One of my favorite songs is “While you still can” by Brothers Osborne. The message of the song is to do things in your life that you want to do or should do while you still can. It may be following a dream or reaching out to an old friend. Either way, you never know if you will get another chance to do it.
Cross every T, dot most the I's
'Cause years grow wings and fly on by
And time slips through your fingers just like sand
'Cause everything you thought would last forever
Never lasts forever, like you plan
Don't let your now become a never
So take life by the hands while you still can
I mentioned in my last two posts about having some shin pain and feeling homesick. These statements were probably understated. I have been having really bad pain in my shin for almost the whole time I’ve been in Washington. The pain is lower on my leg so I’m not sure if it’s shin splints or a high ankle issue. It usually is mostly an annoying pain that I can push through especially if I take ibuprofen, but occasionally I reach the point of limping, especially after doing 26 or more miles. The feeling of being homesick is terrible. I can usually distract myself throughout the day, but sometimes it overwhelms me. Not every day on the trail is fun especially if it’s hot or not the most exciting scenery. Sometimes I feel like I’m not having as much fun as I should be and that makes me miss the people at home that I love.
The last stretch of trail from Leavenworth, Washington to Snoqualmie Pass, Washington was only 71 miles. I left Leavenworth on the afternoon of the 6th of July after a restful day off. I hiked 14 miles to a lake called Glacier Lake where I found an amazing camp spot. It was a pretty good day mentally and physically. The next day I began hiking around 7 am and started off with a climb up Piper Pass. I stopped for lunch around noon and I was about 12 or 13 miles in for the day. I planned to try to reach a camp spot that was another 15 miles ahead. Shortly after lunch, I noticed my shin pain returning. At this point, it was just an annoyance and nothing too bad. I kept walking even though I probably should have stopped to take ibuprofen.
There were several climbs this day that were getting to me. It was super hot and I felt really sluggish. I was dripping sweat and had my head down most of the day just trying to get through the miles. It was around 6 pm and I reached the spot I planned to stop at. I didn’t want to stop this early in the day because it stays light until 10 pm and I knew I would be bored after a little while. I checked my map and saw that there was a camp spot in about 2.6 miles. I continued on about a half mile when something caused me to go from walking normally to limping. I don’t know if the muscles were so tight from the day or if I had a lot of inflammation, but I couldn’t walk normally. At this point, I was almost out of water and I didn’t want to turn back and go to the spot I planned on (the water at that spot was a ways off from the campsite). I then hit a section of the trail that had a sign that said “No camping for the next two miles”. I figured that if I found a camp spot and water I would have to stop, and if a forest service ranger came by I could explain that this was sort of an emergency. Unfortunately, there wasn’t even a half-decent spot in this two-mile stretch that I could have set my tent up on. I limped along for the two miles letting out groans and tears with each step.
I would say I usually have a pretty good pain tolerance, and I can push through a lot of pain. I also don’t ever admit that I should probably go to a doctor or get something checked out. At this point, my pain level was a 10/10 and I was trying to figure out how I would get to a town with a doctor from Snoqualmie Pass (a ski area off the highway). I finally reached a camp spot with water nearby. I let my backpack fall to the ground and I crouched down in the dirt. I had just done 30 miles. I was covered in sweat and exhausted from the day. I was in extreme pain and worried that I wouldn’t be able to get to civilization. I was hungry and worn out. I was getting swarmed by mosquitoes. The day wasn’t particularly fun and I wanted to go home.
I finally brought myself to set up my tent. I sat in my tent eating my instant mashed potatoes so pathetically like a nasty feral animal. I couldn’t help but laugh at myself in this moment. I was surrounded by this beautiful mountain landscape, and here I was in my tent having a pity party. Yes, I was in a lot of pain, the day was really exhausting, and I missed home. Everyone has bad days, even BAG.
In the moment I was ready to call it quits. I felt like I wasn’t cut out for a trail of this distance. I wasn’t sure if I had an actual injury, and I wasn’t in a good mental state. Something in me didn’t want to let go. Maybe it was my own ego not wanting to be embarrassed if I quit, maybe it was my shin pleading for rest, or maybe it was my younger self that had this dream.
The next morning I felt much better mentally, although I was still a little bummed. My leg was still hurting a bit if I pushed on it. I rolled the spot out with my trekking pole and took some ibuprofen. I then slowly packed up and stretched some before I got going. I put both my AirPods in and put on “While you still can”. I took a good long look at everything I had done to get to this moment. I stayed determined all through middle school, high school, and college. I had this dream and something in me didn’t want to give up on that. I was living that dream now, and giving that up would be something I would regret for the rest of my life.