Monday, May 21, 2012

Hiking lighter

I don’t know if I mentioned somewhere in my blog about the aches and pains of my last hiking trip in Iceland, summer of 2011. I usually don’t write too much about my pains since it goes with the territory. Also not everyone is meant to suffer as much as I am – thru-hiking has always been painful for me, not least because of the arthritis in both of my big toes (probably from years of abusing my feet kicking various inanimate objects doing a variety martial arts). I’ve had surgery on one of those toes and in the other I get a cortisone shot every spring before hiking season to take the edge off. But bad feet cause me to walk uneven and as a result, I get bad blisters. But last year I had unusual hiking pains. The very first day of hiking in Hornstrandir, after just a few short kilometers, I had such bad pains and tingling in my legs and feet that it kept me awake all night. It went away as the pains mostly do once my body gets accustomed to the heavy load. And I had unusual welts on my shoulders from the strain of the backpack that year too. But as I was back home after that summer of hiking I noticed something different – a spot the size of my outstretched hand was numb on my left outer thigh. This numbness decreased as the months passed but what remained is a sensitive spot right on my backbone of my lower back. This spot only hurts when pressure is put on it, when I push on the spot, exercise on a mat (pilates), or (tada!) wear a heavy backpack. It’s a pain that hasn’t improved since I noticed it – though luckily it’s not getting worse either. After finally getting an MRI, I have the diagnosis – a herniated disc (aka technically incorrect as a slipped disc). At present there’s nothing that can or should be done for it, and I don’t have to restrict my activities in any way (although I’m not sure if my doctor actually realizes what I do each summer) :-) Still, in the future I will be working on ways to lighten my load and not torture my body so much when I hike. I have dabbled in ultralight hiking before but it’s difficult in such a demanding terrain and climate as in Iceland. I once used an ultralight backpack with materials so sensitive that it got holes every time I set it down on the sharp lava rocks. And my heavy new bombproof tent surely isn’t contributing to a lighter load. But I will have to find a happy medium somewhere. So although I have always been proud of being able to carry heavy loads like a donkey, this is my challenge for 2012 and beyond – hiking lighter!

(hahahahah ... )