This past week has been emotionally very difficult. I haven’t been able to get the Continental Divide Trail out of my head, no matter how many times I tell myself it’s just not possible this year. I’m still experiencing the same kind of sharp pre-surgery pain in my inner knee. I felt it about 6 or 7 days after surgery and I still can’t do any kind of hip opener (which makes 25-30% of a yoga class off limits to me). (I also can’t yet put my knee on the floor or on my arm, which eliminates another 20% of postures, but those will become possible once the surgical injuries heal). The sharp inner knee pain occurs when I am simply sitting, sometimes standing, sometimes walking, and always when I try to bend and externally rotate my leg. This pain is worrisome. I told my surgeon about it during the 30 seconds I saw him 2 weeks after the surgery. He quickly dismissed it. “There were sharp instruments in there!”. Every time I go to my physical therapy appointment, we spend at least 10 of my 30 minutes going over my pain symptoms (the same thing every time!). On Tuesday, I asked him if that sharp pain was normal. “Ummmm… Ahhh.. Nnnooo”, he said looked down at my chart. I first saw him 2 weeks ago for my initial assessment. He pressed down on my quads while I tried to fight against his weight. Both of my legs are weak from not being able to walk or move much for the past four and a half months, but the surgery leg is particularly weak. It fell right down. He tested the side strength and the hamstring strength, as well as my adductors and ankles. It was clear I needed to do a lot of hip strengthening. He gave me four exercises to do at home and I saw him again the following week. “Should we test my strength again?” I asked. He said it takes 2 weeks to gain new strength. Fine…
It’s also clear my injured knee has no stability and no ability to track. It wobbles all over the place whenever I try to bend or straighten it the least bit.
And yet, it’s been really hard to get rid of the belief that I can gain enough strength in the next month to start the CDT. (The planning time is another issue…). Every time I see my PT, I ask him if it is possible (he defers me right back to asking my surgeon), and what would happen if I tried to do it this year. (He thinks I am putting myself in the position of needing a full joint replacement very early in my life if I put too much stress on my injured knee. I guess this is a good time to say that this is not a far-fetched possibility. My mother had a double knee replacement when she was 49 ). After the PT or surgeon tells me it’s not a good idea, I say, “Fine. Okay. I won’t try. It’s too late, anyway.” But when I return home or go for a short walk, I think, maybe I can still do it! They don’t know what it is like to thru-hike! Only I do! It’s the only thing I really want to do! Now is a good time- it’s a low snow year. Who knows what it will be like next year? I don’t want to wait a whole year and then likely have it delayed for another year or two after that. The one question that I get asked at EVERY one of my talks is “What’s next? What trail are you going to hike now?”. If that is the question that ALL of those people ask me, they must know that that is where I belong. I don’t want to spend another year stagnant, in the exact same place. I really want to go somewhere!
I feel very stalled in finding new places to give my talks at. In the last couple of weeks, I have contacted or re-contacted about 50 libraries and universities and got only one response. I feel as though I am failing and that I have to find another way to try to make a living very quickly. I wish I could leave everything behind and hike for another five months and figure that all out later. But on Friday, I officially let go of that idea. I know that the first 90 miles on the CDT aren’t even on a “trail”- that you have to find your own way through the New Mexico desert from point A to point B, and that uninjured people are feeling a lot of foot and leg pain from the uneven terrain. My spirit thinks I can do that, too, but the reality is that my body can’t perform in those conditions at this point. It’s time for me to create something new- to find a sustainable place in the regular world, where I can survive until I am able to hike again. It’s time to come up with another idea for a second presentation I can offer, figure out a way to get people to realize that my talk is not just for people interested in hiking, and time to write my story down.