14:18
Hey Pages, Blue Sky here, hope you make it back on at some point to continue your quest. Took some "vacation "time in the Poconos and starting back on trail tommorow, Sun 22nd. Good Luck to ya !!