Day 3

A pretty average nights sleep, the pitch slope meaning I had to keep adjusting my pad, my bag and myself often during the night. Also, being unable to sleep on my left side is quite annoying.

I started packing up my tent at about 8.30am and then went down to the Mountain Crossing store patio to sort out my gear, patch up some blisters and make breakfast.

I had only just started when a woman bounded over and introduced herself as a thru hiker called Bridget. Oh, and she had heard about my problem (thanks Jack) and she was a massage therapist – would I accept a free session? Are you kidding me?! She reminded me later there is a saying on the AT, “the trail will provide” to which I laughed and said, “Sure but this was a pretty specific requirement I’d had!”

She had no massage oil so I dug out my food bag and found my olive oil. She then had me take off my shirt (customers of MC this weekend have had good entertainment value) and treated me on top of the same picnic table as Dr Billy yesterday.

After maybe a 30 minute session I thanked my angelic trail angel profusely, got all packed up again and went inside to find Jack. By now it was about 10.30 and I was aware the chiro was hopefully coming back at noon. He and Jason, the manager, checked out my pack weight (now down to about 20lb base weight) and Jason showed me exactly how to work with the three adjustment straps on my pack to change the load distribution. We set it up to be as much off the shoulders as possible (I could even put my hand between the strap and my shoulder, that’s how little pressure was on my traps) and I waited. After 5 minutes the tingling and numbness started again. My heart sank. Nearly 24 hours of rest and an optimal fitting pack with a mere 20lb of weight and it flares up right away?

I took off my pack and waited for the sensation to return while having a consolation chocolate milk and looking around the recently-remodelled store. It felt much brighter and nicer than pictures I had seen under its previous owners. Certainly the staff were knowledgable, kindly and gracious. I saw Jason handle a couple of customers and he could not have been more helpful in a laid-back way, less like a salesman and more like a trusted advisor. And it worked.

Jason then loaded up a ULA Circuit with 25lb for me to try. The Circuit has distinctly S-shaped straps so puts pressure on different places to my straighter straps. It felt great, so light I asked him to check the weight again for it felt like 18lb not 25. I had high hopes but again it only took a few minutes for the thumb and forefinger to start their trouble again. Again I waited for the problem to subside and tried on a third pack. I don’t remember the name of this one (it was brown and green and had thinner but very thickly-padded straps. I wasn’t as keen on this one comfort-wise and again the tingling started up quickly so when Bill the chiro arrived at 12.10 I was happy to conclude the experiment – a new pack would not help (but for sub-30lb loads I can recommend the ULA Circuit!).

Bill had set up his table outside the hiker hostel and proceeded to work on me for over 2 hours, and also gave Bridget some adjustments that she was keen to get when I told her Bill would be here.

Bill working on Bridget

Bill had brought a deep tissue massager and a whole box of ice pads to use on me. It was quite the thorough workover!

Again, he refused all payment saying he just liked to go along the trail during hiker season and help out where he could. I managed to force some gas money him though since this Sunday trip was made especially for me alone.

His diagnosis was again nerve impingement caused by very tight muscles and inflammation around the upper part of the spine. While he reassured me that it wold not cause permanent damage he did say I had “Major Symptoms” – you could hear the capital letters – and while, “they’re not the worst I’ve seen in my career, they’re right up there.” I was to rest for at least 2-3 days (he started with a week but I beat him down) to let the damage heal. I was to ice the area and he have me some exercises and stretches to do in the meantime. If it didn’t respond to this treatment after that then I would need longer term work as it was too bad to fix quickly.

Again, I hope my gratitude for his services was adequately expressed.

I picked up my pack (cradled in my hands, not on my back) and walked the quarter mile wooded trail to get to the Blood Mountain Cabins, a rustic ‘hotel’ of about 12 cabins in the woods. After some confusion at the front desk-cum-country-store about whether I was a thru-hiker or car-based tourist (different rates are charged and a single hiker in a cabin like me can get ‘knocked on’ if a desperate hiker arrives late and there is no other room) I checked into Woodchuck cabin (there are two woodchucks aka groundhogs mounted above the fireplace so I assume the other cabins such as Beaver, Bear and Deer have their namesakes inside stuffed too) and sat down on the filthy sofa sadly. Actually I went and got a pillow from the bedroom and sat on that on the sofa instead.

It was now 3pm. Yet again I hadn’t eaten anything and hardly drunk either. I picked up a frozen pizza and Dr Pepper from the store and enjoyed an early dinner, iced my shoulders, watched Miss Congeniality 2 on the small cabin TV oddly located 6 feet up the wall, enjoyed the real bathroom with actual hot water and slept without needing ear plugs.

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