Occasionally, I check the journals of those thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail that have gotten off the trail to see if they have updated their online blogs with additional information. Most of the time the journals are absent of an update, but a recent check on Opa revealed that he has returned to the trail. He has traveled to Maine, climbed Mount Katahdin, and is now hiking SOBO (southbound) back toward New Jersey.
Opa went off the trail on May 21, 2018, after developing a painful inflammation in the area of the arch on his right foot. He was in Vernon, New Jersey, and was able to get a ride from his son Eric who lives in nearby Westwood, NJ. After getting some X-rays, it was determined that Opa had a stress fracture on the fifth metatarsal. He was anticipating a fitted boot to help support the foot during the healing process. In addition to the foot, Opa was scheduled for hernia surgery in late June followed by some personal commitments during the summer months. He talked about returning to the trail, but honestly, I thought he would not return during this hiking season.
Opa, Reinhard Gsellmeier from Rochester, NY, was one of the strongest hikers I followed this year. He consistently put in high mileage and I thought he would be the first to complete the adventure. I was saddened to hear of his injury that took him from the trail, and I am excited that he has returned. He has about 833 miles to hike to complete his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.
On August 22nd Opa posted, “I’ve been thinking about the trail every single day since I had to get off way back on May 21st, so I am raring to go! Instead of being a NOBO I will become a flipflopper as I resume my hike by starting at Katahdin and hiking south. My preference would have been to continue as a NOBO, but I was concerned that with my end of August restart I would simply run out of time and not make it to Katahdin by the time they close the mountain in mid-October.”
He climbed Mount Katahdin on August 30th, and immediately started his SOBO adventure. In the two weeks since his return to the trail, Opa has hiked 188.2 miles. He has trekked through the 100-Mile Wilderness, across the iconic Kennebec River, over the Bigelow Mountains, and into the trail town of Stratton, Maine averaging almost 14.5 miles a day. However, on September 10th, Opa recorded, “I think my trail legs are back, but as fate would have it my plantar fasciitis has reared its ugly head once again. My left heel is starting to become inflamed, but so far it is not impeding my progress.”
Opa has not taken a zero-day since his return although the nero-day into Stratton was only 5.1 miles leaving him with some needed rest time to recuperate from his aggressive pace. While resting in Stratton, his journal reflected his need for some R/R. “I decided to take an unplanned NERO in Stratton, in part to give my left heel a little relief with a short mileage day, and in part to get cleaned up and dry out my gear. Am staying in a bunk room at the Stratton Motel and Hostel. Stratton is a small town, but has everything I need within a short walk of the hostel. Laundromat, grocery store and a place to get pizza. Ahhhh, pizza! Guess what I had for dinner!
My plantar fasciitis and the inflammation in my left heel remains a concern, but as long as it doesn’t get much worse it is tolerable. My spirits remain high and I am as determined as ever to finish this thing!”
My prayers are with Opa as he attempts to complete his hike in 2018.