It's difficult to describe the myriad of feelings that the events of the last several weeks have brought on. In the last few miles that we hiked into Rangeley, the lump on my shoulder had become so big and so painful that I had to loosen my pack for it to hang awkwardly, achingly off of my hips and left shoulder. Then, after visiting the medical center, sorting through our overwhelming amount of mail and being found by the most generous trail angel imaginable. After a few days (under an antibiotic, doing hot and cold treatments, and carrying nothing) had gone by and my shoulder still hadn't improved, Andy suggested that we should start thinking about the possibility of needing to get off the trail. I had to push down the tears I could feel welling up, knowing that he was right but also unwilling to give up on this dream of our thru-hike. And then, incredibly, it started feeling better. The bump wasn't budging but the pain receded. Dawn took us on our fantastic weekend trip that included my first visit to a lighthouse, tons of beautiful views, the very cute town of Freeport, hanging out with some of the nicest people ever, a visit to a really great beach, and, of course, the downfall of Andy's foot. In the couple of days after it started hurting, we finished up our plans for the Whites and organized our food, packed our bags, my shoulder thing started getting smaller... and then realized Andy's foot needed more serious medical attention than ibuprofen could offer.
I really can't say enough about how wonderful Dawn and her family were to us in Rangeley, right down to making Andy a birthday cake and helping us keep our chins up while we hung in limbo over our hike. Her parents even drove us a few hours to Portland so we could pick up a rental car and head a little further south. Now we're here at another wonderful friend's home. Michelle and I went to high school together in Illinois, but when we graduated I headed west, she went east, and I'm pretty confident in saying that this is the first time we've seen each other since. And yet, being the awesome person she is, she's taken us in and let us more or less take over her Boston apartment while we plan our next move.
It has seriously been the most bizarre mix of good and bad luck that we have experienced--because although the nurse who helped us at the Rangeley medical center called our injuries 'the strangest' she had ever seen, Dawn and her father are a retired nurse and doctor and Michelle is an administrator in a part of a hospital that includes, as luck would have it, orthopedics. Go figure. So she was able to get Andy an appointment that finally included a less casual take on healing--namely, a hard-soled boot, a pair of crutches, and some pain meds. After the first doctor suggested we go ahead and hike and see how it goes and the second doctor said wait 4 weeks to hike but it's ok to walk on, it was a strange relief to hear this third doctor say to stay off of it as much as possible, get a follow-up in about a month, and not even consider the possibility of hiking for 6-8 weeks. That was about a week ago now, which places our earliest hope of returning to the trail at mid-September. If the doctor gives the go-ahead, we'll probably need to start back up around Harper's Ferry (the trail's unofficial halfway point) to try and finish before December. I'm sure that hoping to get back out there sounds crazy--if it were last summer and I was reading a post like this, it would probably seem pretty crazy to me. But we both want it so badly that neither of us is ready to give up just yet. So we're cutting pack weight, reworking the timeline and budget requirements, and... we've still got some summer to enjoy!