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It ain't broken


Back in September of 2021 I embarked on one of my long desired adventures. I headed off to Amicalola Falls in Georgia to start my goal of eventually hiking the entire Appalachian Trail. I have dreamt of doing this for years but never quite had the nerve to actually do it, until I did.
The first day hiking the eighth mile approach trail was absolutely brutal and I had serious fears that I had bitten off more than I could chew. It was an eight mile climb over often very rocky and uneven terrain. It took me nearly 7 hours to make the trek to Springer mountain where the Trail actually begins. It was way past sunset when I got there, and pitch black in the middle of the forest. It was so dark and I was so exhausted that it took me another hour just to set up camp and settle down for a very bland dinner. It was a pot of freeze dried bean soup with salt and pepper. It was a very simple meal but after seven hours of the most difficult hiking I’d ever done, it tasted like a gourmet meal.
I sat there for a good hour just basking in the cool misty Georgia mountain air and smiling stupidly at my accomplishment. It felt absolutely amazing!
I put away my camp stove and cookware then crawled into my small backpack tent.
The tent was a very simple A frame design that was supported on either end by my trekking poles. My sleeping mat was thin and my sleeping bag was light but at this point I was so exhausted that it felt like a five star hotel. I slept soundly and contentedly.

I awoke around 6:00 AM and sipped a strong cup of hot coffee while I waited for the sun to rise. Reflecting now on that morning still makes me emotional. It was so incredibly peaceful and beautiful that September Monday morning and there have been very few moments in my life that have ever equaled it.
The next five days were almost indescribable. When you spend that much time completely engulfed in an endeavor like that, you both lose yourself and find yourself. There were so many moments of complete euphoria that I frequently found myself sobbing out of sheer overwhelming joy and peace. But there were also more than a few times I found myself cursing and swearing in utter frustration and exhaustion. Those were moments when the trail just went up steeply for miles and the boulders I had to scale often made me fearful that I would fall and break something and die alone in the woods.

But I pressed on because that thought of making my goal, reaching the Georgia/North Carolina border was for me, the epitome of success on this adventure. One of the most difficult parts of this section is climbing Blood Mountain. At 4,458 feet in elevation it is the highest peak of the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail. I had moments that the emergency beacon on my SatCom seemed very tempting to use and bail out. But I stuck with it and made it all the way to Neil’s Gap.

My plan was to take a rest day in one of the very comfortable cabins there then resume my hike the following Monday. I rented a cabin and immediately took my first hot shower in over a week. It was amazing! At this point I was fully committed to reaching my goal and nothing was gonna change my mind. Any doubt that I had in the beginning was gone and only excitement and ambition remained. I completely fell in love with the trail.
I finished my shower and put on clean clothes then headed down a well maintained trail to a souvenir shop up the road. On this trail was a small set of steps that lead to a footbridge over a small creek.
This small but important step changed the entire itinerary of my trip and trip I did! As I came off the very last step I lost my footing on the mossy wood and twisted my ankle in the most unnatural direction. I both heard and felt it pop!
The pain was immediate and excruciating. I pulled myself up to a sitting position and gasped for air, nearly blacking out from the pain. The only thought I had at the moment was “It’s broken, it’s definitely broken!”. The swelling started in seconds and just putting my foot on the ground caused nausea. I sat there for a good thirty minutes soaking my rapidly bruising ankle in the cool water, praying another hiker would soon come to my rescue. They didn’t. I knew it was up to me to somehow pull myself up and get help. It was definitely broken, I just knew it. The pain was so bad!
I had left my trekking poles at the cabin because this was safe terrain and I felt I had nothing to worry about.
I found a branch nearby and used it to pull myself up and hobble back to my cabin where I bandaged my injury as best I could and decided to just stay off it for the night and see if it got better in the morning. I really wanted to complete my goal. It didn’t. The next morning my whole foot was swollen from calf to toe and looked like an eggplant that was past its prime. It was definitely broken.
I rested the next day as well and when the pain was at least bearable enough to slowly hobble out to the highway where I could get a cell signal, I called for a transport back to my car 50 miles away.
Defeated, angry and broken hearted I hoped against hope that it was just a really bad sprain and that it would get better soon. It didn’t. It got worse. It was definitely broken. After living in agony and denial for three days I finally drove to an urgent care clinic to have it checked out. It had to be broken. It looked horrible and hurt so bad!
It wasn’t broken. Just sprained. Not bad enough to need a cast but bad enough that I had to stay off it for a few weeks. Devastated, humiliated and heartbroken I spent the last few days of my vacation sulking at a campground in Alabama.
Over the next few weeks it got better and I was able to walk pretty normal and after a few months I was back to hiking and running. I haven’t made it back to the big trail yet, but I will… oh I will!
A few months ago my life was completely turned upside down and my heart was absolutely crushed. It was broken, I just knew it was. The pain was so bad that there was no way it wasn’t. I was sure that I was out of the running for good.

I had started something that I had been terrified of starting for more than fifteen years and when I finally did, it took me months to completely accept that it was real. I kept expecting the bottom to fall out and leave me falling into an abyss.
There were ups and downs. Love, laughter, tears and doubts but after a few months I was completely committed and determined to see it through to completion.
All of a sudden a misjudged step on a comfortable path brought it all crashing down. The pain was immediate and intense.

I couldn’t even get out of bed for days and the tears just wouldn’t stop. Yep, my heart was definitely broken.
I kept hoping that it would get better, that another heart would come along and rescue mine. It didn’t.
Finally I pulled myself together enough to go seek help. Sure that my heart was severely broken.
It wasn’t. Just bruised really badly.
It’s gotten better and even though it still hurts a bit, I’ll be back on the big trail eventually . This time I’ll make sure I know the risks of the path before I take the next step.

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

You will do it again, hon. That was riveting reading. I am so sorry one mis-step ended your journey. Go back and prove to yourself that you can do it, okay? And next time, watch where you're walking!


Thanks Sephirah!
Indeed I will. No stopping me now. :)


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