We got an early start today. No coffee and bare minimum for breakfast. Had to conserve rations, plus we’d been getting such late starts this week we felt like a change of pace. It proved to be a great decision. About 1.7 miles in, right at Richards Road and our next water stash point, my knee suddenly buckled. Painfully. I thought I was going to throw up it was that intense. In fact, we seriously debated calling the trip right there. I had no idea if it was wise or even doable to continue on to our final campsite. But sheer stubbornness won out. I had to hike this trail from beginning to end. So, we went on with a couple miles to our next stop at Bear Lake, where we could rest and have lunch. Then, I thought, if it was completely unbearable, we could end the trip there.
So, no more putting weight confidently on both legs and allowing myself to float easily forward lost in thought and scenery. Each step required focus to keep sharp pain at bay. That sucked some of the enjoyment out of the hike. But Cass found a great walking stick, which I leaned on heavily and with much gratitude! One step at a time and with our eyes on the prize of the Morgan Monroe back country, our final camping spot, we labored forward. Very. Slowly.
Lunch at Bear Lake totally revived us. The lake was big, beautiful, and sunny. Cass dipped my bandana in the cold water for a makeshift “ice pack” for my knee. Then we bandaged and braced the hell out of that sucker.
The rest, food, and sunlight did wonders for my spirits and we decided not to end the trip here.
When we finally reached the Morgan Monroe boundary, I felt like I could finally exhale. Home stretch. The woods in Morgan Monroe seem so much bigger to me–the ravines more dramatic, and the ridges so immense (as far as the Midwest goes). So, I was sorry especially here that I couldn’t relax my attention away from my poor knee.
Basically, the theme of the day for me was jaw-clenching determination. Gripping my walking stick, I poured every ounce of energy into making it down each incline (uphills weren’t so bad).
But we eventually reached the back country. And there we were, at the end of the day, with all those challenges behind us. Life was good again as we rested a mere 6 miles away from the trail’s end, our day’s work done. We sipped coffee and enjoyed the afternoon sunlight melting into evening. The wood thrush made sweet music all around us. Time to gaze up through leaves (thankfully not dripping with bug poop–see earlier entry!) at a sky that seemed to be the color of serenity.
The next day we would hike to the car, climb in, turn up the music and drive to Lenny’s Brewpub to feast on fat burgers and delicious beer. That would be sweet nectar and manna after our diet of peanut butter, GORP, dried fruit, raman, and oatmeal. Here is picture of our last dinner on the trail. Looks tantalizing, doesn’t it?