Catching an unlucky break.
Sunday was a zero since the only medical practice in town was closed and luckily most things in Julian are within 300 yards of the motel so I could browse the shops and eat lunch without walking too much. Impressively the foot looked worse than before with the ankle bone hardly visible amongst the swelling. Perhaps it is allergic to rest?
While reading Facebook I learned the sad news of another death on the trail when a South Korean hiker died due to complications caused by heat exhaustion. Having spent some time with Song, a South Korean, I can appreciate what a big step it is to journey so far and the late hiker’s family must find the situation even harder to deal with.
When Monday dawned I sat on the steps of the Doctor’s surgery before it opened at 8am and was therefore able to reserve an appointment before 9. After that it would have been 2:15pm when they next had a slot for a walk-in. Long story short the doctor examined me and diagnosed most likely a fractured calcaneus (fun facts here) or else a torn ligament in the same area. In any event the symptoms and recovery process are identical so it isn’t really relevant which it is. Those injuries need an MRI to detect though X-rays were taken in case it was something else but nothing showed up.
He asked me when it probably happened and I said about 37 miles back. “But how did you walk on it for 37 miles?!”. Because I had to.
Obviously all of this precludes further hiking. It seems I have almost all the requirements to be a long-distance hiker: knowledge, experience, skills, gear, fitness, leg strength, attitude, fortitude and determination (aka stubbornness), willingness to sacrifice and voluntary suffer deprivation and pain without complaint. But I lack just one important thing: a pair of feet that work. I couldn’t reasonably have trained any better – 300 miles on hard surfaces carrying more weight than encountered on trail, with a tapering down in the final 2-3 weeks. I had the leg strength, fitness and connective tissue strength to thrive and was consequently enjoying myself enormously in the short time I was on trail pre-injury. While objectively I suppose it could be said I went too hard and fast too early I don’t blame myself as I felt so good and was going to tone it down after the first two days anyway, if I’d had the chance. It was not a repetitive stress injury after just two days, it was an acute fracture.
While the sudden and premature end to my summer of hiking is a big disappointment, I am lucky to have a wonderful family to come home to which is a huge comfort and I will just focus on that positive and not dwell on the missed opportunity with the PCT.