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7.0 miles on highway 71 towards Rawlins.
Not a good day.
First, we got winds from passing thunderstorms again last night. The only difference was it came and went in waves, not one long outburst . And being on the small ridge line did not help. To add to the misery, the only rain from it all came right at dawn. It was not enough to make mud, but enough to force us packing up a wet tent. Sigh.
Second, I woke up with my left shin hurting. This was unusual as it would start hurting only after hiking some miles. Not a good sign.
My shin hurt badly hiking back down the ridge to the road. I stopped and stretched and took some ibuprofen. It helped, but not much.
By seven miles in to the hike I was hobbling and barely able to put pressure on my left leg. Very bad. It was obvious I could not continue walking, but it was hard to admit since this could affect my whole thru hike. Silly, I know, but I wanted to keep going.
I waited for Feral to catch up to talk it over with him. I also sent a message to Just Jim and Pockets; they were about 6 hours behind us. As Feral was recommending I get off trail, a car pulled over, a young man rolled down his window and said he heard I had a shin problem and needed a ride into town. Whaaa...? He was out supporting his wife on the CDT and had stopped to talk to Pockets and Just Jim and they had told him. A ride before I had even made a decision to get a ride. A new record.
He brought me into Rawlins to a hotel and then to Burger King since I couldn’t check in yet. He even offered to take my one gallon jugs (from the water caches). Kindness and a spirit of service beyond belief. But wait... more trail magic to come this day.
I hobbled back to the hotel and waited in the shade of a tree for check in time. I used the time to call my medical insurance to get clearance to go to an urgent care; they are quite picky if it isn’t ‘life or limb’. As I was answering their questions, an older couple sat under the tree as well that appeared to be hikers. (You learn to tell.) The insurance company decided I needed to be seen and put me on hold to find a place that was approved. While on hold, the lady under the tree asked if I was a CDT hiker, and we got talking. She and her husband are finishing hiking the CDT, completing sections they had been unable to complete last year. They were driving their vehicle to the end of each section and getting rides back to the start. They had just finished a section to Rawlins. About that time, my insurance company came back on the phone and informed me I had to go to the hospital in Laramie, Wyoming. “Laramie!” I said in exasperation, “That is over 90 miles away! How am I supposed to get there?” Almost immediately the husband hiker next to me said “I will do it.” I sat in stunned silence, trying to understand this. After a moment I asked him if he understood how far it was. He calmly said yes and reaffirmed he would drive me there. I told the insurance company I had a ride and got the hospital details. I was in shock.
I checked into the hotel and met the man (trail name The Mayor) in the lobby. He drove me all the way and waited in the emergency room parking lot for several hours for me, then drove me back. In thunderstorms. At least I got to pay for a gas fill up. He said he and his wife had so many nice things done for them on the trail, he saw it as a way to ‘pay it forward’. Absolutely amazing. Thank you doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings.
My diagnosis: no stress fracture and no blood clot. Simply an over use muscle injury. Some pain meds, several days off, some steroids, and ibuprofen when hiking were all that was recommended. Yeah! I can keep going.
I must mention the thunderstorms. They were intense and beautiful to see in the wide open space of southern Wyoming. But my hiking buddies are out in them. Yikes.