How Portland Made Me Rethink the Inca Trail

Washington Park Entrance Stairs

Last October I had my fifth knee surgery.  It all started in 2001 with a right knee Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Reconstruction.  In 2003 the saga of my left knee started with another ACL reconstruction.  Since then I had a screw removal (from the ACL) surgery in 2004, Microfracture in 2010, and most recently an Osteochondral Autograft (OATS) procedure in 2011.  All were major surgeries requiring extensive rehabilitation, except the screw removal.  The last two, Microfracture and OATS, required me to be non-weight bearing for two months each.  I spent four of eighteen months on crutches and even longer in rehabilitation.  I still have pain in the patella region, so I’ve received Synvisc lubricating shots to ease the arthritis that has consumed my knee joint.

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Maybe I was being optimistic in March when I decided to add the Inca Trail to my already booked Galapagos trip with Intrepid Travel.  The trail includes four days of hiking at high altitude.

  • Day One – Short sections of uphill hiking.
  • Day Two – A long and steep ascension expected to take four hours.
  • Day Three – Two hour descent of the Inca Steps.
  • Day Four – Short hike into Machu Picchu.

When I booked the Inca Trail, I had already been released to normal activity by my doctor and the x-rays showed that the cadaver bone had healed quite nicely to my existing bone.  My gradual return to activity began based on my doctor’s advice.

In Portland I was ready to conquer an entire weekend of walking and sightseeing.  I mapped out my itinerary and estimated approximately six miles of walking, most of which would be on day one.  Everything went well until two thirds of the way through the first day.  The pain began and I still had to walk back to my hotel, which was downhill.  To make matters worse, I had left my Ibuprofen in my hotel room.  I knew better.

Each time I stepped with my left foot I placed it so softly on the asphalt that I could have been walking on eggshells and not have broken any.  After two grueling miles I made it back to my hotel room, downed the Ibuprofen, and crashed.  The Ibuprofen barely took the edge off, but eventually I was able to shower and walk to dinner.

That night I feel asleep and woke up the next morning ready to hit the streets again, albeit at a much slower and less hilly pace.

The experience made me wonder if, in four months, I will be able to hike 28 miles of the Inca Trail.  One of the passes is called Dead Woman’s Pass (13,779 feet).  Is the name an omen?  The good news is I have emergency evacuation insurance.  I hope it won’t be necessary.

Beautiful Knee Killers

Japanese Garden Stone StairsJapanese Garden Stairs

Washington Park StairsWashington Park Trail

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4 Replies to “How Portland Made Me Rethink the Inca Trail”

  1. Wow, you are a tough lady. Don’t overdo it, or you might wind up needing that emergency assistance after all. At least make sure to take your super cape. 🙁

    • Thanks! I won’t take any huge risks. If things don’t improve I’ll modify my trip to exclude the Inca Trail My fingers are crossed. Great idea about the super cape…I’ll have to get me one of those. 😉

    • Maybe, but I’m still hoping for the best. And thanks…I don’t know why, but I have a tendency to take photos of trails and stairs…a lot.