Miles Hiked: Zero
I spent a total of five days at the Acton KOA waiting for my shin injury to heal. When I limped into town I knew I was in trouble and needed at least three days off. I got in contact with Morgan who runs Blaze Physio. She is a physical therapist who stations herself in Trail Towns on the PCT in order to treat hikers from her van. I was able to get a telehealth appointment with her on my first Zero day. Absolutely amazing. On top of the easy access, she also charges an extremely reasonable amount of $40 for a telehealth visit. I have health insurance and I know a visit to a regular PT (who I could only see after getting referred by a doctor) would cost significantly more and take way longer to see not to mention that I’m on foot so I don’t have transportation to get anywhere. Morgan is also a thru hiker so she understands what we are doing. For the most part, I don’t trust health care professionals when it comes to thru hiking matters due to some very poor and dangerous experiences in the past. I’m incredibly thankful that Morgan has my trust! If you have been reading this blog for a while, you might remember that on the Appalachian trail I had TWO doctors be unable to identify an obvious infection due to assuming it must be an overuse injury since hiking long distance seems absolutely crazy to anyone not involved in the community. The third (an awesome foot doctor) was able to identify the infection (MRSA) immediately and I ended up having my foot cut open, packed, and drained multiple times. In my opinion anyone with a minimal education such as a Wilderness First Responder (which I have) should be able to recognize the basic signs of an infection. Redness, swelling, hot to touch, and painful.
I was absolutely dreading all the days I’d have to take off trail. I really don’t enjoy taking more than one zero at a time when I’m on a thru hike. A day of rest is nice but after that I get bored and antsy to go hike. The first three zeros were surprisingly enjoyable despite all the anxiety. I camped the first two nights on the trail. One was with Angus and the other was was Cam, Dirt Magnet, Rainbow, Jasmin, and Spice Rack when they caught up. On zero day #1 I went into the town of Acton with Jasmine and Spice Rack a couple in their esrly 40s if I had to guess. I stocked up on snacks for the next few days and we ate at one of the only restaurants in town called the 49er. I got a salad and a BLT sandwich. This is the only time I would actually go into the town of Acton on all my zeros. I also had a telehealth appointment with Morgan that day. She originally thought I might be experiencing exertional compartment syndrome and that the swelling would go down eventually and I would be able to return to activity in 3-7 days. She showed me a taping method to relieve swelling and a lymphatic massage. The KOA let me use a cooler that was sitting by the hiker box so I was able to keep a bag of ice by my tent at all times and I iced throughout the day.
On my second zero I did laundry and took a shower before setting up camp at the KOA with all the other hikers. I was shocked by how many people were there. I’d say there were easily 50 tents that night. There were quite a few other injured hikers too including Maria from Denmark who was able to pick me up some KT tape from REI when she took a trip to get new shoes. I was thankful I didn’t have to go that far to get some because I looked for it in Acton but couldn’t find any! It made me feel a little better to know I wasn’t the only injured person taking multiple days off the trail. My new shoes and resupply box were also mailed to the KOA so I took the time to sort through that as well. On the third day the swelling still persisted but it was much better. I still hurt significantly enough that I know I would just make it worse again if I started hiking. I was really nervous that nothing seemed to get better after the third day. By the fourth day, I finally felt good enough to hike but I decided to take one more zero for good measure. Morgan from Blaze Physio was at the campground in the evening and she checked out my shin thoroughly in person. She ruled out the exertional compartment syndrome since it should have resolved a lot quicker than it was. She spent a lot of time physically examining my shin and asking what hurt and moving my foot around. She thought it very well could be either a stress fracture or very bad shin splints and tendonitis. I was so freaked out to learn it was looking like a stress fracture. My mind couldn’t stop racing about what I would do if I had to take six weeks off of trail to heal it and the stupid amount of money I might have to pay to get an XRay and MRI that would probably tell me nothing besides I am broken and I need to rest. She showed me a new taping method to support my muscles in my shin while they healed and some range of motion exercises as well. We both agreed that I would take one more zero before hiking 10 miles to Augua Dulce. At Augua Dulce I would make the decision to keep hiking if it felt good enough or commit to taking multiple weeks off trail if it didn’t. I was incredibly nervous and just hoping it would get better.
My last zero day was the most fun of them all. A lot of people I was looking forward to seeing all arrived at once and we all spent the day together hanging out at the pool and having fun. It was nice to enjoy the time and try to forget about what was stressing me out for a little bit. I also got to eat dinner with Doggone and his Wife Taxi Lady. During all these zeros I also spent a significant amount of time in my tent watching you tube videos about hiking other trails and bike touring while I iced my foot. Thankfully the KOA had wifi! Taking all these zeros was really hard for me but I know I needed every single one of them.