One of the things that I’ve noticed about New England is that there is a lot more water here (More streams, more creeks, more lakes, more ponds, and more swamps) than in other parts of the trail. All of this means that there has been a lot more mud on the trail, and that there are a lot more bog logs.
Bog logs are planks, either split logs or 2x8s, that have cross supports under them and span the muddy/swampy areas and at least theoretically keep us out of some of the muck. This sounds like a good thing, at least in theory, but all that moisture means that the logs get covered in slippery algae and that they deteriorate and decay quickly.
I am always extremely cautious when I approach a section of trail covered with bog logs. It is unnerving to see the evidence of past mishaps where the boards are cracked or broken…
I was hiking through one of those sections with a couple of other thru-hikers (Snacks and Lady Mac). As the person in front of me crossed each set of bog logs I would stop and wait until they were completely off of each bog log before I stepped onto it. I definitely didn’t trust the logs to hold the weight of two people at once.
As the person in front of me stepped off of the next bog log I stepped forward towards the bog log and was hit with blinding pain and began to fall. There was no log beneath my foot to step on… I managed to catch myself with my poles and evaded a plunge into the swamp, but the pain in my leg was so intense that I couldn’t think straight. The person in front of me turned back and asked me if I was ok. I couldn’t get my brain to formulate words yet. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly and then again before finally choking out, “I will be”.
The person in front of me had stepped off of the very edge of the board, the wood around the nails holding the other end of the board down had rotted out, and the board popped up like a seesaw around it’s pivot point. All of this was timed perfectly so that my shin (right above my ankle) with all of my body’s forward momentum behind it collided with the end of the 2×8 as it popped up.
Eventually my words came back to me and I explained what had happened to Snacks and Lady Mac. I let them hike ahead of me and hobbled after them. Ow! I was surprised by how much it hurt. As I hiked the limp went away. I was relieved since that meant that there wasn’t any structural damage that would prevent me from continuing with my hike, but dang did it hurt.
After a while I stopped to look at my poor shin to assess the damage. I was surprised to see that it was bleeding, but even more surprised to see a tennis ball sized egg forming on my leg. Damn, I took some ibuprofen and wished I had a way to ice my leg. There isn’t much ice on the trail, but sometimes I soak things in the chilly water of streams and creeks, so I started looking for a good stream to soak my leg in.
The first stream I came to looked pretty yucky. Since I was bleeding I decided it wasn’t worth the risk of infection to put my poor leg into that water. A few minutes later we came to a parking lot with an RV in it and a couple of people sitting outside of it. I wandered over and asked them if they had any ice.
Lucky for me they had a bag of frozen peas that I promptly put onto my shin as I plopped down on the ground beside my soon-to-be new friends. As I iced my shin for the requisite 15 minutes I chatted with the group at the RV. They were a group of southbound thru-hikers from England along with their support crew. After a nice cup of tea I was ready to hit the trail as good as new.
Well, almost as good as new. Mostly I was just thankful that I’d gotten a chance to ice it and that I could still hike!
Extra credit: A 150 pound hiker with a 35 pound pack is hiking at 2 miles per hour when he steps onto the end of a 12 foot long 2×8 plank approximately 1 foot away from it’s pivot point. A second hiker (145 pounds with a 35 pound pack) traveling at 2 miles an hour steps forward and into the rising edge of the 2×8 plank. What is the force of impact associated with the collision of the hikers shin and the 2×8 plank?