Since starting this post I've made it to about 600 miles and temporarily gotten off trail in order to heal some tendonitis! But don't worry, I'm getting back on trail soon!
It's been a while since I've updated here. Sorry! I have been updating my Instagram regularly and also written a few posts on Appalachian Trials.
So we left the Smokies. We went to Hot Springs. It was a BLAST and I never ever wanted to leave but the trail beckons...
We hiked for about a week with Jingle, Sweets, Legs, Verge, Commando, and Packrat. Climbed a firetower and watched a sweet sunset.
These miles of trail were some of the most beautiful so far, and the days continued to get longer leaving us more time for hiking.
In the town of Erwin we got off trail for a few days to visit friends in Raleigh, NC. Erwin was a funky little town but Lil' Santa and I both really enjoyed our accommodations at Cantarosso Farm and the food at Hawg-n-Dawg
Once back on trail t was kind of a bummer because we were suddenly behind all of our friends! It was weird and kind of a bummer for a few days but then you meet new people and your new bubble and it turns out that everyone in this bubble is also awesome! And the miles were starting to come much easier. I ignored the pain in my foot and marched on.
In Damascus we stayed at Woodchuck Hostel which was a really wonderful hostel. I'm a fan of the hostels that provide you with linens and pillows because it feels more cozy and clean.
We slack packed down from Whitetop with Doug (who still, at 700 miles has no trail name) and Victory. Unfortunately this would be our lasta y with Victory as she got off the trail due to injury the next day. She'd been fighting though it for a while but at a certain point it gets to be too much. I would come to this point about a week and a half later.
Even though we were slack packing Lil Santa filled up his backpack with beers and snacks to pass out to all the uphill hikers. Many of whom were our friends! It was really fun to surprise other hikers with magic mid-trail.
The next day we set out to hit the Grayson highlands, which besides the fact that the pain in my foot was starting to really become intolerable and slowed my pace to a crawl, was still a super fun section of trail.
Plus this is where you hit the 500 mile mark and that was super exciting. I'm pretty sure everyone was singing "500 Miles" by the proclaimers all day long.
Our next stop was Marion, Va where we did a fast food tour and then celebrated my 25th birthday! I was feeling so grateful for my beautiful trail family to celebrate with me.
The next day Lil Santa and I zero'd I'm Marion when I went to urgent care and was told.... Nothing. They didn't know what was wrong. They said maybe I had collapsing arches. They gave me a steroid shot in my ass and sent me on my way. Btw if you get a steroid shot in your ass not only does it hurt but I found out later it's pretty much completely useless. So yay.
But we carried on. At this point I'd been walking with some level of high pain and stiffness in my foot for about 350 miles. And it was only getting worse every day. But we carried on.
Honestly it's hard not to keep hiking. Through the heat and the hills it's beautiful in the long green tunnel and it's something different in your heart and mind than I'd ever experienced. even with this pain, I couldn't imagine ending my hike
We went back to Damascus for trail days and saw tons of friends we hadn't seen in a while!
Oh and Lil Santa won thru-hiker prom king.
My favorite night on trail after a day when I started to realize I needed an expended break to heal and figure out wtf was really wrong with my foot: Chestnut Knob Shelter. The most beautiful sunrise of my life.
Two days later I was near tears just walking from my tent to where I had hung my food bag. My foot hurt and I couldn't imagine walking one mile much less 15-16. We called my aunt who lives close enough and she picked me up 7 miles later in Bland, VA. I'm pretty sure I cried with every step that day. It hurt so bad, but more than that I was crushed to be leaving the trail, even temporarily. I was crushed to be leaving my boyfriend and partner.
Even now, almost two weeks later and still not "better" I'm feeling crushed and defeated.
Although Lil Santa says I shouldn't feel that way, and that he's sure I'll be back on trail with him soon it's just feeling very hard to believe that right now. I want to be on trail so badly and I can't stop thinking about if there's something I should have done differently in the early days of the trail. We took it slow but there were a few high mile days to escape bad weather or to replenish toilet paper supplies. I don't know. All I really know is that I would wish this on my worst enemy.
I'm lucky there was family nearby to take care of me and spoil me. I'm lucky that my partner isn't going to let me quit and really believes I'll get better. I'm going to be back on trail and if the tendonitis comes back so be it, I'll fight through it as long as I can.
Sorry to end the post on a bit of a sour note. Right now my plan is to rent a car and get up to DC from which I will hopefully meet up with Lil Santa as he heads into the Shenendoahs or from Harper's Ferry depending on how my foot feels. Keep me in your thoughts or prayers.