I am in my third week of physical therapy and have been out of the fracture boot for two weeks now. Progress was slow at first but I hit a turning point a few days ago and it seems to have sped up exponentially since then. I wasn’t still in pain but there was still discomfort and I was still very careful of where I placed my steps. I seem to have gained my proprioception back though and can walk normally without thinking about it, even on a trail with some roots and rocks, although I have not been on any really difficult trails yet.
Once out of the boot, in addition to having a weak ankle, I had to completely relearn how to walk. The human body learns muscle memory fairly quickly, so I was still walking like I was in the boot despite not wearing it: not rolling off the front of my foot, not bending my knee as much as I should, and dropping my hip to end the stride. For the first two weeks out of the boot, I’ve had to concentrate very hard to be able to walk correctly, it would always take a few steps to get it going smoothly, and the faster I tried to walk, the harder it was to do it right. I think I am just about back to normal with my stride now too.
I am not completely 100%, still lacking some strength when flexing my ankle outward and when standing on my toes. My ankle is also still swollen, although my doctor tells me that could take a year to go away, or just never go away because it’s scar tissue. However, my doctor has given me leave to go hike again as long as I listen to my body and stop if it tells me to. That’s good enough for me. I will be extremely careful, but I’d still rather be on a trail somewhere, accomplishing what I set out to do, instead of sitting around in limbo. In limbo because I gave up my apartment and job to go hike again, and I couldn’t just step back into normal life when I came home to recover. I’ve been waiting around to see if I’d heal enough to salvage some of my plans, or if I should just go ahead and start looking for another job. Is it worth doing nothing for seven weeks to get to hike for an additional four weeks? Well to me, it is. Not that I’ve been doing nothing exactly. I’ve been very busy, in fact (see photos), just not the kind of busy I originally wanted to be.
I’m way too stubborn to make for a good invalid. I know that. I just have a very hard time accepting that plans I spent a lot of time making are now physically impossible. I planned three months of hiking, and I broke after two weeks. Not cool. I’ve also never had an injury that threw me for this much of a loop before. I realize it’s not that bad of an injury, but it’s still the worst I’ve had. I care less for the ankle break, which heals and is fine, than the ankle sprain, which I can only assume will now haunt me forever. Regardless, I hiked, I broke, I changed my plans to come home and heal.
I am also impatient. Once I was out of the fracture boot that I spent four weeks in, I pretty much expected to very quickly regain my strength. I wanted to be hiking again by October 1, which just seemed like a nice date to pick, but would also give me plenty of time before winter weather sets in more. Progress obviously did not happen as fast as all that and I have had to readjust my plans again. I will still be back out hiking again soon, but I’m pushing the date back slightly, and being a little more realistic about which trails I am capable of doing.
I’m going to start on October 6 with the Robert Frost Trail. At only 47 miles, it’s a nice and easy reentry, and I will be with Stretch in case any problem arises. After the trail, we will go to the Gathering for a few rest days, and then I will head out on the Trans Adirondack Route. I had been thinking of doing the Long Trail since it has more exit points, but in talking to someone who has done both trails and is also recovering from an ankle sprain, I was convinced to head straight to the Trans ADK. It’s easier in terms of elevation gain and footing.
Maybe I will still be able to do the Long Trail afterward, but it will obviously be very dependent on how my ankle does and how the weather goes. But you can see I do still have some (probably unrealistic) optimism in thinking that I can do the Long Trail in November!