July 15, 2022

My time being home has been a whirlwind. I definitely think it was the right decision to get off trail and come home for a little bit. My anxiety was skyrocketing while I was out there and it allowed me time to get that under control and let my foot heal. Being home in such a politically tumultuous time has been bitter sweet. Having my support community here to grieve, process, and feel all the emotions has brought an element of peace, but I can’t help but think about all the people trying to navigate similar emotions and process all the news happening while on trail.

I came off trail because Mouse and I slowed down to less than a mile an hour, my foot was in so much pain after the rock scramble on Chairback. For the first week, maybe week and a half I was home the pain only got worse. I saw my orthopedist the day I got back and they put me in a boot and ordered a CT after my X-rays were inconclusive. My CT came back and at my follow up we determined that the bone was not broken but displaced because of the force I landed off the rock with. 2 more weeks in a boot and physical therapy, plus new insoles for my shoes was the solution. It seems to be doing the trick.

As my foot healed I started itching for the woods again. Mouse and I began to make plans to head back out, skip the whites, and keep hiking, hopefully finding the bubble that we left. We booked plane tickets and started to get excited again.

Then I got COVID, again. This will be my third time having COVID and I have no idea where I was exposed. I’ve had all my shots, try to stay cautious when out and about, and do what I can to stay healthy. The first two times I managed just fine. Only mild symptoms, I could function, and with only a short amount of recovery time my lungs were back to normal. This time has been different. I have been knocked down, hard. The first few days I didn’t leave bed unless I had to. Like clockwork, as I physically felt like I was starting to turn the corner to be on the mend I felt it moving into my chest. I have to sleep practically sitting up or I cough/choke on my cough all night long. Breathing on its own feels taxing. I have been trying to walk around my neighborhood when I can get out for fresh air and to work my lungs. I come back from not even a quarter of a mile exhausted.

I won’t lie, I’m worried about what this means for my hike. Mouse and my flight leaves after my quarantine and isolation periods end, so in that element I’m on track to get back on trail. I have no idea how my body will perform when I’m out there. So my next week looks like more doctors appointments and doing everything I can to get better.

It’s hard. I’ve had experiences like this before where it felt like thing after thing after thing kept popping up until I listened and did what was healthiest for me and stepped away. I’m trying to discern if that is what is happening now or if this is a “push through and it’ll be something glorious” moment. Either way, it’s hard to imagine walking away from something I’ve dreamed of and planned for so long. Talking with Mouse, she has had similar experiences and offered some good advice.

I always knew the trail would be more of a mental challenge than a physical one. I spent years preparing for that. I’m definitely a different version of myself compared to the Dragonfly who first found the trail in 2018, but the trail still holds near and dear to my heart. I’ve missed my husband, my dogs, and my community, but I’ve also found pieces of me that were hiding for so long while I was out there. I’ve learned it’s okay to feel emotions as they come, even if that means walking up a mountain sobbing out of nowhere and later realizing you are not alone in those moments and that others are feeling them too.

My friendship with Mouse has been one of the greatest blessings on the trail so far and I am excited to hike another section with her.

The trail this year is a different culture than I expected. Especially for a southbound hike. The bubble I left had 18 people in it, and was growing every day. There was so much comraderie at the shelter for those that were in their bubble, but also incredible amounts of isolation for those who were not. I will be interested to see if I catch this bubble again how it has aged throughout southern Maine and the whites. It will definitely be nice to see some familiar faces and see how everyone is doing. I’m curious to see if I’ll still be an outsider, especially after skipping a section, or if it is a more welcoming group now that the newness has faded.

7 Replies to “July 15, 2022”

  1. I will lift you up in prayer as you heal and discern what is best for you. Thankful that your foot is healing. Hope you get to feeling better from mean ole COVID..
    Remember John Dodson had to get off of the trail but then he was able to finish it.
    Praying for you! Amanda Rowe

  2. Oh, Rachel, what a batch of what must feel like backward steps! I will be praying first for your strength and cardiovascular recovery, and second for clarity and vision for your path forward. That bubble needs your light!

  3. interested to hear about being “in the bubble” vs isolated.

    Sounds like it’s not just a A.T. hiking thing that you stumbled on.

    there are many other non hikers who might benefit from that story…

    DR from Baltimore.

  4. Please know that there are people at Sharp Memorial UMC praying for you. The hiking group that you started is going strong with 15 hikers on our last hike. We call ourselves the Healthy Hikers and thank you for getting us organized.

  5. Dragonfly — our Gideon’s Camp has you in our prayers — Godspeed!

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