On Injuries and Hiking

View from Mt. Defiance

View from Mt. Defiance in Oregon

I’m currently nursing a few significant injuries which is sort of why starting a blog seemed like a good idea. Unfortunately I can’t move around for too long at a time before needing to lay down. The first injury is from the last job I had for about a year; it involved lots of lifting, climbing, and bending with significant awkwardly shaped weight through tight quarters. I had to work at a table for some of the time and it was definitely too high for my height which led to a problem in my left shoulder. I stopped working about three months ago, and although the shoulder pain had started to lessen it certainly did not go away. The job paid pretty decently and is responsible for me and my partner saving up the money to significantly pay down my student loans and to pay for our Partner Visa, plus I got hundreds of dollars worth of free health food and supplies from the job. Now that we don’t have debt hanging over our heads (first time for me in over 6 years) I’m going to prioritize my health above all jobs. I’m not saying money should ever be a reason to risk one’s health; however, in hindsight my body took quite a beating at this job.

My partner and I are huge backpacker’s. I had a job on a Backcountry Trail Crew for a few months that involved me living in my tent in the wilderness hiking miles to build trail every day. It was actually at this same job, months prior, that I had met my partner. I just love the minimalism involved. You’re carrying what you need to survive on your back. Also, you’re seeing and doing some amazing things and every day it’s something different. Hoofing it (traveling on foot) can also be a significantly cheap way to travel. If I can work less to afford a trip that takes me off the beaten path, then that is time well spent.

One of many waterfalls in Oregon.

One of many waterfalls in Oregon.

It’s currently winter in Australia, which is the ideal time to hike the Larapinta Trail in the desert of Alice Springs, Northern Territory. There’s actually only a few months of the year in which this trail is considered hikeable due to the scorching heat and availability of water. It’s a 223km long trail that traverses absolutely stunning mountain ranges and is home to a multitude of animals including dingoes, snakes, lizards, and beautifully colored birds. My partner and I flew to Alice Springs and walked to the start of the trail at Telegraph Station on August 5th. Neither of us had done much desert hiking before and the views were absolutely breathtaking.

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Cowboy/girl camping on Brinkley Bluff.

Cowboy/girl camping on Brinkley Bluff.

Sunrise hike on the ridge.

Sunrise hike on the ridge.

DSC00742DSC00675DSC00812I was having a blast but my left shoulder and right knee became ridiculously inflamed. A week into our 3 week hike I seriously injured my back. The spasming was very hard to control and it made even getting up from the sandy creek bed we were camped in a 45 minute struggle. This is the kind of hike where you won’t see another person for days on end, but due to some amazing stroke of luck we had just come down the mountains to a creek bed that led to a 4 wheel drive track where an older couple had their land cruiser set up for camping. They were incredibly kind people who spent an hour taking apart the rig attached to the vehicle, inflating tires, and then driving myself and my partner separately out to a hostel in Alice Springs. The vehicle only had one passenger seat so this meant the trip needed to be made twice to get my partner and I out. The drive alone on the 4 wheel drive track took an hour each way and then when we finally reached the main road we were still 60km from Alice Springs, where we started. I’ve got to say though, there was a part of me that was proud of the amount of time it took for us to drive to where we’d started our hike. In total this man spent 6 hours driving myself and then my partner out of the bush. Thanking him profusely and giving them gas money didn’t even begin to describe our gratitude. It was absolutely crushing having to leave our hike in that manner, but the incredible kindness of these strangers blew me away. We had an EPIRB (a satellite emergency device) but there’s no way we would have used it unless we were in the mountains, which would have meant an excruciating 2 days of limping to the main road to hitch a ride. It’s amazing how people step up to help complete strangers.

After a few days we were able to fly home and I had the really humbling experience of being pushed through the airport in a wheelchair. My mom was quite sick when I was a child and walking caused incredible sciatic pain. The few times we’d flown, I’d been the one pushing her in the wheelchair so I finally got a glimpse at what that must have been like from her perspective. The first thing I noticed was that a lot of people stare. I already knew that. The second thing that was a bit odd was the whole process of going through security. Sitting caused intense spasming as it was my lower spine that was injured; however, walking was also incredibly painful. My steps were an inch or two apart and the pain was still horrendous. A wheelchair really was the lesser of the two evils. In security the man made me take my shoes off, which my partner had to do for me and which sent shivers down my spine. Then I was forced to push forward which caused uncontrollable tears, given a full body pat down (which I could care less about but I understand why others feel it is a violation) and then scanned. My partner didn’t need to take off his shoes and simply walked quickly through a scanner. We were both a bit surprised at this. Nonetheless, the next hurdle fast approached as boarding the plane began.

They used a lift to get myself and my partner pre-boarded and my pain and inability at standing up on my own only hinted at how it would feel when we got to our destination. Quite honestly, flying was probably not the smartest thing for me to be doing at this point; however, I really just needed to get home and see a doctor as the options in Alice Spring were few and far between. My partner was amazing throughout this entire ordeal, carrying both of our backpacks, pushing me around, getting me dressed and basically just doing everything. It was a helpless feeling for me, which again was very humbling. As was hinted at, getting off the plane was excruciating as it felt like my spine had awkwardly fused during the flight and then was forced to separate upon trying to stand. The next time I see someone walking in a hunched manner I have nothing but compassion. Back pain is no joke. Talk about debilitating.

It took hours and hours but with the generous help of my partner’s family we got home and I was able to lay down and feel something other than pain for the first time in 9 hours. It was brilliant. I write this two weeks after the injury where I’m just trying to take recovery a day at a time.

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