I wasn't even hiking. I was just standing next to the trail, packing up my few belongings after a short break when my backpack tipped over and fell into the inside of my left knee. I almost yelled out loud when I felt a pain shoot through my knee. It only lasted for a second or two, so after cinching down my pack I started hiking. Everything seemed fine, but at certain moments if my footing was just slightly misplaced the pain would shoot through my knee and I'd loose most of the strength in my left leg. I soon realized the pain originated from the same muscles that I strained in the first two days of my hike.
I was devastated that my leg injury reared its ugly face after going dormant for nearly three hundred miles. My next water source and camp were eight miles down the trail and my injury forced me to slow down and take long beaks every couple of miles. In good conditions I can hike eight or more miles between breaks. With my renewed knee injury, however, when I became fatigued after a mile or two the sore muscles would flare up with greater frequency. As I hobbled down the trail I thought my thru hike was drawing to an end, and my heart seemed to sink into a pit of despair.
I feared not completing the trail, but what I feared more was returning home with no sense of direction after the trail. As I slowly paced myself towards my daily goal I contemplated all of my options and contingency plans. As my knee became fatigued I would find what little shade I could and rest. At one break I noticed I had cell service so I decided to call home. I could feel the internal tension in my chest and I thought the comforting words of my parents could alleviate some of my stress.
I called but only the voice mail picked up and as I began to leave a message my emotions suddenly caught up with me. I started to sob. After a few sentences, broken with tears and sniffles, I ended my call, collected myself, and left another more informative message. Even though I didn't speak to my parents, just the act of externalizing my thoughts and fears helped peace overtake my distress. After the break my knee felt sore but the pain didn't return.
Earlier in the day I felt so strong, yet with one wrong bump to the knee my hike fell into jeopardy. I realized the extremely temporal nature of a thru hike. My knee pain went dormant once again, but it could return at any moment. Every morning when I hit the trail I am thankful for my opportunity to hike the PCT and I now realize that any day could be my last. With my new mindset I live in the moment and spend less time dwelling on the trail beyond my next resupply stop.