Leaving Albert Mountain, I had planned to go 5.7 more miles to Rock Gap Shelter. This shelter is near a pickup point for hikers going into Franklin, N.C. Getting there today would allow for an easy early exit from the trail tomorrow.
Almost right away, though, I started to feel a sharp pain in my left kneecap. The pain didn’t come with every step, but over the next two miles of walking it seemed to get worse.
Before long, I was certain my knee was telling me it needed me to stop at Long Branch Shelter, rather than continue on to Rock Gap Shelter.
I was willing to agree with my knee’s decision.
When I reached the side trail leading to the shelter I saw there was a stream. Not wanting to hobble back to this point later to collect water, I decided to stop here now before going to the shelter.
As I started to unpack my water filter Radio came by. He had gone on to the shelter to check it out.
Radio said the camping spots around the shelter were all taken, but there was still some room in the shelter.
I’m not a fan of sleeping in shelters, so now I had a dilemma: stay here in this shelter, or continue hiking on my knee that had already decided enough hiking had been done for the day.
I knew it would not appreciate going 3.4 more miles to Rock Gap Shelter.
Just as I stood at the stream trying to decide what to do, Leanne came by. When I told her about my dilemma, she had an immediate solution. She asked if I would like to borrow her knee brace. It seemed to be worth a try.
Leanne left to get the brace, and when she returned she also brought me some Icy Hot cream and Ibuprofen.
In just a few moments I went from slow and painful walking to full stride, brisk hiking toward Rock Gap.
With the added help of a Snickers bar I cruised down the trail. The 3.4 miles flew by without pain.