Day 28

And we’re back…

After 1 doctors visit, 2 weeks at my parents’ house, and 5 trips to REI I felt ready to return to the trail with a new pair of boots and a routine of stretches. The doctor said I have a mild case of plantar fasciitis so in order to feel better I need to stretch 100 times a day. The experts at REI recommended a boot instead of a trail runner to stabilize my feet and secure my foot from slipping. I didn’t want a boot but I found some Hokas I could live with. My feet feel like a million dollars, err maybe just 220. There’s definitely less pain than before while wearing the boots so I’ll give them a try. I think the trail is teaching me the importance of figuring out how to manage my pain in order to keep going. That is how I will be operating from here on out. I don’t think there has ever been a painless thru hike so you’ve got to be tough.

I’ve decided to skip about 100 miles up to the Shenandoahs to keep on schedule for Maine by September. A lot of my friends are probably in Harpers Ferry by now but I didn’t want to miss the ease and beauty of the Shennies. While at home I reviewed my pack weight and got a lighter battery pack, camera, pillow and ditched the little tripod. 14 lbs base weight. 23 with 4 days food and 1.5 liters of water.

My parents graciously agreed to drive me back 4 hours on a Monday and stay at the Big Meadows Lodge. We arrived at Rockfish Gap about 1:30, an hour and a half after I had hoped. I was slackpacking today so I only had about 6 pounds on my back. It was hot and muggy. I sped off into the woods excited to be back but under a time crunch to get 10.5 miles done before 6pm. I was already exhausted from a poor nights sleep. I had skipped breakfast in order to make sure I had packed everything. I was hungry and dehydrated but my feet felt good.

The trail was a gift of gradual ups and downs and a few meadows with tall grass. I passed several power lines and communication towers. One with old tractor seats planted in the ground. I kept hearing thunder and seeing a dark cloud ahead. I prepared for the down pour but it passed me by.

I stopped at a shelter to get water and read the log book. My friend Somewhere had stayed there the night before. I was glad to know I was close behind. An hour later I walked out of the woods onto the Skyline Drive at Sawmill Run Overlook. My parents were waiting. We drove an hour and fifteen minutes north to dinner at Big Meadows Lodge. We saw a bear along the road on our way. My feet hurt but it wasn’t crippling. I am hopeful the boots will allow me to continue.

My old hometown friend William Allen sent me a Mary Oliver poem upon my departure that reminded me why I’m out here:

“Sleeping in the Forest”

I thought the earth remembered me, she

took me back so tenderly, arranging

her dark skirts, her pockets

full of lichens and seeds. I slept

as never before, a stone

on the riverbed, nothing

between me and the white fire of the stars

but my thoughts, and they floated

light as moths among the branches

of the perfect trees. All night

I heard the small kingdoms breathing

around me, the insects, and the birds

who do their work in the darkness. All night

I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling

with a luminous doom. By morning

I had vanished at least a dozen times

into something better.

Miles: 863.6 – 874.2 (10.6)

Total: 270.9