Day 24 – The Beginning of the End
May 15, .9 miles / 280.9 total hiked
We camped less than a mile from the highway that leads to the small town of Reserve NM. We were able to coordinate a ride last night so at 8:30 a lady pulled up to the trailhead to take us over to town (i.e. food, showers, laundry, and lodging). We had no idea last night would be our last on trail.
In Reserve Gina was not 100% so we took a second night off and arranged a ride the following morning (5/17). We woke up and Gina’s back pain had become more than just annoying… She thought it was a kidney infection setting in so we cancelled the ride and tried to figure out how to get to a doctor. With the closest pharmacy an hour+ away the options were not great.
Fortunately the county medical center (center is a strong word here… Think a small building with a dentist, doctor, and mental health counselor) just happened to be .5 miles away.
The doctor there pretty much ruled out a kidney infection and said it was muscular. So back to the hotel for another night and another attempt to get back on trail the next day.
The next morning Gina was still having issues but we felt we needed to get back on trail to leverage some great weather and not fall behind. Wearing her pack does not make her back hurt worse nor does walking around Reserve. It would only be 40 miles, 2 days, to Pie Town so it seemed an acceptable risk. Our ride took us back to the trail crossing and we head north again.
Gina struggles right away, a combination of aching, lack of sleep, and losing confidence. When not 100%, even 40 miles out here is daunting. After a mile she is just repeating “I don’t know if I can do this”. I ask her if we need to turn around but all she can contribute is”I don’t know, let’s just keep going”.
By mile 2 she is sobbing and repeating “I don’t think I can do this”. We stop under a shady tree and talk. We still have a cell signal and Gina talks to our son Ryan for a bit. I think in my heart I knew it was over at that moment but we talked in terms of going back to Reserve for a few more days to give her more recharge time and see what happens with her back pains.
We text our Reserve contact and she arranged yet another ride for us (all these rides have been by the same wonderful lady who had a 2 month old and sometimes her 8 year old with her… A big thank you Z!).
Back in Reserve there are some more tears and discussion of options. We decide to relocate to Show Low, a town big enough to have an Enterprise car rental so we are at least mobile and can get to a medical facility or airport if needed. The next morning Z drives us over 2 hours to Show Low.
In Show Low we find a hotel and decide to give it 2 more days based on some medical advice from a good friend. We think it is Lumbar Facet Joint Syndrome but are not sure. The past few nights have been increasingly tough for Gina. The constant ache is worse at night and she gets little sleep which is taking its toll.
By Monday 5/21 she is not getting better and the nights are still miserable. At 3:30am I wake up and she is in a chair next to the bed bent over a pillow still trying to sleep. I check flights for the umpteenth time and decide we can make a 9:40am flight from Phoenix if we immediately head there. After scrambling around to leave, we decide to wait until morning when we both have more clear heads (like we would get any sleep by then).
Monday, 5/21, at noon we made the decision to buy tickets and come home to get this sorted out. Before anyone judges us for not making that decision sooner, you have to remember the effort we had put into planning and hiking the first 280 miles plus the fact on a thru hike there is always something hurting and it is hard to tell what is a transient issue from something that is a trip ender.
So I am writing this on Tuesday 5/22. By this time tomorrow we will hopefully be back home and plan to see a doctor on Thursday.
We are struggling with the abrupt end of our adventure. This makes us really appreciate how smooth the PCT went and feel even more for all those that had to end their hike early. Gina’s well being and health are the top priority so I know this is the right (and realistically only) option at this point.
What does give us some hope is that this may still turn around with several weeks of recovery time and we may be able to fly back out to do another 4 week section later this summer. With the 280 miles from this trip and the 234 miles shared with the Colorado Trail we hiked in 2015, we have completed 514 miles of the CDT so maybe we will just section hike it in 4 week chunks.
A special thanks to J and Z in Reserve for the the numerous rides, information, and support. The kindness of these folks, and everyone we met, to help total strangers that live a totally different life “in the real world” is a special take away from this trip.
Also a big thanks to another friend J who gave us great PT advice to try and deal with this without aborting the trip.
Lastly, thanks to all of you for following our adventure. We had big plans for another video along with the day by day blog we have been doing. Hopefully we will be able to resume this blog soon!
Keith and Gina, May 22, 2018