Hiking for seven months has an undue effect on your body. There are the standard aches and pains, bumps and scrapes and bruises, and non-serious injuries that come and go, but I had a few issues for many months of my hike.
I had a problem with my left knee at the beginning of the trail but it soon switched to the right knee for almost the duration of the hike. I had a short break from knee issues in the flatter Mid-Atlantic states, but they came back and I needed to wear a patellar tendon strap on my right knee from Massachusetts on.
My left shoulder started hurting pretty early on in the hike too, and never quite went away. The type of pain would change occasionally just to keep me guessing. I switched packs several times trying to resolve this, but even slackpacking never gave me enough of a break for the pinched feeling to go away. By the time I reached Maine, I could barely hold my pot of dinner up with my left arm at the end of every day.
I broke my right big toe in Vermont. I wore the hospital shoe provided for me for two and a half weeks, until it fell apart, and then taped the toe in my regular hiking shoe for another couple of weeks. It actually wasn’t all that painful after the first week, as long as I didn’t stub it on anything.
I also lost twenty pounds, an amount that was completely unexpected and unwelcome. I was able to maintain my weight for the first three months so when I started to drop, it seemed to go very fast. I thought at first it was just the heat of summer causing me to sweat profusely and lowering my appetite, but the weight kept dropping long after that.
Now, almost three months after finishing my hike, all of these issues are mostly resolved. I didn’t do much physical activity at all for the first couple of weeks home, which was a big help. Then I spent two weeks hiking in Arizona and did not need to use my knee brace even once. My shoulder still twinged occasionally, but that has since lessened even more. I feel it once a week, maybe.
My toe is still recovering. That is, it’s healed, it just doesn’t bend all the way. The doctor told me when it happened that it would take six to eight weeks to heal if I rested it. That’s how much longer it took me to finish hiking the trail. Since the Arizona trip, I’ve started manually bending it a little farther each week and am making slow progress.
As for the weight, I had to buy new pants when I got home since none of mine fit, but I refused to spend money on more than one pair when I would most likely gain the weight back quickly. So I’ve still been wearing the same pair of pants every day, they’re just cotton now. (Yay for denim!) I have gained back about half of the weight, which I am happy with since I no longer feel or look like I’m starving. I still have the hiker hunger sometimes but that’s slowly fading as well.
Going from hiking all day, every day, back to real life has been strange. I need a lot of physical activity now. I’m going to yoga again and I’ve started rock climbing indoors a few times per week. I’ve also gone for a few day hikes and done other random activities. I’m up for trying anything at this point! I plan on getting back out in the backcountry for a few days this month.