I just went to a sports medicine doctor who took another x-ray of my foot and showed that my injury is actually a stress fracture.
The halo around the third metatarsus indicates healing of a stress fracture.
This means my foot needs more time to heal. The doctor said three more weeks, on top of the four weeks I've already been off the PCT. Being off the trail due to my foot injury is the hardest thing I have faced on this trip so far. I ache to be back on the PCT, back with my wonderful hiking buddies, back where I had never before been so happy in all my life. I struggle too with thinking about why this happened to me. I have a million questions about how to heal, how to stay sane while staying off my feet, how to recover, how I can ever hope to trust my body again. ;
When things got really tough out on the PCT, I'd remind myself: "I'm living the dream. I'm hiking the PCT." Saying those words out loud cheered me up. It reminded me that no matter what I was facing, that hiking the PCT was exactly what I'd been wanting to do for years. I've never been so certain I was on the right path.
Out on the trail, sometimes, it was still mentally difficult. Like when I drank my last sip of water in the heat of the desert while I was still a few miles from the next spring. After that, it took me a long time to trust myself judging how much water to carry, and how to deal mentally with the uncertainty of how much I drank. Another example was when I was standing on top of snow-covered Glen Pass, unsure how I would get down the incredibly sheer slope, footprints going in several directions all of which looked like they would fall off the face of the earth. In those moments, I had to pull out all my techniques for believing in my abilities, and trusting that it would work out even though I couldn't see how it was possible in the moment. But I always kept going, I always ended up being surrounded by friends who helped me through it, and I always amazed myself that I COULD DO IT.
Those struggles are part of the experience of being on the PCT- it isn't all splendid scenic vistas and coolers full of trail magic. Many of the experiences were achingly painful or just plain terrifying. The PCT takes you to your edge, or drives you past it. In those moments, instead of wallowing in self-doubt or being scared, I learned to step outside of myself for a moment. I would remember that I was exactly where I needed to be. I'd look around me and discover that the friends I'd met could teach me lessons to help me through. The really tough parts were my preparation for the the next section. I accepted that all my experiences on the PCT- even the ones that hurt like crazy- were what I was out there for. I reached new levels of self-confidence. I was a bad-ass PCT hiker who could do anything that I put my mind to. Having that realization felt life-changing.
This way of looking at and accepting hardships let me face my fears head on while I was on the PCT. I trusted that I was growing and learning something about myself. I remembered to welcome the ever-changing challenges, rather than experiencing them as something that sucked.
Now that I am off-trail due to this injury, I try to tap into the skills I felt like I had mastered on the trail- that trust and assurance in myself- but it's not comming as easy as it did while I was on the trail. Whenever the tears stream down my face, I attempt to say to myself "I'm a bad-ass PCT hiker and I can do this." I only half-believe it.
Still a bad-ass PCT hiker, even in my boot.
But then I think of myself on Glen Pass looking down those impossible slopes, how I took one careful step at a time, how I did that thing that terrified me the most and how awesome it felt to make it. This stress fracture will heal. I will figure out how this injury fits in with my journey. I'm going to do what it takes now so that I can keep hiking in the future. And when the time comes, those first steps back on the trail will be awesome.