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Dan Cunningham
(mn-backpacker)

Locale: Land of 12,000 Loons
Aborted Thru Hike - Feeling Crushed on 05/20/2009 21:34:35 MDT Print View

Yes, it was a shorter thru hike - the 205 mile Superior Hiking Trail in Northern MN - but it was my first thru hike and I've never been so excited to do a trip.

It all started well. The trail was soggy and wet, and it was pretty cold (45-ish highs), but we were having fun and staying warm. The first day was a little warm up - just 8 miles. The second day was supposed to be a little over 10, but we both felt great so we decided to push to the next site, which was another 12 miles out. The terrain was pretty brutal, and we arrived in pretty tough shape. Our legs were strong, but our feet were hurting bad. Our spirits were damped since the last 5 miles of the 22 were very painful for our feet. They were wet and sore.

The next morning it was apparent that my wife's right foot was having some inflamed tendon issues and she wouldn't be able to keep hiking. She was planning on doing the first half with me, but told me I should keep going and that she was going to head home. We hitched a ride to town and spent the night in a nice hotel with the intention of her going home and me continuing on after that. I was feeling pretty darn good, and I was ready to go.

In the morning I put my foot down on the floor with excitement of finishing my hike, but then I felt a popping feeling between my 3rd and 4th toes and realized that my Mortons Neuroma had come back. I got it for the first time over the winter from tight cross country ski boots. I knew there was no way I could do 15+ miles per day for the next two weeks. I was devastated... my hike was over.

I went home crushed. I am still rethinking the stupid choice to push to the next site. I keep rethinking everything I did. Bad shoe choice, or was 22 miles just too much stress on my foot? Who knows. I have an appointment with a pediatrist to see what can be done so that I can keep hiking in the future without this happening.

As for my wife, thankfully her foot is already feeling much better. Definitely much better than my fragile male ego.

I guess I just needed to vent, and chaff is the place to do it.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Aborted Thru Hike - Feeling Crushed on 05/20/2009 21:43:49 MDT Print View

Dan,

Don't beat yourself up. Smart people know when to bail. Just re-evaluate the trip as a learning experience. Perhaps you took on too much with not enough pre-conditioning. There will be more hikes in the future.

george carr
(hammer-one) - F

Locale: Walking With The Son
Re: Aborted Thru Hike - Feeling Crushed on 05/20/2009 22:02:36 MDT Print View

For what it's worth Dan, I think most of us at one time or another pushed a little too hard and had some negative consequence as a result. I had planned a 40 mile weekend hike on the AT in MA about 4 years ago. Two 20's were easily doable, so I decided on day one to push for a 30+ and whatever was left would be a short finish the next day. I hadn't conditioned for the mileage and pushed hard, and was actually on pace to acheive my goal and ignored the dull ache in my right arch at around mile 20. A few miles later I was limping into Upper Goose Pond, unable to go any further that day. If I had stuck with my normal pace I more than likely wouldn't have had any issues. As it was I hobbled 7 miles to Tyringham the next and got a ride back to my truck, cutting my hike about 10 miles short. Needless to say, I listen to my body more these days.

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
Re: Re: Aborted Thru Hike - Feeling Crushed on 05/20/2009 22:09:50 MDT Print View

I pushed too hard on a slightly dodgey knee when hiking in Nepal and caused massive inflammation which left me stuck for 3 weeks in a tiny village on the trail unable to go anywhere. When my knee was better I hiked for another day further along the trail, before deciding my knee was 100% OK. The next day I proceeded to push pretty hard to catch up on time and busted my knee for a second time. 10 days in that village. After that I learnt my lesson and took it easy. Finished the hike in a mere two months or so (it's meant to be 21 days!).

So don't feel too bad. We've all made stupid decisions and overestimated our abilities/condition at one time or another. So long as you can still walk be thankful you'll be back to hike another hike. These experiences are invaluable for teaching us about our limits, so that we can hike safely and effectively in the future. A tough lesson perhaps but hey, you're alive and still in one piece right?

Ian White
(DeuceRegular) - F

Locale: Southern Jefferson
Re: Aborted Thru Hike - Feeling Crushed on 05/20/2009 22:39:12 MDT Print View

I have had to abort a couple of hikes in the past. The first was a trip from Yellowstone going down and through the Teton's. Myself and my two hiking partners overestimated our abilities, and due to Yellowstone camping policies were forced to hike too far too fast. My friend re-injured his Achilles tendon that he had damaged on a bike ride a few months prior. After the second night it was obvious that we were going to have to cut our trip short after only 45 or so miles. This was disappointing because it was my first time in that part of the country, it was beautiful, I was excited, and I knew it would be a long time before I would have the availability to go back and do a comparable hike. I still haven't been able to get to Yellowstone/Wyoming since!

The second thru hike I had to abort was the JMT in early July of '06. I was with a party that included two very novice backpackers. After leaving Yosemite we made it to Donahue pass (11,056') and my girlfriends bronchitis induced asthma (from earlier in the year) began to act up. It was a little scary. Also, this year there was a lot of snow on the trail. I had completed the JMT in '04, and the difference in snowfall was startling. As seen in these photos of Thousand Island lake (where we camped after doing Donahue)Thousand Island lake '04Thousand Island lake '06

Knowing the trail and considering the conditions (environmental and physical) my girlfriend and I decided that we would get off the trail at Red's Meadow. At the time I was of course upset. But I also knew that the correct decision was reached.

In both of these situations I spent a lot of time reflecting on the decisions made at the start and during each trip. On both trips we felt strong in the beginning and pushed ourselves. This may have been a mistake, but I feel that not listening to better conscious when confronted with injuries or poor environmental conditions can lead to much worse scenarios.

As it is, I hope your foot feels better so you can be successful in future thru-hikes.

cary bertoncini
(cbert) - F

Locale: N. California
one of the hardest things to do is on 05/20/2009 22:42:59 MDT Print View

stop when you still are feeling good

but

i've learned the hard way that is the best time to stop - almost all of my injuries and setbacks have come from overdoing it when feeling good

i still mess up, but i've gotten better at sort of planning my off time, retreats, scaling down, and generally not trying to find the edge of my limits as much as possible

sorry you are hurting - wish you a speedy recovery and many more (but maybe slightly shorter) great days ahead

Mark McLauchlin
(markmclauchlin) - MLife

Locale: Western Australia
Re: one of the hardest things to do is on 05/20/2009 22:48:54 MDT Print View

Totally know how you feel.

I recently pulled out after 60 kms from a 130Km hike planned. My hips were in severe pain, so much so that chewed through 8 Neurofen Plus in 12 hours and it only just helped.

I was and are still feeling really guttered about the whole thing, especially more so as my hiking buddy also had to pull out as going it alone wouldnt have been a great idea.

Still 4 weeks later I am sore, tried to walk 22kms and just made it. Seeking medical attention now and have had one session of dry needle.

I plan to get back out there again to finish it, until I do that I will have this crappy feeling of failure....

Cheers

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
Aborted Thru Hike - Feeling Crushed on 05/20/2009 22:55:23 MDT Print View

Nick is 100% right - smart people know when to bail. Better disappointed than rescued. Think of it as a learning experience. The trail isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Come back again at some future time, healed and armed with a revised game plan, and knock it out.

Plowing blindly forward when health or weather dictate otherwise can have nasty and even tragic consequences. Unfortunately, it's usually how a lot of "smart" people got that way.

How do you think I got the name "Wandering Bob"?

Film at eleven.

Edited by wandering_bob on 05/20/2009 22:57:13 MDT.

Barbara K
(Barbara)

Locale: So Cal
Morton's neuroma on 05/20/2009 23:07:18 MDT Print View

So sorry to hear about your foot but here's some hopefully good news. I had one of those in my foot and suffered for several years, having to wear extra wide shoes, and still getting that typical burning, rock in my shoe feeling. I resisted cortisone shots and finally had surgery. Within 6 weeks I was hiking again - it was like night and day and i couldn;t believe I had waited so long. Now another one has come back, in the same foot! Not nearly as bad. So I get a cortisone shot about 3 weeks before a big trip, if it's been acting up, and it has worked like magic. Maybe at some point I;ll get it operated on too.

So, go for it and you'll likely be hiking by mid July, better than ever! Barbara
PS Not a medical professional - well actually I am , but not giving medical advice here!

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Aborted Thru Hike - Feeling Crushed on 05/20/2009 23:52:18 MDT Print View

Been there. I feel your pain.

Take care. Glad to know everyone is healing up.

What worked for me was dreaming about going back...

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Aborted Thru Hike - Feeling Crushed on 05/21/2009 01:50:27 MDT Print View

Hi Dan

As many others have said, there is a limit for your feet and legs which you just have to learn. We all make the same mistake - sometimes many times... :-) And yes, the psych bit is hard.

But as others have also said: the trail is not going away. It will still be there when you come back, a little wiser.

Cheers

SIMON TEW
(simontew) - F

Locale: Snowdonia/Lake District/Peaks
Name for the condition on 05/21/2009 02:37:09 MDT Print View

Hi Dan,

Sorry to hear you had to stop. Better that than do yourself a longer-term injury though.

It seems, however, that you 'may' have provided me with the name of the condition that periodically afflicts me - i.e. Morton's Neuroma.

I first experienced it whilst downhill skiing - in a relatively short period of time of wearing skiing boots, I can start to feel what seems like coldness in my right foot only, affecting just the smaller three toes. I can wiggle my toes OK, and checking them it transpires that they aren't actually cold or overly compressed at all. It then quickly becomes a cramp-like feeling which, to be honest, is total agony. Occasionally there will be a twanging-type sensation, and sometimes the problem will ease away at that point. It seems now I always get it with ski boots on - luckily for me it usually passes, though not quickly.

I've occasionally had it hiking in leather walking boots as well. Never in 'normal' shoes, so I'd guess compression is the key is my case.

I'd always assumed it was the shape of the boot, even though my ski boots and insole were custom-shaped, and I could tell from the pain and the occasionally twanging that nerves and tendons were also in the mix. It never really occurred to me that the problem might actually be inside my foot: stupidly I guess I expect my right and left feet to behave the same.

Anyway, hope you see an improvement soon, and thanks for flagging this condition.

Cheers, Simon

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Aborted Thru Hike - Feeling Crushed on 05/21/2009 07:47:46 MDT Print View

Sorry to hear that. Leah was really excited about the trip when I ran into her last week and it was clear you were too. I was looking forward to seeing you guys on the trail this weekend.

Find a good podiatrist who understands wanting to be outdoors then be a good patient and do what's needed to get better.

Seems like this spring is seeing a lot of reports from folks forced off trail from injuries. One thing I learned a few years ago is "If I'm not doing it (or something similar) in my daily life don't plan on doing it on trail". For some reason I seem to have to re-learn that once in a while. I'm suddenly feeling very pleased to not be hiking the Bean-Bear-Tettegouche-Fantasia area this weekend. Thanks for the reminder!

Dave T
(DaveT) - F
feet. on 05/21/2009 08:50:43 MDT Print View

Hey Dan.

Don't let it get ya too down. We've all been forced off of trails (or just bailed) due to lots of reasons. Part of that comes with the territory of trying to push yourself, do lots of miles, etc.

Take care of the foot, and you'll be back in no time. The trail isn't going anywhere.

Dave.

William Puckett
(Beep) - F

Locale: Land of 11, 842 lakes
Aborted Thru Hike on 05/21/2009 11:12:55 MDT Print View

Oh Dan, I know you and Leah are really bummed out over this. It sounds like you did the right thing though, because continuing with the foot troubles you describe would not be enjoyable and could have led to more serious issues and complications.

While it may be of little comfort, the trail will be there and can be hiked later when you're up to it. Heck, I'll even tag along for part of the trip! (now there's an incentive!!)

James Dubendorf
(dubendorf)

Locale: CO, UT, MA, ME, NH, VT
Re: Aborted Thru Hike on 05/21/2009 12:52:14 MDT Print View

Dan,

Best wishes for a quick recovery. As others have said, the trail will be waiting once your foot improves. I feel as though every time I push my limits, I learn something the hard way- I have a few healing blisters as evidence right now! Comes with the territory, I guess, and there is no replacing experience. Best you can hope is that if you know enough to get into the situation in the first place, you know enough to get out of it, and you learn from it. Also, I realize it adds an entirely other level to a situation of adversity when it involves a couple. Sounds like you listened to each other to come up with a solution, and this bodes well for future trips together.

The lesson about stopping while things still feel good, as opposed to continuing until something starts to hurt, is one I had not really thought much about. I have no long distance hiking experience (hope to soon), but it seems this lesson is essential to the completion of an extended trip where you need to maintain health over the long term, as opposed to a shorter trip where you can draw down your reserves and limp to the finish. Thanks for sharing.

James

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Re: Aborted Thru Hike - Feeling Crushed on 05/21/2009 13:56:10 MDT Print View

I am sure I can speak for many of us here by saying that most of my successful trips have come about by learning from failed ones...

Rick Cheehy
(kilgoretrout2317) - F

Locale: Virginia
Re: Re: Aborted Thru Hike - Feeling Crushed on 05/21/2009 14:35:31 MDT Print View

Sorry Dan, but you did the right thing. It's like Ed Vesters (I have no idea how to spell that dudes name)says, "It's not getting to the summit, it's getting back that counts."
I don't like the way I'm getting it, but this is another bit of useful Dan advice I can take with me on the trail. Thanks for sharing.

Dan Cunningham
(mn-backpacker)

Locale: Land of 12,000 Loons
Re: Aborted Thru Hike - Feeling Crushed on 05/22/2009 07:57:18 MDT Print View

Thanks all! I'm feeling a bit better about the whole thing now.

Today I'm leaving for a 4 day fishing/canoe trip on a river in Wisconsin. Everything goes in the boat, and we camp along the way. Most of the UL backpacking stuff is getting put away, and the more cozy canoe/car camping gear comes out.

This will keep me off my feet for a few days, and gets me back into the wilderness. More than anything, it gets my mind off the fact that I should still be on the trail for another 10 days.