|First dayhike. Western States Trail near Auburn, CA.|
The first day without the boot, my foot felt strange, stiff, and unfamiliar. Like it wasn’t really my foot. I tried not to panic when I feel the twinges of tightness and nerves. With every tentative step, I keep expected the sharp stabs of pain to return that would indicate the healing isn’t done. But they never did.
I decided I didn’t want to hike that first day. Instead, I went kayaking and paddled my heart out. Oh the pent up energy!
|Kayaking on Loon Lake in CA.|
At the end of the day, the darkness of doubt flooded over me. I was fearful those twinges were really the bone whispering that it wasn’t done healing. I poked and rubbed the bone and tried to feel what was going on in there under the skin. Was this the so-called phantom pain, or normal tingliness due to the callus and calcium buildup at the site of the injury? Is the foot ready to start easing into hiking or does it want more rest? I got frustrated because I don't know. I hated that I don't know for sure. I should know, right?
Day two without the boot I was too afraid to take a hike. My foot felt so strange just from walking around the house. My foot reminded me of a plant that withered due to lack of rain. All skinny, shriveled, translucent. A tiny fragile creature. Where had my muscular, weathered and calloused, boulder-hopping, mountain climbing feet gone? How could I have been the strongest than I'd ever been my whole life, hiking 940 miles on the PCT, and then just 7 weeks later, be so weak and uncomfortable.
|Was it really only two months ago that I was skipping across boulders in the Sierra?|
I resolved to go for a hike the next day. I was grateful that Arizona offered to walk with me.
On my first 3-mile dayhike, I slowly ambled along a flat section of the Western States Trail above the American River. I felt like I was learning to walk all over again. I kept waiting for the stabs of pain to return, but they never did. I thought about how lucky I am to have ended up here, so close to this awesome place, and I thought about of all the trail runners who compete in the 100-mile endurance run along this famous trail. In contrast to those incredible athletes who'd journeyed on this trail before me, 3 miles shouldn’t be a big deal. But those 3 miles were (mentally) exhausting, and took all the bravery I could muster. When I made it back to the trailhead, I was incredibly relieved.
Another day of rest. I walked less than half an hour on the way to go swimming in the pond. I didn't want to overdo it. I massaged my foot and iced it. The stiffness was a little better. My optimism renewed.
For the second dayhike, I walked 4.8 miles and lost/gained 1200 feet in elevation. No sharp pain, but my balance was off. I felt like I was a baby learning to walk. The tamest stream crossings had me stepping gingerly, testing each rock. Side trails beckoned with the sounds of waterfalls, but I dared not go down, not trusting my feet on the steep paths. Where is the line between being careful and being fearful?
|Carefully checking the stability of each step on a tiny stream crossing.|
|Going for a swim in the American River. Smiles not miles.|
Third dayhike. 6.2 miles. I was more in the moment and more in my body. I still kept listening for a sharp stab of pain that would tell me the stress fracture hasn't healed. But all I got were twinges and stiffness. The twinges have me concerned but my other, non-injured foot is stiff and twingy too. I can't be certain if it’s the new shoes or from not walking for 7 weeks or if the stress fracture hasn't healed completely. I wonder if I'm being overly sensitive or a hypochondriac or if I'm in denial of an actual problem. I can't tell yet so I poke at my foot and ice it and do google searches for "phantom pain stress fracture."
|Stopping for a rest break to ice by foot with my frozen water bottle.|