AZT day 3: pain cave


20 miles

I am in so much pain today. It’s like every hiking pain I ever have on occasion decided to happen all at once. I’ll try and describe it to you- first, my feet are screaming. The tendons are incredibly sore, like they’ve been punched. The pain in my feet moves around, first here and then there and now everywhere at once! In a crescendo. I have a marble-sized blister under the pad of my left foot, and it feels like I’m stepping on a hot stone. Moving up, the backs of my knees protest like rusty door hinges. There’s a shooting pain in my right shoulder blade- I’ve had this before, and usually I just stop using my trekking pole on that side and it goes away. Not today, though. Today it stabs me if I so much as twitch that arm, which I’m trying to hold as still as possible while I walk. So many stabs, building in intensity until each one makes me want to cry. Stabs when I least expect them.

The pain continues for ten hours straight. I am in a pain cave. I am breathing through it. We’re in the most beautiful ponderosa forest, with aspen groves shaking their yellow leaves in the wind, and I am in an altered state, somewhere here but not here. I bum a couple of ibuprofen off Jessica. I rarely take ibuprofen, because I want to hear what my body is saying- if I push through the wrong kind of pain it can lead to injury, and then the trail is over. This isn’t injury pain, tho. This just… sucks. This is the pain of my body getting used to walking this many miles each day again. This is the pain of the Kaibab plateau, one of the flattest places I have walked. (Flat trail causes me more foot pain because my foot strikes the same way with each step.) This is the pain I’ve felt before at the start of a trail like this, right? No worse? The mind so quickly forgets.

The pain recedes just a bit with the ibuprofen, enough for me to keep going. I’m walking all day in pain… why am I doing this? Right now I can’t remember. I know enough not to quit, tho. “Never quit on a bad day,” as they say. Two weeks. That’s how long it’s taken me, in the past, for my feet to adjust to this sort of trail. I’ll give it two weeks.

In the afternoon we reach the east rim overlook- out there is the red gash in the earth where we’ll walk among cottonwoods and be warm. It’s hard to imagine, up here with the cold wind and the patchy snow, how balmy it is down there closer to the center of the earth.

We find a beautiful aspen grove to camp in, next to a wildlife guzzler of clear water with a little ice crusted on top. It feels incredible to get in my sleeping bag. Upon foot tape removal I discover that a new, larger blister has grown beneath my original blister. I use my lighter to sterilize the scissors on my tiny swiss army knife and cut into the new blister, which explodes all over my sleeping bag. Dang. The moon rises and I say a prayer that my body magically heals in my sleep, and that tomorrow the pain is gone.

I’m using this AZT blog to raise funds for Trans Queer Pueblo, a rad org that provides funds to trans and queer people seeking asylum and/or in immigration detention along the US/Mexico border. Here is the fundraiser- it was at about $9k when I first posted it, let’s see if we can reach their $15k goal! For every $150 raised, I’ll post another blog post. And thank you!