Bodies are weird and unpredictable. On our second day of walking, I started to have jaw and neck discomfort. At first, I attributed it to allergy-related sinus pressure. As we walked on and the pressure grew to pain, I began to fear a tooth abscess. On our final day of walking before reaching home in Seattle, I finally admitted I should see a dentist. A dental visit was a strange and unpleasant homecoming, but I received very welcome news: my pain was caused by clenching my jaw while I slept. While this behavior can be problematic in the long-term, in the near-term I’m hugely relieved a root canal isn’t on the agenda, and I can keep walking.
Rod’s prognosis is less sunny, and his body is feeling somewhat less cooperative. A lot less cooperative, in fact. In his own words, his body has betrayed him. His blisters are healing well, but his doctor diagnosed his knee pain as acute tendonitis. On top of that, he’s had an attack of gout; the pain and swelling in his foot prevents him from walking even short distances and will last at least a week. If history is any indicator, it will probably lay him up for two weeks.
In light of these facts, hard decisions have been made. We’ve decided I will continue to walk, and Rod will rest and recover at home. For two days, I will slack pack the I-90 trail to North Bend. Then I’ll take the Wander Wagon and cross Snoqualmie Pass on my way to Lake Easton. If Rod is feeling up for it, he’ll meet me at the lake for a rest day and resupply. A few days later, he’ll meet me again at the Columbia River and provide some trail support for the longest waterless stretch of eastern Washington. We will continually reassess his fitness, and if and when he is well enough, he will rejoin me on the trail.
This is not what we had planned, but the trail rarely cares for plans. Rain comes when it’s least convenient. Paths become impassable with weather and wear. Injury keeps its own schedule and loves surprises. The best we can do is adapt and adjust. Tomorrow, for the first time in many years, I will walk alone.