At the end of the second day of the thirteen days of hiking the Alta Via 2 in the Dolomites, I was beginning to feel a strain in the Achilles tendon of my left foot. (Tendonitis, I learned later.) Mike and I were almost at the rifugio where we would stay the night, so I figured that after resting the foot a night, I would be able to continue as normal.
It was a false assumption. After only half an hour on the trail the next morning, I began to feel the same pain, rapidly worsening. My heart dropped, but I kept on walking. Suddenly I was paralyzed with pain. It was obvious I couldn’t take another step on that foot without doing some serious damage to it.
I cried real tears. Not three days in, and it was over already. I was so mad, so disappointed! Mike hugged me and reminded me that we had said from the beginning that if for any reason we had to stop, we would just go back to Venice and find other things to do. Venice wasn’t such a bad alternative.
But I wanted to hike the Alta Via 2! I wanted to walk the whole thing. I hated my feet. In addition to hallux rigidus, bunions, Morton’s neuroma, and a bone spur, did I have to have another foot problem to keep me from walking? “I want new feet!” I wailed.
Then I stopped crying and tried to figure out what to do. The problem, I thought, was that my boot wasn’t giving enough support to my ankle, since I lace my boots very loosely so they won’t put pressure on the bone spur on my left foot or the Morton’s neuroma on my right foot. But too loose a boot can cause problems, too.
“I wish I had brought an Ace bandage,” I said ruefully.
“I brought one,” Mike said and fumbled around in his pack, found it, and gave it to me.
As I was bandaging my ankle, the young American couple from Berlin we had met a few nights earlier came up the hill. When I explained what the problem was, Ashlie said she wished she had some Ibuprofen to give me.
“What a good idea!” I said. “I have some.”
So I bandaged my foot, tied my boot tighter, took an Ibuprofen, and set off again, feeling like an athlete: bandage up, dope up, and keep on going.
The first pass of the day looked tough, but in fact Mike and I both went up without stopping and got to the top without difficulty. There was a crucified Christ on a small cross at the top. Mike said I should prostrate myself before it and ask forgiveness and repent so Jesus would heal my heel.
I wrapped my ankle with an Ace bandage every morning and played the looser-or-tighter game with my boots and had no more than the usual problems with my feet. That is to say, every so often the boinging pain of the bone spur would make me stop and take my boot off. Usually I could put the boot back on and continue after a few minutes, though twice I opted to hike barefooted for a while rather than put the boot back on.
Nothing ever stopped me again, and at the end of the hike I thanked my feet profusely for taking me on that whole long marvelous journey. After that one moment of despair on the trail, they got me to a rifugio every night, took me up every pass and down the other side, walked over gravel and stones and grass, walked mile after mile, day after day, and, finally, settled under my seat on the airplane, where for ten hours they could rest without shoes.