I think a good question to ask yourself when you are participating in a recreational activity, such as a long hike, is: "Is the effort I'm expending worth the enjoyment I'm receiving?"
Most outdoor activities include some strenuous effort that result in rewards. For example, hiking to a mountain top, or paddling across a lake, or climbing up a cliff. Parts of the activity are grueling work, but the rewards of beautiful views, exciting rapids, or new terrain are worth the expected work.
When the answer to the question is "No, the effort is more than the rewards," then it's no longer recreational. And, I feel, it's time to stop. That happened to me earlier this week, for the first time on my long hikes.
My left knee became painful the second evening of my hike, most likely because I was pushing too hard on very rough, very steep, downhill portions of the trail. The next day, the discomfort grew until it hurt on every step - up, down, or level. For 3 more days, I continued on with the hope it would eventually work itself out but it maintained a fairly consistent irritation.
So, when I arrived in Duncannon, PA on Sunday night, I had a plan to visit a doctor in the morning and then make a decision. If the knee should feel better in 2 days or less, I would continue. If it would take longer than that, I could not afford to sit in a town for 3 days or more because I would miss my already small window of completing the trail before winter weather.
Monday morning, the doctor checked me out and said it looked solid with no major tearing and I could continue to walk on it - but recommended slower pace and even terrain. She said continuing my hike on the trail would most likely not make it worse, but it would not get a chance to heal and the pain could take a long time to abate.
This is when the question came up. A 2 hour debate with myself and I concluded: "No, I'm not enjoying this." The ongoing discomfort from the past 4 days would continue for the near future and I would not have fun.
I arranged a 20-mile shuttle to Hamburg, PA where I caught a 1,106-mile greyhound bus ride home. Late Tuesday night, after 24+ hours touring the country, I was home. I took yesterday to rest and come to grips in my head with my first long distance hiking failure.
Failure is the description that I keep coming back to for this hike. I had a goal to walk a certain distance in a certain time and reach the trail end. I failed to do that, actually didn't even come close. So, my trail record is now 3 wins and 1 lose. I completed the AZT, SHT, and IAT. I didn't complete my first effort with the AT.
It's pretty easy to start coming up with better ways to look at failed goals to make them not seem so bad. I hiked 123 miles in 5 days. I walked in 3 states - WV, MD, and PA. I learned a lot for future hikes. I met some interesting people. But, for now, I'm just sticking with 3-1 and admitting to myself that, however I look at it, I didn't reach my goal.
I'll share tomorrow some of the things I learned on this short trek and my plans for some shorter hikes the rest of this year.
PS: This picture is the last one I took on my hike. I am resting on a mountain before the final 600-foot steep, rocky, drop into Duncannon.
Posted: 9:50 08-21-2014 1109 Previous Post Next Post
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