Tag: Family

Busted Ankles and the Will to Finish

Busted Ankles and the Will to Finish

I talked about Damselfly awhile ago in and earlier post┬ábut left her story unfinished because it’s one that shows Damselfly’s other amazing characteristics: not just smart, funny and happy – but a drive to finish.

A drive to finish against all odds and any obstacles she faced.

When she was coming out of Hanover, NH Damselfly slipped on some lose pine needles, or perhaps a small rock. It doesn’t really matter what it was exactly that she slipped, it only matters when happened when she hit the ground.

She twisted her ankle. Badly. It swelled up. Bruised. Turned odd colors. It was probably more than a strain or a twist. It was at the very least – slightly broken.

Her ankle was busted. Her hike was probably over.

Damselfly was able to limp back to town, slowly with help from other hikers. She rested some, iced it a little and took anti-inflamatory medication. She waited. When I saw her she had fallen three days before hand, and her ankle was still swollen to the size of a grapefruit.

How big is that you ask? Well if you don’t have a grapefruit handy, go find yourself a softball. About that size. Perhaps wrap both hands around your ankle – that might be equivalent, but not quite. It was bad to look at too beyond the swelling – it was yellow and purple and blue – all those disgusting colors you get from bruises as they try valiantly to heal.

“Oh I’m going to hike out of here tomorrow I think” Said Damselfly, casually as if it was no big deal.

“On that? On the ankle that can’t support any weight, that you’re hobbling on and can’t carry a pack with?”

“Sure – I’m going to slackpack, no problem. It’ll help it to heal.” For those who don’t know, a slackpack is when you don’t carry your full pack and instead leave it with someone else who will pick you up at the end of the day.

You couldn’t tell Damselfly no. You couldn’t make her see reason that if she walked on her busted ankle, she might damage it forever. She might not be able to have it heal properly without surgery perhaps. She was determined she was going to get to Katahdin on her own power one way or another.

So she did. She hiked out of town and got a few miles and then had to get picked up because her ankle hurt too much. So she took another two days off. Then tried again. She got a few more miles out – then had to get picked up again. Her friend Splash stayed with her for a lot of it, making sure she got through safely. She was doing it. Slowly but surely.

It took her a lot longer than she wanted. She had to hitch a little to get there. She spent a little more money than she thought she would and had to sacrifice things along the way to get there. But she got there.

I saw Damselfly again in Monson, Maine, the last town stop before the 100 Mile Wilderness and Katahdin. She was doing some work for stay at the Lake Shore House, and the owner Rebecca was taking care of her (Stop there hikers! It’s the best place in town!) and trying to make sure she stayed off her ankle. I talked with her a little there. Her ankle wasn’t swollen as much, she could put weight on it again. She wasn’t anywhere near 100% – hell she probably wasn’t 60% – but she was leaving soon and was going to walk as much as she could to get to Katahdin. She was going to finish under her own power. Stubborn lady that she is, she knew she had to.

And she did. Damselfly summited Katahdin on October 15, 2013. She walked up there all by herself.

I talked with her a month or so later. It’s always good to talk to your hiker friends – you love them all so dearly. Family.

“You guys were my summit date…. you were my heart-group”

Long distance hikers get so invested in our trail. Our walk. We meet people who become family – better than family even. These are the people you choose to be with in a way that few others ever can understand. Sometimes things happen ┬áthat makes the people you care about suffer. They fall and bust an ankle, maybe they run out of money and have to go home. Perhaps they just get tired and can’t deal with it anymore. Whatever the reason, when they leave you, you cry a little for them – because they are gone.

When people ask me for stories about truly inspirational people that I’ve met on the trail, Damselfly’s story is the one I use most often.

“Who the hell is so stubborn that they finish a hike like that on a busted ankle, limping the whole way? Why would they put themselves through all that pain? Just to prove something?”

I always say “No. She wasn’t out to prove something, she wasn’t stubborn like you’re thinking. She was in love, and that love let her finish. She loved something so dearly that it hurt too badly to even think about getting off.”

And that is Damselfly. Intelligent. Witty. Happy. Bubbly. Beautiful. Stubborn.

In Love.

With the trail and all it’s people.

so happy
Damselfly snagged herself a fish with Limpin’ Eagle
Broken

Broken

The holidays are two-sided affair for many people. It has promise of family, and the love they bring. But it also has the promise of family, and the stress they bring.

Usually I fall into the second category. Stress. When I’m with primary family – mom, step-dad, brother, dad and his girlfriend… its stressful for me.
It’s only gotten worse since I’ve hiked.

It’s only really gone off the deep end since I came back and been living with my mom and step-dad.

My mom has been supportive of me during this time, my recovery and reintegration. But she never really has understood what I’m talking about, or the obstacles I’ve been dealing with. Its not to say she hasn’t been empathetic, she just doesn’t actually listen to what I’m saying. Not really.

So she suggested we go to a family counselor.

“Your son is broken” was the second thing the counselor said when mom came into the room.
I think it finally hit her – having someone else tell her.

Because since I’ve been back, I have been broken. I’ve been mired in a funk. Brought down by post-trail depression, heatbreak and physical pain.

Post-trail depression is a real thing. It happens to every long distance hiker. It’s easy to see why – you spend everyday living with people, sharing everything with them. At the end, you are ripped from your family and shoved back into a world where at best people don’t understand what you just did. At worst, they look at you with disdain.

So how do you deal with post-trail depression? There are lots of people who have ideas and theories about it.

I’ll let you know when I’m finally over it myself. Because it’s a long long road back from it.

And I’m not sure where I’m going from here.

Somewhere not here
Where am I going?

I’m not sure. But it’s my journey. And I’ll keep walking the whole time.

Solvitur Ambulando

Walking solves all my problems

 

Journey to the Northern Limits

Journey to the Northern Limits

One thing I have a lot of from this trip is video. Moments that I was able to save. They tell only snippets of what happened, but sometimes when you string them together, they tell more of a story then you ever thought.

So this is an attempt at a story. Just like these writings are trying to tell a story. I hope you enjoy it

Talker and Slap Bets

Talker and Slap Bets

I had a story about a hiker named Talker awhile ago. When we were in Lincoln, NH and Spoon and Chuckles’s family put a feed on for us (all organic, all local spaghetti dinner!) which was delicious. In the process, we heard lots of stories. One of them, was about slap bets Talker had lost.

People who haven’t hiked a long distance trail like the Appalachian Trail always talk about mileage, pack weight or weather. Those who have finished a long distance trail, they all talk about the people and the experiences they had with them. People make the journey.

These are trail people. They understand you, and you understand them. They get it – all of it. Sometimes it feels like they can read your mind. You live with them everyday and share everything.

Even on the bad days, a day with your trail family is magical.