North Country Trail: STICK TO THE PLAN

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All of the research was complete, all of the different scenarios considered, all of the items on the lists checked off. A copy of the spreadsheet created weeks ago, documenting dates, estimated miles to be hiked, daily starting, ending locations, and water sources – each with its respective latitude and longitude – was printed and sitting on the kitchen table, just in case Andrew needed it.

Friday June 29th, 2018 had arrived!

After working from home and participating in a few morning conference calls, I arrived at the House of Optical for my first appointment of the day – my annual check-up with my ophthalmologist. It was 9:47 AM, I was a few minutes early, so I took the number card from its holder and as I sat down in the chair located in the waiting area, I had a peculiar thought “Am I really #1? Ha! This doesn’t happen often”. A few minutes passed, the receptionist called my name from behind the counter, and I was quickly whisked off to the dark room with the crazy looking chair and the eye charts with all those letters and numbers that I should seriously have memorized by now. My vision exam proceeded, first my right eye, and then my left eye, the opening question – “Can you read the last line?” – followed by “And now?” and then the battery of clicks and options to determine which looks clearer “One or Two”, “Three or Four”, “Five or Six”, “Seven or Eight”. I think my reply “Now I see doubles” completely through my doctor off his game!

At the conclusion of my vision examination came good news – my vision in my left was unchanged, still a -1.25, but my vision in my right eye had miraculously gotten better with age and was now a mere -.75. Still, not a big enough change to warrant new lenses for my frames, so I was returned to the receptionist’s desk to be checked out and re-supply my stock of contact lenses. Two pairs of contact lenses would be placed in my toiletry bag, along with a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, and the other items I deemed required for a 100-mile hike on the North Country Trail.

My second appointment with Dr. Muller at the Huntington Group to have my titanium dental implant in slot #30 uncovered was still hours away, and 2:00 PM simply could not arrive fast enough. It may as well have been Christmas Eve and I 10-years old again. I obviously underestimated my desire – my desire to put all of the planning into action, to finally get there, to be ‘on trail’, to actually start hiking my first hike of any real distance.

Finally 2:00 PM would arrive to find me already cozy in the dental chair, the lead blanket lying on my chest, and an x-ray of my lower right jaw underway. Dr. Muller walked in, took a look at the x-ray, performed a quick exam of the implant area, and with two small shots to numb the area surrounding the surgical site, my follow-up surgery was in progress. You have to feel confident that things are going extremely well when your oral surgeon states “wow, the bone in your jaw has actually grown over the implant. I wish that would happen more often”. It also made me stop to ask myself if the many glasses of Kroger chocolate milk had actually aided in the healing process. (I’m going with it!) A few minutes later, Dr. Muller finalized stitching up my gum, provided a little commentary – namely “I like it!” – and I was done.

It was 3:47 PM. My lips were still numb from the local anesthetic. The estimated drive time to the designated trail head parking area located on Norwich Rd was eight and half hours. If I stuck to the plan and left now, at best, I would have to drive across the Mackinac Bridge in the dark, would arrive at the trail head well after midnight, have to sleep in the back seat of the Grand Caravan, and wake to begin hiking tomorrow morning. Not exactly ideal conditions to start a 100-mile hike, and I knew I would be pushing it to complete the eight and half hour drive straight through to Ontonagon.

I paused for a moment, and a voice in my mind sounded “hike your own hike”.

In that moment, I decided I would return home, sort through the items in my pack one last time, have an early dinner with Andrew, and maybe take a nap? Then depending on how I and my jaw were feeling, then my journey would begin.

– Kelly

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