21st August 2019

Three strikes, you’re out!

Twenty miles, only six for the day, out of South Lake Tahoe, my right shin flares up. As a runner I know the feeling, shin split (beenvliesontsteking voor de Nederlanders) the outside of the shin gets irritated and starts hurting. I stop and take a break, stretch and massage both my calf and my shin.

After the break the irritation returns within a few hundred feet, but the pain seems to be gone. After seven miles I reach a lake and stop for the day, hiking is uncomfortable and I do not want to aggravate my injury. The lake is to cool my shin. It’s only 1pm when I set up camp, hasn’t happened before.

In my tent I start looking at my options, 27 miles back to South Lake Tahoe or 7 miles to a trailhead that wasn’t reachable by cars just the week before (as was reported by hikers before me in the app almost all hikers use). If there are no cars there, it would be a 8 mile roadwalk down to the road going around the lake. Even with the roadwalk it’s shorter, that’s what I’ll do.

The next morning it doesn’t feel better at all. So I hike to the trailhead and ask the first driver for a ride. He ends up giving me a ride South Lake Tahoe, going 1.5 hours out of his way to drop me off.

After a couple of days of rest, a friend drives me back to the trailhead in his rented car. He joins me for a short hike on the trail and within a half a mile the feeling returns. Which is weird as I walked around town more than that, but I guess full pack and all changes the situation.

The friend drives me to Truckee, where I can stay in cheaper hotels to rest up and where it is easier to get back to trail.

Strike one!

I opt for another 4 days of rest. When I’m feeling optimistic about my shin, I do some walks in town. 1-2 miles and it feels good. Okay, no pack but the irritation isn’t there anymore. So I get back on trail at Donner Pass, skipping 30 miles from where I left trail but I can live with that if it means finishing.

The first two miles feel good. After which a slight nagging feeling starts to develop and not long after that it turns into irritation. Just six miles in I reach the point where I have to turn around. No direct pain, but irritation developing into a impaired stride, which will only aggravate the injury and cause pain within a few miles.

My exit point is just 1.5 miles back, where the PCT tunneled under a freeway leading back to Truckee.

I get a ride and check into the hostel in town.

Strike two!

From Truckee I plan to flip up to Cascade Locks, the last town of Oregon on the PCT, while taking another 1.5 weeks of rest. I rent a car and drive north trying to follow the PCT. It’s nice to be able to give rides to some hikers along the way. These hikers told me about the PCT days, being held in Cascade Locks the weekend I plan to be there. I didn’t even know about this, as I was supposed to be in Northern California.

After my roadtrip and some days rest along the way, I attend the PCT days and meet up with some friends from the desert part. It was loads of fun and great to see some of those hikers again, probably for the last time. While they hike out on Sunday, I want to wait another few days although my shin feels good.

I would hike out through Washington towards Canada on Tuesday, August 20th. Skipping Northern California and Oregon for the moment, just to get into Washington at the best time of the year, mostly because September and October can have early snowstorms. To make sure I did all I could to combat the injury, I got new shoes, compression socks and was stretching and cooling a lot.

After a night of poor sleep over the possibility that my injury wasn’t over yet, I felt great in the morning. Excited to get back out there. Crossing the Bridge of the Gods from Oregon to Washington. The first miles felt good again. Not long before a small feeling returned to my shin, hopefully just there until it warmed up. But by mile 8 I knew for certain, the injury had not healed yet.

Strike three, you’re out!

And here I am writing this post in my tent, 10 miles into Washington, 495 miles from Canada. Tears in my eyes knowing that tomorrow will have to be my last day on trail. Going on doesn’t make sense, hiking will start to hurt and 10 mile days just don’t cut it. Waiting it out doesn’t make sense, as it can take months to fully heal.

With the 10 miles I hiked today, I have done 890 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, reaching the 1/3 marker.

I’m grateful for the awesome people I’ve met, both hikers and trail angels. And I’m absolutely stoked about having hiked the Sierra Nevada and summited Mount Whitney. The weeks in the Sierra Nevada, I’ve seen some of the most beautiful nature I’ve encountered during my travels so far.

It’s not the way I envisioned my thru-hike attempt of the Pacific Crest Trail to go, but I can look back on an amazing time on trail. Maybe I’ll come back sometime and re-attempt, for now I’ll have to figure out new plans earlier than expected.

More on that and my reflection upon my thru-hike in future posts.

Take care!

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