Weaving my way around Rheumatoid Arthritis.

AT success!

with 4 comments

My Appalachian Trail trip was wonderful, magical, delightful. RA took a backseat and behaved itself.

The first night, we camped at Hot Springs campground, cooked trail food and built a campfire. The campsite was all the way at the end of the road, just a few yards from the river. We  had just settled in and were not quite asleep, listening to the swirl and splash of the river dancing over the rocks, when we heard the first whistle blowing in the distance. I grew up with trains; the approaching whistle evoked happy memories. Then it grew louder and closer, the ground began to shake, the headlights danced across the tent wall, I peeked my head out the tent door, the train sounded, felt and looked like it was barreling down the road right at us. I’ve been that close to a train before, but laying on the ground in the dark gave it a whole new dimension! The train roared through 4 times that night; in the morning we found the tracks about 120 yards from our tent! Not exactly the kind of adventure we were looking for, but it did add to the fun.

We cooked more trail food for breakfast, broke camp and went looking for a place to park and hike. The trail guides and maps proved to be a bit difficult to understand and follow; eventually we found a good place to leave the car and hit the trail in the early afternoon.

We hiked from Tanyard gap to Rich Mountain, 3 hours and 2.4 miles straight up, with 1270 feet of elevation gain. My friend hiked ahead, carrying most of the gear, I hiked at my own, slow pace, carrying 20 pounds in my pack: clothes, water, a little food, first aid kit, etc. Every so often, my friend would come back to check on me, usually to find me resting, snacking and rehydrating. I find that I need to really pace myself and take lots of breaks when I hike, especially uphill. Good thing my hiking partner has the patience of a saint!

When we arrived at Rich Mountain, we did a little exploring, then set up the tent just off the trail and downhill from the fire tower on the mountain top.  We cooked trail food in the fire tower, and got to enjoy a 360 view of woods and mountains, along with a magnificent sunset. Built a campfire near the tower, and hung out talking until bedtime. Hiked down to the tent in the dark, with our headlamps, slept the night through and woke to amazing fog. No view because of the fog, but it was still fun to  hike up and cook breakfast in the fire tower. We broke camp and hiked out to the car. The hike out was all down hill. My knee complained a bit, until I figured out what I was doing wrong and changed my gait. Then I had an easy downhill hike.

All in all, it was a great first hike. My friend got to check out the new equipment, try out some of the newly dehydrated foods, we both learned to read the maps and guides, and I got to challenge my body in a new way.

I hiked in my Vibram Five Fingers, and I think they made all the difference! I’ve worn them almost exclusively for 19 months. I have 4 pair, actually wore out a pair, wear them all day, every day, and think they are the single best thing I’ve done for my feet. I think I’ve logged about 10 hours in regular shoes in the past year, and every time I try a pair, I come home and put the shoes in the donation bag!

So, now I’ve finished my first section hike on the AT. Done my first backpacking trip and feel optimistic that I can do more. The real victory appeared the next day, when I realized that I was muscle sore – realized that I could work hard enough to get muscle sore without exacerbating the RA gods. That alone spelled success!


Written by wovensongs

September 19, 2011 at 10:02 am

4 Responses

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  1. Congratulations!!! This hike experience is super exciting. Plus, you have been become my new Vibram Five Fingers role model. I wear mine quite a bit, but not anywhere as often as you. The problem I have is if I wear them or any shoe for long, my toe becomes numb. Getting barefoot helps!


    September 27, 2011 at 8:21 am

    • Numb toes can’t be fun. Perhaps you can go barefoot most of the time, and use the VFFs for when you need more protection out and about in the world.

      It took a long time, but my feet got stronger and stronger, and my toes got happier and happier, the more I wore the five fingers. I had a little toe that was tucked under and getting stepped on, so for me, barefoot didn’t help. The first year or so I even wore the VFFs in the house, to keep that toe straight.

      The other amazing thing that happened was that my arches got stronger. Actually, not so amazing, when you think that it’s muscles that hold your arch up, and when you wear a shoe, the muscles stop working! All my life I had been told by podiatrists & shoe fitters that I had flat feet. After about 9 months in the VFFs, I had an appointment with a PT who specialized in feet, and she told me I had the nicest arches she had ever seen!

      Have you seen the new VFF boots? I haven’t seen them in stores, just on the Vibram web site. They only come in men’s sizes. I have big feet, so they might work. They are really pricy, but might work for you if you need a winter option. We don’t have much snow around here, but when I tried snow in my classics last winter, I only made it about 1/4 mile before my feet were numb with cold.

      Have a happy barefoot day!


      September 28, 2011 at 3:01 am

      • Right now I do about half of walk in VFF and half barefoot. I am seeing great changes in my toes!

        I haven’t seen the boots, but I have really small feet. In fact, my husband bought the smallest women’s size they have and I still have a little room. I did buy some wool toe socks so we will see how far I can make it this winter in them. I can’t imagine going back to the heavy boots.


        September 29, 2011 at 9:34 am

      • Great news that your feet are changing!

        I still have a little bit of trouble with my baby toes, which were the worst, and sometimes the balls of my feet, which were the first place I started having pain. My hammer toe is about 95% normal now! The VFFs are amazing.

        I have tried the wool toe socks, too. My favorite are by smart wool. Only down side to them is they are rather short, so not as good as I would like for ankle coverage.Injini makes a taller wool version. I prefer the wool to the synthetic, seems to stay soft longer and wear better.

        Don’t know anything about these but they sure look like fun for winter: http://www.littlemissmatched.com/Catalog/girls_toe_socks#

        I’m also wondering if they still make the old fashioned galoshes that our father’s used to wear over their dress shoes. Maybe I could wear those over the VFF in the winter walk from car to work. We don’t get as much cold and snow here in NC as you do in Chicago. I grew up in Illinois and don’t miss the long winters!

        Hope you are having a fabulous week.


        October 6, 2011 at 7:23 am

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