I struggled, I stumbled, I limped. I asked Jake to slow and if I could use one of his trekking polls, (oddly, I've never used them before on a thru-hike). He gave me both. They helped alleviate some of the pain by taking some of the weight off my bad knee.
I had never had knee problems before. "Not now," I thought. But really, like anyone else with knee or back pain, what I really meant was, "not ever."
But by the time we made it to the road which we took for the last few miles into town, my stride had improved. The flat, smooth road was a nice reprieve.
The town we were heading for was Patagonia, AZ. We had heard poor reviews from hikers about the local inn. So yesterday we booked an Airbnb from the trail. Our host said she would meet us in town at noon and drive us to her place. I was so glad not to have any extra miles.
We made it to town by 9AM, and beelined it (albeit slow with an injury) toward a hot breakfast at Common Grounds. With the pack off briefly and fresh food in my tummy, the knee pain subsided, and became an after thought.
After a quick resupply, we met our Airbnb host Ms. K. She sported a Prius, a little white American Eskimo pup, and a cheery disposition. It wasn't hard to feel unguarded in her presence.
Together, we drove out of Patagonia proper to her sky island, a strawbale house she designed herself. The inside was beautiful, with high ceilings, muralled walls, large copper wind chims and patio lights. The other half of the house was outside, where a terraced garden overlooked a walking path. This area served as the home for a few cunning foxes, and hundreds of birds. There were probably over a dozen places to sit down with a good book. Once Ms. K told me "there's coffee in the morning," I was sure that I had found a new home.
Our room and private bath were in the main house. We did laundry, doused our dusty selves in the shower, and enjoyed snacks from town. I rested my knee, and said a few prayers.
In the evening, we joined Ms. K and her husband Mr. N in the main house for dinner. Ms. K made us each a salad, "there's no such things as too much feta, right?"
Ms. K, Mr. N and I chatted away an hour of the night, and I felt like I've met these two before. Both are retired teachers with an unwavering a fascination for the natural world. This house is their dream home, and they have both spent their lives changing other people's lives.
The next day, they dropped us off in town and wished us luck. Within an hour my knee pain returned. Hopefully my luck didn't just drive away in a Prius.
Jake taught me how to walk with trekking poles like crutches, and we pushed on. The next two days we climbed, aiming for our own sky island, and I was hopeful I would find some more relief there too.