“How are you all keeping up?”
“How have you been all this time since we spoke?”
I am still here in Switzerland, still in “non-long-distance-hiking-mode.”
Has the world changed since my last blog post?
“Yes and no”.
Just shortly after my last post, a very long time ago, I celebrated my 50th birthday. The plan had of course been to party on the CDT – but we know it was not meant to be.
I was sad back then, but my friend Dunja organized a party for me out in nature!
“Thank you Dunja, it meant the world to me!”
And I got to drink Champagne!
(Andy, I will never ever forget the red wine you had carried for me back a while ago on the PCT in Washington for my 48th birthday! It’s these good little things which stick for a lifetime).
Well, lots of time has passed since that birthday picture above. With lots of changes to the “normality” on this planet. Little did we know back then.
Now, I am standing here in the Swiss flat-lands, overlooking this field of grain.
I cycled here. This field here is on my way home from work. Whenever I cycle by I stop, get off my bike and just look at and beyond the field. Every day, like today. It does me good to have this field as my friend, as it reminds me so much of vast “space” I loved so dearly in the USA.
My knee is still, well, fucked.
But do I give up hiking? No.
It turns out that the biggest problem with “the knee” apparently is “arthrosis in its worst stage 4”. Probably some of this mess is due to genetics, some of it is due to too much cake and chocolate in my life, some of it from abusing it during several very long hikes. And some of it because I never did stretch in the mornings on my hikes. Its not about blame. Its about: “ok, what can I do about it now to make it better so that I can hike again (Felix would be ready!)”
As I am always stating: “I bloody ain’t no spring chicken anymore!”
I try some yoga on a “Heidi-just-do-it-and-don’t-be-so-lazy” basis. Yoga actually grows on me though and I can tell it does me and my knee good. Also, I watch YouTube tutorials on “Runner’s Knee” exercises, as I figure I have exactly all these symptoms described it these tutorials. Again, I do them on a “Heidi-just-do-it-and-don’t-be-so-lazy” basis.
I don’t understand. I can hike from Mexico to Canada just fine and never once have to push myself. I just hike hundreds of hours without needing a cheerleader to make me going. So why is it so damn hard to do a few simple physical exercises or commit to 30 minutes of yoga per day?
I am the same person, right? Why this difference?
Guess it is all about: “do what makes your heart sing”. It sings while I am out there in the wild, hiking. It does apparently not sing trying to stand on one leg for a minute, then leaning forward, and then hold for 20 seconds, repeat 15 times, then do the same thing standing on the other leg.
So I have dragged myself to do these exercises with only one goal in mind: be able to hike again. Long!
Its time now to test my knee and do a mini-LDH here in Switzerland. From the doorstep of my house (or castle I should say) going straight North to the big mountains, the Alps. Let’s see how far I get. I have packed my good old trusty ÜLA Circuit backpack with all the beloved little and super hyper lightweight little hiking gadgets in it.
Its 5.22 am. Off I go.
First hill goes fine. I hiked it up and down so many times during the first Corona wave so my knee knows the drill.
Weather a bit murky. But who cares!
Onward and onward, miles after miles.
This feels so good! Out and about in my PCT/CDT gear. One step after the other. Slow. Air. Space. Freedom. Quietness. Nature. Awesome.
Just breath in, breath out. Watch the landscape go by in walking-speed.”
I am determined to cowboy camp tonight, even though this is tricky in Switzerland, especially down here in the flat-lands, where every inch is private land and belongs to some dude.
It starts raining and its getting late, still have not found my place on the floor to sleep yet.
I just can’t find a spot. This is not the USA.
“That’s what I always told you Felix! There is just not enough space here!”
I am hiking through the woods.
“Ah, over there, by this tree seems to be a good spot!”
It is kind of a public fire place thing, so I doubt that some angry man comes find me at night to tell me off for sleeping here (that is probably the only bad thing that can happen in Switzerland if you dare to sleep outside – no bears, no cougars, no rattle-snakes, no elks, no tarantulas, hardly any wolves!)
So I pick the place, try to make a fire (which is super hard as it is raining!), call it a day and prepare my bivvy right by this bench here:
Rain stops during the night (thank you!) but wakes me up now. Its 5am. Brilliant, let’s pack up while the gear is sort of dry-ish – and go.
Oh my, it feels awesome to hike this early in the morning (!) in these woods here when nobody else seems to be out and about yet.
I breath in a tiny bit of hikertrash life: “Wake up, pack, go, eat later”.
LOVE IT! Happy Heidi is back.
It starts raining again. Pretty damn heavy. Luckily I had treated myself to some new awesome rain gear before this trip. So I don’t mind the rain. In the contrary. I actually burst out into laughter as I am hilariously happy. All this rain, me out here hiking, having slept outside last night. Yes, that is what I want.
I reach the 2nd highest point of my journey and hike down the other side. Still direction “Northbound”. Nobody here. The fog is thick. It rains and I kind of stop finding the rain amazing, as I am getting really pretty damn cold now. And the fog is so thick, I have to get out my GPS thing on the phone to figure where I am going. But the thing is tricky to use as the rain messes with the phone’s display. Electronics and rain just don’t love each other very much.
Oh dear. Up the hill was apparently fine, but I did apparently not do enough yoga and “standing on one leg and then hinge forward” exercises to hike downhill yet.
Ah well, Felix called me “Combat Heidi” sometimes, and here I am. I must fight. I must get down that mountain, despite the pain in my knee.
I was hoping so much that “the knee” indeed got better lately. And “the knee” was totally find during these last two days.
I sit down in the rain for a bit and rub it. Not that this helps, but I guess this is what one does when something hurts.
Onward I must go.
I hobble down until I reach the valley floor and check myself into a hotel. Don’t care about cowboy camping now. As I am miserable and as it rains.
Going to shower, then eat a Pizza, then go to sleep and then I will see.
Tomorrow is another day.
Glorious day this morning. Sun is out. Its actually hot. The boots are still soaking wet, but that’s no problem, they will dry off today while hiking.
Breakfast, and out.
Uphill is fine. No pain!
Perhaps the pain yesterday was just a glitch in the Matrix and all is fine now?
Up up. Blue skies – beautiful clouds. All is awesome again.
Here is Switzerland many mountains obviously have a restaurant on top (folks, it’s Switzerland!), so I treat myself to a happy green salad, a soup and a happy cake. It costs a fortune (folks, its Switzerland!) but its indeed lovely to just sit down, enjoy the view, and order food. Good old hiking life!
“Oh”. This is pretty steep here. I think I chose the wrong path down. The path I am hiking on goes like virtually “straight” down. Not sure my knee will appreciate that.
Down down down.
Now this is no joke anymore.
Both knees hurt now. Seems I am putting all my weight onto the “good” knee.
Oh man, I begin to walk pretty damn slow now and I am still only halfway down until the flats.
I sob a bit. (Actually, I sob quite a bit, as this seems BAD).
Made it though. I am down on the flat. I reach the historic part of (the actually super pretty town of Solothurn) in pain, sit down, and never ever want to get up again.
“How on earth am I going to make it to the Alps like this? I am not even halfway there yet!”
OK: “How about plan B”, I say to myself.
I call it quits for today, sleep here and take the train/bus tomorrow to skip the part which is not very pretty to hike in anyway. Perhaps this little rest will do me good.
That means of course, I will not be hiking from home to my target place in the mountains all by foot.
“But who the hell cares. Absolutely nobody cares!”
Decided and done.
I hit a train and a bus in the morning and skip the industrial flat part and head further North into another beautiful green Swiss area, where I am hoping to get to cowboy camp again.
“I will bloody sleep outside tonight, even if it rains again. Even if it is going to be in some bloody dude’s private yard, next to his bloody private swimming pool.”
I am determined.
Now this region here is hilly. Lots of lush, mellow green hills.
I get of the bus, start hiking.
Up the first lush green hill is fine.
Down the first lush green hill is – not.
“Oh holy bloody damn shit, it hurts”.
I should probably be smart now and not go on and just take the bus back and go home and lay in my bed for the next five months and be depressed.
But nope. That is not going to happen. Combat Heidi will try and see whether it might get better after a while. After all, these are lovely lush hills and not mountains.
I am walking on, slowly like on raw eggs. Really slowly and carefully.
I bite my teeth:
“Don’t worry Heidi, it will be fine, it will get better, you just have to get used to LDH again and build a up those hiker legs again”.
I don’t exactly hike now, this is something different I am doing here, this is “self-destructing-not-wanting-to-see-the-obvious”.
“How long is it to the next bus station?”, I wonder and check my phone.
“Perhaps I can skip some miles again and hence rest some more?”
“Alright. This has to end now. This is not working. This is pure and simply just miserable!”
I will catch a bus as soon as I can, drive home, lick my wounds, wait till all the pain is gone, then do more exercises, do more strengthening in that leg, do more yoga, do more whatever it takes to make that knee better…
… and then try again!
This is not the end yet!