Saturday, June 24, 2006

Into The Woods

This last week, Dawn and I took our first backpacking trip of the year. The idea was to do a strenuous hike that'd help prepare us for the vertical-intensive hiking in Switzerland. Instead, it left me hobbling around like an old man.

On Monday, Dawn picked me up at the airport after my trip, and we drove out to the Columbia River Gorge. We hiked an easy five miles on the popular Eagle Creek trail and pitched tent along the banks of Eagle Creek.

The next morning, we walked another mile up Eagle Creek to the Eagle-Benson trail. Even if well maintained, this would be a fairly strenuous trail; it gains 3500 feet in 3 miles on its way to the 4000' elevation Benson Plateau. For much of the way, though, the trail was little more than a goatpath. This wasn't a big deal until we reached an area that appeared to have been burned within the last 10 years; here, undergrowth choked the trail, and there was lots of fallen timber to climb over. It was infuriatingly slow going. At one point, I climbed a pretty big log and jumped off the other side - and felt a sharp twinge of pain in my knee. We had about 4 miles and 1000' vertical left until our intended campsite, and my knee steadily got worse the entire time. I spent that night wondering how I was going to get off this mountain with a bum knee. It was exactly like the situation with my Dad last September.

The hike out on Wednesday morning was only 6 miles long, but it included a loss of 3800 vertical feet. My right knee was hurting worse than the day before, but only when I bent the leg. By keeping my right leg perfectly straight, I could minimize the pain. Of course, this resulted in a weird lope that made some of the steeper sections rather awkward. I was awfully glad to get to the bottom of the trail.

Three days later, I'm still limping around with a straight right leg. Fortunately, I'm able to operate the Megawhacker's rudder pedals without pain, so I haven't had to call in sick. I'm just hoping that it's better in time for Switzerland - we depart on 6 July.

My dad had success with taking Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate to strengthen his knee joints. I'm going to pick some up when I can get to a GNC. Does anybody have any experience with this?


dph said...

Advice from this non-medical practitioner (but someone with a fair degree of athletic injuries and injuries of people I know) the land-and-pop often signifies torn ligaments. Either fully or partially.

I would stongly suggest making an appointment with a physio, she/he will assess range of motion and pain and can make suggestions from that point.

It is possible to partially tear so even if you have torn, it doesn't automagically mean surgery.

Be careful about things like knee braces and tensors, if inappropriately used, they can make the situation significantly worse. A good physio can advise better and further (find someone who has experience with athletic knee injuries.)


Sam said...

Thanks for the advice, D. If my knee is still hurting in a day or two, I'm going to do that. It seems to be getting better, though - I could actually walk normally today, albeit with some discomfort.

It wasn't really a "land and pop" injury...when I landed, there was a twinge that made me thing "Ugh, that didn't feel right!" but the real pain didn't begin immediately; it built up over the next few miles of hiking. Perhaps that's consistent with a partially torn ligament that I made worse with the additional use of the leg :-/.

Again, thanks for the advice.