Day 38 – IAT Mile 669.8 to 682.0


I tremble

They’re gone eat me alive, if I stumble

They’re gonna eat me alive

Can you hear my heart beating like a hammer

Help, I’m alive, my heart keeps beating like a hammer

🎶 (Help I’m Alive, by Metric)

The words you never want to hear on a thru-hike, “I don’t think I can hike.  I think I’m done.”  That’s a paraphrase, it was around 0500 and emotionally blurry.  Brianna’s back had tightened up overnight in a painful and familiar way.  I squeezed her hand. There is no appropriate response, nothing that will do.  Thoughts spiral and shoot from this hike and on into the future, if you let them.

I’ve always had it in my mind that one of us would eventually go down with a back related injury.  Expecting and experiencing are two very different things.  Back problems are part of who we are, and not by choice.  These situations challenge the best in all of us.  Do we bow to the devil’s staircase or do we keep looking for a way push up and over? 

Conversation quickly moved to how she could still help me finish the hike, we didn’t have to both be done.  Now it was my turn for internal strife.  Do I want to finish this hike alone?  Do we Romeo and Juliet the adventure right here and draw curtains to a close?  Too much.  I tabled my doubts for future discussions. We were at our new friend Jess’s house (who we didn’t want to worry because she would have dropped everything to help us) and I had no phone to help with our logistical problems. If I am going to continue hiking, we needed to quickly find Brianna a ride to Lodi and somewhere to haven while I walk into town.

One of the many amazing things about Brianna is how effective she becomes when angry, and she was furious at the situation.  She had a ride lined up with the local IAT coordinator, Carla, on the other side of the Merrimac Ferry by 0630.  Brianna would hang with Carla at her wellness center while I hiked and we would figure out what to do next afterwards.  Things like getting me a phone would have to wait, so I took Brianna’s and did my best to push through the miles and reunite with her again quickly.

I made the 10-12 miles into Lodi, WI in good time, was in town and stuffing my face with the fresh fruit Carla had left me by 1pm.  Verizon does not have much coverage in Lodi, which made planning more speculative than specific. We knew that the city of Middleton wasn’t more than a 20 minute drive and had hotels next to a Verizon store, so that became the day’s next goal.  Brianna had seen a chiropractor for the first time in her life while I was hiking and was feeling better, but still very sore, walking for her would be kept to a minimum.

After listening to our plan, such as it was, Carla introduced us to Crystal, an amazing lady who would hook us up with a ride into Middleton.  If I had to guess, Crystal is around my age and has had a life full of adventure as well.  On the drive over to Middleton, she recounted stories of Peace Corps in Africa, camp counseling troubled youths in the Uintas of Utah, a life of service that was also self-serving to an adventurer’s heart.  Our time with her was short and impactful, a person worth mentioning and remembering, a starchild to be met again.

I was able to acquire a new phone and book a nearby hotel rather quickly after Crystal dropped us off in Middleton.  The Horsemen were in Illinois playing arcade games when I alerted them to our new and complicated situation.  In classic horsemen style, they have booked a room in our hotel and are riding into assist a day earlier than originally planned.

This adventure may yet be saved.