What a perfect-weather day on the Appalachian Trail! While much of the South,
West, and Midwest were setting record-high temperatures, this section of
Pennsylvania finally enjoyed low humidity, a pleasant breeze, and temps in the
80s, not triple digits. It was even cooler on the shady Kittatinny Ridge where I
was hiking all day.
Too bad I was hurting too much to thoroughly enjoy either the weather or the pretty
woods and views!
My right hip and leg are seriously weird. I'm almost positive the sciatic
nerve is the culprit. I need a chiropractic adjustment and a deep-tissue massage
How do you find competent medical practitioners when you're traveling and
don't know anybody whose opinion you trust? Will one or two adjustments make
this problem go away, or do I need two or three weeks off to heal the piriformis/sciatic/knee
problem? Is it better to just go home for a while and try to get the problem
resolved, or should we try to fix it "on the road?"
Those are some of the questions Jim and I are wrestling with. I felt so
crappy at the end of yesterday's hike (can't even run this week) that I was
wishing I'd tried to find a chiropractor before the weekend. Then last night I
couldn't sleep well. There is no position that is comfortable when I'm lying
down and the pain just magnifies itself when there aren't any distractions like
during the daytime.
Even awake, I have to constantly change positions (standing, walking,
sitting) so my leg doesn't drive me nuts. Neither Naproxen nor Celebrex makes me
NEVER GIVE UP
I refuse to give up and I'm not wild about going home for two or three weeks,
so I decided to do a short segment today (only long enough to get me out of
Pennsylvania!!) and asked Jim to find names and numbers of some local
chiropractors so I could call them on Monday. I also planned to call my sister
near Philadelphia to see if she knows a chiropractor I could visit early in the
About two hours into my hike Jim called me with the news that he found a
chiropractor not far from our campground in East Stroudsburg that could see me
this morning before noon. Today's Saturday. I had no idea anyone would be
available on the weekend or I wouldn't have gotten on the Trail today. There
was no way I could get to the next road crossing, or even back to where I'd
started, in time to make an 11:30 appointment. Rats!!
So Jim made the appointment for Monday morning with a chiropractor who
doesn't require I go through the whole "new patient" rigmarole with X-rays and
everything (a second one he contacted requires that). I've read thru-hikers'
journals enough to know that hikers often seek chiropractic and other medical
treatment while on the Trail. Practitioners who are located near the AT are used
to "transient" patients like this. I know my insurance will cover treatment away
from home so I'm happy Jim was able to find someone pretty easily that will see
me on little notice.
Just hope he's competent and can give me some relief from this pain.
I was already in pain after two hours on the Trail. It was hard to control my
right leg, maneuvering it over today's pointy rocks (I think these are the ones
the local club comes out to sharpen every spring!). Oddly, though, the smoother
jeep road section near the end of the Kittatinny ridge above the Delaware Water
Gap was more painful. Having to pick up the leg seems to make the knee and hip
feel better, although it slows my progress (30-minute pace today, with stops -
Jim's calls (he also found a well-respected massage therapist I can see on
Monday) really perked me up and made the remaining miles a little easier.
This is so frustrating to me. I want to be putting in 25-mile days, running
where I can, and it's all I can do to slowly walk 15 miles. I had hoped to make
it to the PA-NJ state line at the west end of the Delaware River Bridge but
stopped where Jim parked in a hikers' lot 3/10ths of a mile short of the bridge.
I didn't have the where-with-all to go any farther.
I'm doing the best I can. Probably TOO much. I don't want to cause permanent
damage to my body and there's only so much pain and lack of sleep I can endure.
But I feel like such a wimp compared to Horton, out on the PCT cranking out
50-mile days under adverse conditions as he tries to set a new speed record. I
admire his durability, stamina, and mental fortitude!
THE "OVER FORTY CLUB"
I'm also gaining more and more respect for the thru-hikers who are still out
here, like "The Over Forty Club," pictured above. I first met these folks in the
Shenandoahs the day I was doing a short south-bound run with Cody. We all
recognized each other immediately, after only that one brief meeting. One of
their group had to quit but these three are still out here battling the odds of
making it to Katahdin.
I came up on Pokey, Gumby, and Red Wolf a little while after talking to Jim
and walked with them about an hour to Wolf Rocks, our first huge rock scramble
today. It was like The Knife Edge, only the rocks weren't angled so badly. For
you geology buffs, Wolf Rocks is the approximate southern edge of glaciation
along the AT route during the last Ice Age.
The group stopped there to eat and I continued on. Red Wolf and three young
thru-hikers later caught up to me at the Kirkridge shelter as I was leaving. The
OFC is taking two days off. Maybe I'll catch them again next week.
Pokey and I talked as we walked. She and Gumby are from Minnesota, so one
topic was the Superior Trail. We talked about various places along the AT
we've really liked (and not), how fast boots and shoes wear out on the rocks,
the various hostels and other places where the group has stayed, interesting people
we've met, the weather, the bear a hiker saw a couple days ago, and how close
Red Wolf came to getting bitten by a rattler yesterday as he read a note another
hiker left on the trail warning others about that very same rattler! (One reason
Jim and Horton feel it's appropriate to kill poisonous snakes - so the next guys
hiking by don't die from them.)
I was glad to find out I wasn't the only hiker surprised by the difficulty of
the climb out of Lehigh Gap yesterday. Pokey said she couldn't have done it by
herself, not so much out of fear but because her legs are short and she couldn't
pull herself up the verticals. Her husband had to assist from above.
I'm glad I have long legs, even though my knees don't bend well. My arms are
pretty strong from years of using weight machines. I am concerned about my hand
strength, though; I have arthritis pretty badly in my hands. Necessity got me up
those verticals yesterday.
Apparently we're in for more of the same in the Whites, so Lehigh Gap was
good practice, I guess.
Pokey said even after all the miles she's hiked, she has balance problems on
rocks because of her pack. I mentioned I have increasing admiration and respect
for the thru-hikers. This is one reason. They also have to put up with so many
deprivations on the Trail: lack of variety of food, scrounging for water,
being dirty for days at a time, sleeping on hard floors or the ground, having to
deal with all the vagaries of the weather, joint problems from carrying heavy
packs (although most have seriously down-sized by now).
Yes, my way is easier. But I'm living proof even being crewed and carrying a
light pack isn't easy. (Neal, eventually I'll do my promised rant about
how "easy" this is.)
I CAN SEE FOR MILES AND MILES . . .
Today's section of Trail was attractive, almost all in woods. Because of the
rocks, my eyes were mostly glued to the ground but I occasionally stopped so I
could look around and enjoy more than the myopic peripheral view I have with my
glasses. I was disappointed to see no bears or deer, since they are supposed to
be prolific here. I can recommend this section for hiking, although running is
difficult on much of it.
The Trail improved immensely from Totts Gap to Table Rock, where it followed
a gravel jeep road for a couple miles. I met the proprietor of the hiker hostel
in Delaware Water Gap, walking with her black Lab. She was disappointed I
wouldn't be spending the night in the hostel but perked up when I told her at
least three of the six hikers behind me would be there.
The two-mile drop to Delaware Water Gap was gradual and just beautiful. Down
I went past Lookout Rock and Council Rock, which afforded pretty views of the
river. Since it was a pleasant summer weekend day there were numerous day
hikers on this section and lots of rafts and canoes in the river far below (an
1,100-foot drop to the river).
The Trail here was lined with rhododendrons, laurels, hemlocks, and ferns -
shaded, cool, just lovely. It transported me back to North Carolina. It would be
absolutely gorgeous when the rhododendrons are blooming (which wasn't too long
ago, as there are still browned flowers on the branches).
The Trail follows a dirt road for about a quarter mile before entering the
edge of the town of Delaware Water Gap. I passed the pretty Lake Lenape (named for the
Native Americans who lived in this area), enjoying the numerous water lilies in
bloom and the frog serenade.
Jim was waiting at the parking area a short distance away. I was very happy
to be done for the day and to be able to sit down longer than a few minutes; I
had to rest more frequently than usual today during the hike so the sciatic
nerve would "calm down" and not hurt so much.
Only 3/10ths of a mile to New Jersey . . .