Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Breaking in the Knees, Part I. Crater Lake Edition.

So, I've covered that I got new knees, and that they are fantastic, but I feel like I have not completely covered why. To do so, I feel like I should go back and recap all of my adventures.
The road to full recovery is a long one, one that I am still on four years later. I healed quickly, and was back on my feet in record time. On a horse again just six weeks post-op. But it was hard. It's still hard. I don't like to admit it, let alone show how hard it is, but I am affected often.  Usually not with knee pain, but with fatigue and listlessness. I can't find the words for the sheer drowning sensation I feel sometimes, or for the lymphatic feeling that washes over me, but it's something I hate. I hate it even more that I am unable to control it. It's something I battle with often.
Aside from all of the little physical triumphs of recovery, healing getting stronger, getting back on a horse, etcetera, my first real victory came a little over two years after my surgery, in the summer of 2012.
My best friend, Jeff Murphy, is a Wildlife Technician. I could go on about how romantic of a job it is, studying endangered species in their natural habitats, being surrounded by wilderness that only few truly understand, but I will save it for him to tell when he finally writes his book. It will be amazing and no doubt be made into a movie, but that is neither here nor there at the moment.
I had visited him at Crater Lake before. Once his first year out there, and again the summer before my surgery.  I've spent time in the North West prior to Jeff getting the job at the lake, and  I couldn't soak enough of it in. Every time I go back I feel an extreme sense of peace come over me, and Jeff just gave me another excuse to submerge myself again.
In the summer of 2012, I was still healing. I was struggling with extreme apathy. I didn't feel like I had the energy, let alone the want, to do anything. I decided I had to go. If being back in the North West, with my best friend, couldn't fix me, I was a lost cause. So I went.
The first day we did a few easy trails, one of my favorites and one new. Awe-inspiring isn't a strong enough of a sentiment to describe either of them. The next day, we went on a literal bear hunt. Not to hurt the bear in anyway, just to observe. The bear eluded us, but a relatively easy hike none-the-less. The last full day at the lake, Jeff asked if I was up for Cleetwood. It was a trail I had done prior to my knees, and I knew it wouldn't be easy.

It would be the longest, and by far the most strenuous walk that I had taken my new knees on. It is a 2.2 mile round trip and with a sign at the trail head warning people with walking problems not to attempt the 11% grade and innumerous switchbacks.  I asked Jeff if he thought I could manage it, he nodded , and so we went. We took our time, going down the steep grade on loose soil proved to be difficult, but manageable. I took one step at a time and trusted. Trusted that I could handle it. Trusted that I was stronger than I thought. I could feel, not my knees, but my muscles complain at the task I was challenging them to. Reminding me that it had been quite a while since I have asked them to preform that intensely. But down we went. Step by step.

As the trail opened to reveal the lake below, I took a deep breath. I was sore, and worn, but it felt refreshing. I was pushing myself. I was tired of being tired and I wanted my life back.
We spent some time by the lake. I always forget how amazing it is to look into something so deep and clear. It makes you feel small.
As we started our ascent out of the caldera, I felt better about everything, but it couldn't compare to the feeling I got when we reached the top and the head of the trail.
I did it. Not in record time, but I did it. I pushed hard and it felt like I had new life breathed into me. All of the doubt I had in myself was pushed aside and I felt like I had my fight back. Looking back on it a few years later, I feel like I can say it was one of the most edifying moments of my life.
I still battle with feelings of detachment and disinterest, but I no longer feel as though I am on the losing side of the fight.

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