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Day 167 - 184: 1/6/18 -1/23/18 Knee recovery mostly around Flagstaff, AZ and all sorts of other craz

Wow a ton of time had passed! So much has changed then changed again in the past couple of weeks. Let’s get caught up: I stayed 5 nights at the hostel in Flagstaff which was really fun! I mostly tried to rest and relax and heal my knee, but also went out and had some fun! I met a great guy, Ryan, who acted as my Wing man a couple of nights at the bar. I’m not a big “go out and get wasted” type but I figured since I was staying so close to downtown, why not go out and have some fun? Met a few really nice people! The second night at the bars Ryan and I started talking to Baruch and his lovely wife. Before I know it they’re buying me drinks until 2am!!! They also ended up giving me this super nice knife since they really thought I should bring one on my trip. Thank you so much! They also tried to set me up with the beautiful bartender, Alex, who I talked to after that night and we have plans to hang out! Haha, so ridiculous! What’s more ridiculous? I bought a car! I really thought I’d be stuck here a long time due to my knee. The pain just wasn’t getting any better for quite a while. I can just sell the car again, but it’s been super helpful so far, though a bit odd to have a car... And I moved into an apartment! A car. An apartment? Are 2.3 kids and a picket fence on the way next? Needed a place to stay, and at first I was thinking I’d camp but then a snowstorm it the day I bought the car. Day 2 of car ownership? Driving on the highway and the battery light comes on! Uh oh... then the air bag light then traction control, then power steering fails! I get off at the next exit and everything recovers. Back on the highway and the dashboard lights up like a Christmas tree again. Oh no! Thankfully I go to the car dealer and they fix it for free: an otherwise $800 repair! Since then the car has been awesome! My roommate,Easy (his real name), is amazingly cool. Great singer and guitar player, super intelligent, great to talk to. Awesome! Apparently we have another Roomie, too, but she’s out of the country at the moment... I met a girl from Germany, Sandra, at the hostel who loved backpacking and hiking. I gave her a ride to the Grand Canyon (nice excuse for something to do!)I tried to hike with her for a bit but my knee hurt really badly! Oh no!!!! Crazy that I felt so strong and healthy on this trip and now this!! I needed to go to Colorado and pick up some possessions and asked if she’d care to join? She agreed and we set out on a Riad trip! Initially it was going to be 10 days or so but she received news that her father was ill in Germany. Hope he gets better soon! Sandra lived in Mississippi for most of her stay in the States which we had a bit of a laugh about. Don’t get me wrong, I love the South, but it’s also a very different culture than the West, for example. Day 1 of the road trip we head to Sedona and do a bunch of scrambling and hiking on Bell Rock. Really beautiful and fun! Most amazing thing: my knee doesn’t hurt! We didn’t go super far, but did go up and down quite steeply a lot. Am I healing???? Day 2 we head to Telluride! Crazy drought has much of the ski resort closed, but it also makes the hiking quite good. Usually January would be a pretty deep snow affair and skis would be the preferred method. We did a few mile loop though and didn’t even have traction devices! Guess what? No knee pain!!!! What happened? This truly astounded me, and I was getting cautiously optimistic! We drive to Black Canyon if the Gunnison National Park and do another hike, again pain free. I love Black Canyon, first time there in winter: gorgeous! Day 3 brings us to Grand Junction and Colorado National Monument. We go on a 12 mile hike through Monument Canyon and again:no knee pain!!!!! I’m so freaking excited! I did wear my knee brace the whole way but regardless, things are looking up! I drop Sandra off at the train station and wish her safe travels back to Germany. Me? I head to Aspen from here. So, now I’m thinking “geez, kind of stupid of me to buy a car and have an apartment!” Oh well, I am seriously completely amazed that my knee appears to have healed! I thought for sure just a few days ago that I needed to start looking for a job and that the trip was in serious jeopardy! In Aspen, Rich hosts me which I’m super grateful for! I have dinner at Shana and Jeds the following night and they’re amazing, as usual! I sort through some possessions at their place and take some with me. I end up going on two pain free hikes while there, one climbing up Snowmass with an awesome crew of:Rich, Kacey, Maggie, Logan,Alexei,Justin, and myself. Great time! The other hike Rich and I climb mushroom rock with some fresh snow which is really beautiful! Thanks so much for the hospitality! So, now what? I head back to Flagstaff and make a plan: tomorrow I’m going to the Grand Canyon again. I’m going to test my knee by descending 5,000 vertical feet to theColorado River! And: I’m going to make forward progress on Walk The Parks!!!! For the first time in over 3weeks! Super excited about this. Wheels are also turning about the future: what is my plan? I have a few options and at this point I’ll lay out what seems most likely: 1) Hike in the Grand Canyon and connect my route to the Arizona Trail. 2) The rafting trip is still on! And I’m really excited! The trip is essentially Feb 2 (my birthday) until the 22nd. I had a stretch goal on this trip to go raft the Grand and I’m sooo excited that it’s coming true!!!! And now with my knee healed I can enjoy all the amazing hikes too! So excited! 3) Make up skipped miles from Zion to the Arizona Trail Northern Terminus. My knee was killing me and I had to hitchhike through the tunnel in Zion but I took a ride 30 miles farther, into Kanab. Then I took another ride 40 miles to the Trailhead. This is the only place along my 3,000 mile route that I’ve skipped anything and I don’t like it! I plan on making this up after the rafting trip. 4) After those 3 items are complete: I have some choices. This is the most likely scenario:Drive to NY briefly to switch out gear and see family, then head to South Carolina, start at Congaree National Park, then hike the Palmetto Trail to the Appalachian Trail then go to Maine, then start hiking West om the North Country Trail. When Winter hits, I’ll head to Key West and hike from there to the Appalachian Trail to connect my route. Still more Winter? I can come back to AZ and finish up the Arizona Trail or head to Southern California, then head back to the North Country Trail and the trip goes on! This choice, which isn’t 100% finalized, is a bit of a departure from the original intention of a fully continuous hike. But you know? I am ok with that! I don’t have a bicycle that fits me, I don’t want to invest the money in one right now, and I don’t really even like bike touring! If I can finish the hike from Key West to Maine to Washington State to Southern California? I vow to bike the rest. This trip has cost me a lot more money than I thought it would so far,which makes me a bit nervous. Because of that, I’d rather throw everything I’ve got at hiking. There are other alternatives I’ve considered, but right now the one described makes the most sense to me. I know I can change though, just look at the past few weeks! Haha! Well, that’s what my down time has been like. Such a roller coaster of do this or maybe that, no no actually do that.just been trying to roll with things! I got a cool roommate, met some amazing people, spent a ton of time at the Grand Canyon, went on a road trip, bought a car, about to go rafting down the Grand Canyon. Certainly things could be worse! Very excited about the future!

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