There's something underrated, and yet subtly satisfying, about putting on a pair of shoes, stepping out the front door, and going for a walk. There seems to be an cultural perception that it is difficult to have a good time outdoors without strapping oneself to some sort of toy. I definitely buy into this idea, what with my penchant for dragging and hoisting my bicycle over every near-unrideable trail I can find. The temptation to bring a toy on my walk today was nearly overwhelming. "I can bring my bicycle," I thought, "and only ride it downhill." But even downhill snowbiking involves a fair amount of pedaling, and I am trying to cut back on the deep bending of my left knee for the time being. Then, I thought about carrying my snowboard. But if cycling is bad for my knee right now, then snowboarding most definitely is. So, almost grudgingly, I strapped on my snowshoes (which could be considered a toy, but I like to think of them as a "walking aid"). I walked out the door and marched up the unplowed surface of Fairbanks Street, waving at children as their plastic sleds whisked past me.
The reason I can walk through my various knee injuries is because my pain is caused not by impact, but by bending the joint further than 90 degrees - achieving that ever-elusive acute angle that pedaling demands. The impact of running can be too much to bear, but walking I can do forever. I make it an honest workout by pushing as hard as I can uphill. Today I had stripped down to my base layer and snowboarding pants - no hat or gloves - by the time I reached the Douglas Ski Bowl. From there, I commenced my ongoing quest to find a walkable route to the ridge - and by walkable I mean a route where I can keep my snowshoes on my feet rather than removing them to kick steps up the steep slope. I follow snowmobile high-marking tracks because I feel that if they can make it up a mountain, so can I ... but that's really not the case. During my final attempt - while I was still sans hat and gloves - I lost my footing and began to slide, on my belly, backward down the slope. I decided mid-slide that this was probably a good time to "head down," so I flipped over on my butt and continued to careen downward, dragging my naked fingers through the snow and trying futilely to use my snowshoes as brakes. My coat ripped from my waist, and several dozen feet went by before I finally rolled to a stop and crawled back up to retrieve it. No more high-marking for me.
The knee's already making progress. My pain-free range of motion is increasing at a fairly encouraging clip, and I spend my day wearing these arthritis patches that smell like an old lady's medicine cabinet and make my skin feel like it's pressed against a hot oven - but they seem to be working. Optimism will prevail.