My Hiking Career is Officially Over
I’m not going to lie. I’m crushed. I’ve made two attempts, both complete failures, at thru hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT). I hiked in 2016 and a pelvic stress fracture booted me off after reaching Boiling Springs, PA. That’s passed the official halfway point, but I was determined to try it all over again from the beginning.
In 2017, I returned to Georgia. I even did the 9 mile approach trail again from Amicalola Falls State Park (steps and all), to reach my starting point at Springer Mountain. One month later, I’d be off trail again for another stress fracture. This time in my tibia near my right ankle. I’d take a Greyhound bus home from Asheville to rest it off, then would return 2 months later to Delaware Water Gap, PA. The plan was to summit in Maine while the weather was legit, then make up the missed miles in the fall starting back near Hot Springs, NC.
Besides the typical aches, pains, and minor set backs, my return was looking promising. However, this would be short lived. Shortly after crossing the New Hampshire/Maine border, I’d develop pain in my upper right thigh. Determined, stubborn, and maybe a little stupid, I’d push myself through the 100 Mile Wilderness and up Mount Katahdin’s summit. I wanted to at least touch that sign even though I already knew I wasn’t going to be able to return to the south to make up the 1,005 miles I had skipped this year. I knew I would never be a “thru hiker.” My body was battered; far more than I even realized.
An Unsettling Diagnosis
Before returning to the trail this year at Delaware Water Gap, I had seen many specialists and received several tests resulting in a very premature diagnosis of osteopenia, or “bone loss.” I’m only 32 years young after all, so this is an unusual diagnosis to receive. After returning home from Maine and having another MRI, I’ve been told my pain was as predicted. More stress fractures, this time there were many of them all located in the neck of my femur. My orthopedist informed me that this time, it was extremely serious. If I continued putting weight on it, it might snap in half resulting in surgery. I was put on crutches for a minimum of 5 weeks.
The next day, I’d see my endocrinologist who would inform me that my treatment options were limited given that I was so young, and shouldn’t use up options that would be better used when I’m much older and more vulnerable to bone injuries. Unless I want to give myself injections in my stomach everyday for 2 years, I would have to hang up long distance hiking.
I had aspirations to thru hike the AT, which were clearly crushed. I planned to thru hike the Pacific Crest Trail next year and then be a triple crown hopeful; nope, no longer an option. As I mentioned before, after I summited Katahdin, I knew my pain was too intense to push through hiking the remainder of North Carolina all the way to the New Jersey border. This being my second go at thru hiking the AT, and also my second time failing to do so, I’ve since realized that I’m not mentally strong enough to attempt the PCT next year as I hoped. I don’t know if I could handle the disappointment of leaving the lifestyle that I’ve grown to love so much yet again because of another injury.
A Fresh Start
So I can’t hike long distances due to a health conditions. So what? There’s still much to love about life and I’ve found passion in other hobbies and experiences to keep me going. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but all is not lost. Maybe one day I’ll feel up to hiking one of the shorter hikes on my bucket list, such as the Arizona Trail. Until then, I’m just going to swallow my pride, and focus on healing and saving money for my next big adventure. I have a lot of destinations abroad in my crosshairs!