Today is like this:
Pain. I wake and before I open my eyes my knees hurt. I make my granola and protein powder and my knees hurt. My hiking partners pack up and out and my knees hurt. I make my plan for the day and my knees seriously fuckin’ hurt.
Well! What does a person do with so much knee hurt when there’s nothing to do but….hike? I know I’m probably pushing it too hard with my immediate 20 mile days so I take some ibuprofen and I decide I’ll walk less today. Less will be good for my knees.
I start with a slow peaceful climb in a temperate sun dappled forest and I’m ecstatic. The thing is every day starts out the best day? I don’t know how else to explain it, but even with the pain I feel so much better on this trail then I have in months, like my mind is clear and open and serene and I can trust the universe has my back and I’m gonna be ok after all. I stop to touch the mossy trunk of a hemlock tree and I close my eyes and feel grateful. Hello hemlock I think. Thank you.
Eight miles in Homework and I stop and get water from a robust pipe stream and it is legit the best water I’ve ever tasted. Dad and Jukebox roll up and I push them toward the pipe. “Drink!” I exclaim. “Drink!”
For lunch we stop at a dirt road with everything a person could possibly need: pit toilets, a picnic table and ummm…I guess just one another beyond that. I eat Bobos bars and sweet potato chips and vegan jerky and then I force myself to sit on the pit toilet for a solid twenty minutes and poop for the first time in days. Pooooooping. Feels good, man.
After lunch we break off again and begin a steep climb up a relentless exposed sandy ridge. It gets hotter and hotter and I’m rationing water and am too lazy to stop for food and suddenly i just … crash. 3 miles from camp I plop into a shady nook, blur my eyes until I only see smears of brown and yellow and green and shovel golden raisins into my mouth, dirty palmful after dirty palmful. One by one my friends show up and plop beside me shoveling their own provisions into their individual mouths. “Holy shit” we say to no one in particular. “Holy shit”.
I know the longer I sit the harder it will be to go, so I leave my bleary eyed friends and start the last of the climb. The last three miles involve a tremendous amount of knee pain and I play with my gait to try to fix it. Does my knee hurt when I take short steps? Long steps? Side steps? The answers are: yes, yes, yes. My knee hurts when I take all the kinds of steps.
Fuck. I think. Fuck.