Day 5-7: Zero Days in Blairsville, GA

Shutterbug’s left knee was painful and swollen when we reached Neels Gap on Day 4 so we had decided to take a few rest days in Blairsville to let it heal. The four components of RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) have been our main priorities these past three days. The local $3.99 pizza buffet was also important to us. We got our money’s worth.

Shutterbug felt significant improvement after the first rest day but then the healing plateaued. We sought medical advice from places around town, but people were either on vacation or not experienced enough with knee issues to give us any definitive answers. Though we didn’t learn anything new about Shutterbug’s knee pain, we did meet a ton of friendly folks trying their best to help. Thank you.

While we were in Blairsville we also chatted with our friend Jen who is fulfilling book orders for us from Oregon. Since we started hiking there has been a noticeable drop in sales. Jen wants to assure everyone that books are still being shipped even when we’re out hiking. Please help Jen regain space in her living room! You can order here:

Day 8: Neels Gap (Mile 31.5)-Swaim Gap (Mile 34.5); 3 miles

First thing in the morning we called the local physical therapist’s office again. Dr. Rhodes was not only back from vacation, he kindly offered to assess the injury that morning. After manipulating Shutterbug’s knee in a variety of ways, Dr. Rhodes told us everything seemed solid and that something must have just gotten tweaked, which was causing the swelling. Since Dr. Rhodes thought that walking wouldn’t damage the knee, we decided to get back on the trail.

We stopped by CVS to buy a sleeve for Shutterbug’s knee and the post office to swap our tarp for a tent. The tarp worked well but the beginning of the AT is much more crowded than we anticipated and we’re desiring more privacy. At the post office we chatted with Robert, a friendly local who offered us a ride to the trailhead.

Back at the Neels Gap trailhead, we chuckled at this tree decorated with the failed footwear of frustrated hikers. Obviously we aren’t the only hikers struggling with this first section of the AT.

Passing under the bad boot tree, we began gingerly walking north on the AT. Shutterbug’s knee pain remained mild thanks to our slow pace for the first three miles. Then for no apparent reason the pain flared up suddenly. We decided to call it a day.

We set up camp and ate, happy to be back on the trail. While our slow progress was frustrating, we knew it was best to go easy. Hot chocolate was a sweet treat to end the day.


  1. Hello you two. This is now becoming as suspenseful a tale as a Tom Clancy novel. Seriously, though, my heart aches for Shutterbug and his knee situation, and for the both of you knowing that hopes could be dashed. I am directing all the positive karma I’ve got northward to you both. – Patricia


  2. Sorry to hear about the knee. Good that you rested it and are pacing yourselves until it heals. Glad you got some friendly advice from the locals. The only thing I might add is to work some stretching into your daily routine. All these body parts are connected, so stretching the lower back, thighs, calves, ankles will all help take pressure off the knee. Take good care.


      1. IT band… oh how it hurts going downhill with an inflamed IT band! I feel for you. I had that problem on the AT. Miraculously, it cleared up after about ten days. Hang in there and take it easy. Hope you get some nice sunny days.


  3. That tree may have a pair of my friend’s shoes, unless angels take them down from time to time. He quickly found that his were too heavy & opted for lighter weight ones…

    I appreciated that you wrote back to everyone; however, please don’t get overwhelmed with that — I’m fine to see ‘group’ replies :-).


  4. Yes to stretching. Last year on the PCT, Recycle had problems with his foot that were helped by adding a routine of daily stretches.


  5. You might also consider a knee brace with a patella tracking hole in it to keep the knee cap tacking correctly, and of course a different type of shoe, is she pronating in her shoes? (ankle turning in)


  6. Also if you are going to be in one place for a few days recovering, You might check out runningwarehouse online. they have free two day shipping and returns (up to 90 days use of items). They would have shoe insoles (which could give more support and the original shoe insoles), trail shoes, injury support and compression items. Discount codes are RUNBLOG10 for regular priced items and FB15D for liquidation items


  7. Hoping shutterbug has a speedy recovery from the knee pain and swelling. Glad you are sharing your journey with the rest of us.


  8. When you approach the Gettysburg Pa. area, (you will) :-) Feel free to contact my wife and I, we assist thru hikers. Joe, AT class 1976.


  9. Sad to hear problems so soon. Knees are common on AT. I was down 4 days with that in 2010 and 3 days with sprained ankle 2005. After rest in 2010 I used the knee brace type mentioned by Kevin to get through the Whites while they healed. Ace wraps will also help in a pinch but don’t stay in place very well. High top boots that restrict your ankle flex put more strain on knees on steep downhills, but I’m pretty sure your using low top runners so that’s not the problem. Your still early in season so you got time to heal and move on. When you get back on trail go easy a few days and let body adjust. Keep the chin up.



  10. Just take to hiking more slowly. Enjoy a couple weeks in a motel. Get somebody else to carry your pack, or just slack pack with one of the outfitters wherever on the trail they have time. You do not have to carry packs on the AT, nor must the trail be trod sequentially.


  11. Oh no! Sorry about the knee, Chris. I am also dealing with knee issues, having arthroscopic surgery tomorrow to clean out torn cartilege.



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