Day 6 and 7 – end of days

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.

I was put in a protective boot and told to rest completely for a month and then, as long as there is no pain, gradually start gentle no-impact rehab exercises.

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.

28 thoughts on “Day 6 and 7 – end of days

  1. Oh, dear! I was so enjoying your blog. But ending your hike can’t be helped. Wishing you a speedy and complete healing and when you start again I’llbe ready to read your story again!

  2. Really sorry to hear this. I have no doubt it doesn’t end here though … just an avoidable delay.

  3. So dreadfully sad. But you probably have had more adventures and enjoyment in those two or three days and the AT than most people have in a lifetime. Your feet are shot so you will have to find something exciting to do which doesn’t involve them.
    Now please keep that boot on at all times, including going up and down stairs. Lol.

    1. The doc said it needed a month of complete rest and then a minimum of a month of rehab so no more hiking for me! Good luck with your hike though!

  4. Sorry to hear this Phil was enjoying your blog on the delightful District line.
    Phil you did all the prep you could possibly do, you gave it your best but was just unlucky!
    Take it easy.

  5. Gutted for you dude. Being let down by a small (yet crucial) bit of ones body is super-annoying.

    But I quote: “calcaneal fractures are severe injuries. Furthermore, if the fracture involves the joints, there is the potential for long-term consequences, such as arthritis and chronic pain.” == do not take risks with this one.

    Sad as it is, you made the right decision.

  6. >hugs< Sparky. I'm glad you are going back to your family and fiancé' ( how exciting!) and the trail will always be here.

  7. Sparky,
    So sorry. I was looking forward to following your hike. Is this a different injury than the one that curtailed your first AT attempt? If it is any solace, you are still young and can try again.

    1. Hey Chaser, thanks for checking in. It’s a new injury, it’s nice to keep things fresh I suppose! Young? Ha! Age is relative of course. :)

  8. This really sucks! Man was I looking forward to reading your adventure. I do take some solace in your acceptance of the fate, and comfort with it all. A shame to be cruising so far, but I appreciate your positive attitude. Hopeful for a safe travel home, and lots of kayak based adventures in your future! :-)

  9. Darn. Sorry about the injury and aborted hike. It could’ve ended worse than it did (images of my own patients’ ankles ticker-tape across my head, *shudder*).
    The first step in recovery is knowledge, and you have acquired that by finding out what’s going on. The trail will still be there, waiting for your brave and hardy soul. I know this will only add fuel to that fire that compels you to hike.
    Rest and recover, Sparky! We’re here if you need anything.

  10. Oh no, sorry your PCT journey came to an end. Your blog was interesting and hope to read it when you do return or start another trail. Best of luck!

  11. Hey Sparky. Was enjoying your blogs mate. Sorry about your injury. Rest up and have another crack at a later date … cos you will :)

  12. Sparky, I do not know you much (I have just read your great article about Down Vests… Thank you for that!)…and I feel very sorry for your end of the trip:(

    Still, if you have strong determination -> almost all is possible! 6 years ago I was not able to descent 300 ft without very serious knee pain….and after my all work on myself I was able to hike 4000 km on PCT last year!

    BTW: have you tried shoe insoles specially shaped for you? It helped me a lot. Best if you visit a good physiotherapist – maybe you have a bad mechanics of movement (as I had/still have:) ). Lot of problems are caused because of some problem in the mechanics.

    I see you are very gear based (as me:-) ), If I may share with you some experience with some gear you were planning to use on the PCT…:

    Nortec Trail Micro Crampons – they rly do not last a lot, the steel cables will break soon or later (maybe after 100+ miles on mainly show)…you can fix it with spectra line in the field. at the end we had all front steel cables broken, was not a big deal…but it is just a good to know. At home I have exchanged the old steel cables for a stronger one (bike break steel cable).

    I think you have too warm clothes – I think the down pants are overkill. Our gear is here:

    We were fine with the gear…I have just added Survive Outdoors Longer Emergency Bivvy for Sierra for better warmth during cold nights (we had -10C night).

    Suluk46 Ice Tool worked very well. No need for heavy boots, running shoes are the best… heavy boots will “never” dry …and you will have stream crossings:-)

    Good luck! I hope you will be back on trail soon!

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