Fourteen months ago I broke my right ankle while on a pleasure walk with my family at Purgatory Chasm. The force of the break was so bad that it sent a pressure wave up my fibula leaving a small fracture under my kneecap. Unfortunately for me the ER doctor did a bad job on the splint which left my skin so badly damaged that the surgeon had to wait three weeks for my skin to heal before he could operate on me. I had three screws put in the ankle but also got the bad news that two of the screws where going to have to come out later if I ever wanted to walk without a bad limp. I got started on physical therapy but I couldn’t progress very far because the ankle just couldn’t flex enough with the two temporary screws in place. I did get to the point of being able to climb the stairs to get to my bedroom and home office and then to only using one crutch by Christmas.
The last week of December I had the two screws removed and by the middle of January I was back on one crutch and able to re-start physical therapy the last week of the month. By the middle of March I’d used up all the physical therapy insurance would cover and was walking well and driving again. Knowing it was going to take a long time and a lot of work to get my ankle as flexible as it could be, my therapist and I discussed options for continuing self therapy. Since the best therapy is something you will actually stick with (almost everyone gets bored and stops too soon) we decided I would do a bunch of rough terrain hiking to really work the ankle flexibility. The plan was that as soon as the snow was gone (couldn’t risk a slip on snow and ice) I’d start slowly with short easy mostly flat trails then as I felt more confident and comfortable I’d increase the distances and terrain roughness. A few very important conditions were placed on me by the therapist, first I needed to get good tall hiking boots to provide excellent ankle support for both legs. Next I had to wear my soft orthopedic ankle brace inside the boot as added protection for my injured ankle in case I fell. I was also told to use a walking stick to help prevent me from falling when traversing rocky and hilly terrain. The final condition was that I had to be careful and not push too hard, it ‘s OK to be sore and tired but if I caused pain in the ankle I’d probably slow my getting it back into shape.
As everyone living in the valley remembers we had massive amounts of snow last winter so the trails and woods weren’t clear of snow until very late this year. Waiting for the snow to melt and a weekend day with no rain kept me from getting started until April 12th. My first hike was the easy heart healthy Bird Blind and Cedar Swamp trails in the Wallum Lake Park area of the Douglas State Forest. This hike was only 2 miles but it was challenging enough to give the ankle a good work out and fun enough to make we want to do more. Needing a goal to keep me motivated all year I decided I would task myself with locating, hiking and mapping every foot of trails in the Douglas State Forest. As of last weekend I’ve finished the trails in the DSF as well as most of the trails in the adjoining Mine Brook Wildlife Management Area and bordering private properties. My injured ankle is nearly as flexible as the other one, I’ve rebuilt most of the atrophied muscles in the leg, and now after hikes it’s other body muscles and joints that are more likely to be sore than my ankle or leg. I can now hike 9 miles in a day over very rough terrain and average 17 miles per weekend. My total hiking distance for the year so far is 210 miles. Another great thing is I’ve lost more than 20 of the extra pounds I gained while I was on crutches.