There I was in early September, sitting on the table in the orthopedist’s office a week after returning from my Washington state trip. We were arguing over whether my ankle was broken or not and, I lost. My fall down the scree on the Upper Skyline Trail at Mt. Rainier wasn’t as innocuous as I thought. But by not going immediately to an emergency room at Rainier I avoided a hard cast and instead, limped around in an air cast for six weeks. Another broken bone. And I also added to my growing collection of soft boots, air boots, shoulder slings and x-rays.
In addition, while waiting for my follow-up appointment a few weeks later, I realized that my medical folder has begun to take on a life of its own weighing probably several pounds and listing five of the eight doctors in the practice! Soon I will need a second folder (and a sherpa to carry it)!
The tents dry out, the blisters heal, the toenails grow back, and the stories get passed around. But, is this what I have to show for all my years of hiking, camping, backpacking, skiing, climbing, and whitewater rafting? So other than pictures what are the mementos or trophies of my outdoor adventures?
Well, there’s that scar on my left hand finger from my week in the Boundary Waters. I got it when I did a solo carry of a canoe up over my head on a portage but tripped on a rock slamming the canoe right down on my hand. Northern Minnesota is very rocky! That scar is 30+ years old but it reminds me of my old, super-woman days! Those days when I tried most anything once.
I used to ski downhill non-stop from early December through early March every weekend for almost ten years at our regional slopes. While never progressing much beyond advanced intermediate I loved every minute and winter became a new season in the out-of-doors to me. Even tried cross-country skiing but that is hard to do around here. Never feeling the cold I flew down the slopes until after a big trip to Killington, Vermont. A fall at the time seemed to be nothing but led to knee surgery, arthritis and a big scar that swells up constantly. Doctors say I need more surgery but I prefer the scar as is; gives my knee character!
And all that paddling, tough 17 mile days on lakes and pulling through rapids for days on end took me to many special places including sadly, new agony in my shoulder. I finally gave in to major shoulder reconstruction in 2003 complete with temporary pins and thankfully, a scar I can’t see (without a mirror at least!). But this scar is a testament to my determination to keep on the water; taking those rafting trips until I can’t step in and out of a raft anymore!
I have to laugh at my “awards” for idiocy though! There’s the time I broke my foot getting ready to go backpacking in the pouring rain. In my hurry to throw stuff into the back of my Avalanche truck at 5:00 pm on a Friday I hadn’t changed from my dress shoes yet. The garage door was open so rain was seeping in a bit on the floor. To avoid a puddle I slid my black flats towards the crack between the garage floor and the driveway edge. You guessed it; I caught the edge of my shoes in the crack and broke my fifth metatarsal bone. The irony is that the trip was cancelled an hour later because the trail was completely flooded out. And until my husband saw the x-ray he refused to believe I could have broken my foot just catching the edge in a crack! Oh husbands of little faith!
Now that I’m older one of my acts of stupidity doesn’t really show as much thank goodness! We were camping and some of us decided to take a walk down to a lake to see the stars. Following our advice to the kids that flashlights ruin your night vision, no one carried one. Besides, the moon was out but about halfway down the 1 mile trail we realized that it was very dark, too dark in the trees to see the trail. Like idiots we kept going instead of turning around. I was one of two people who fell down and the only one who hit a rock face first, right below the right eye. My “shiner” eventually evolved into a permanent line, now a wrinkle! Where is nature’s botox anyway?
My other ridiculous “trophy” was earned camping in February a couple of years ago. Sleeping out in a tent in the cold wasn’t the problem but getting up and down the icy hill to the freezing cold latrine was an issue. If I owned crampons I would have worn them!!! The slope was short, maybe 15 feet but the angle was wicked; maybe 20 degrees of solid ice about 12 inches thick. I did fine most of the time using the roughly hewn steps someone cut into the slope but I missed one little step one morning and slid to the bottom. I was a driver for the trip so I couldn’t leave early. Again, my husband wouldn’t be thrilled so I didn’t tell him until I got home. Besides they won’t cast a broken ankle until the swelling goes down, right? And who would have thought a little Pennsylvania ice could prove so dangerous?
Luckily my orthopedic group is totally supportive of my activities. In fact, one of my surgeons asked for referral info for family rafting out west. And I guess I’m in good company. The doctor treating the chronic bursitis in my hips groups me with his 40 year old runners with the same problem. Guess he hasn’t seen me run lately!
So, some of my mementos are the aches and pains in my feet when it’s going to rain as well as the growing mound of medical debris in the old diaper pail in the basement. Others are the big and little scars you would see if we walked up the trail together but I’ve learned to treasure them as much as the photos in my albums.
if you are not the type to stop your outdoor activities, regardless of the number of accidents, you'll never stop, no matter how young or old. I'll spare you the number of injuries I've had in my life, but I know I'll never stop till I can't move, period.
Thank you for sharing your stories. They are interesting, and engaging, and I enjoyed reading them.
Happy adventures, Kathy.
Kathy, of course all but one recent hole in my shin occured in my teenage years which included a broken hand, three broken fingers and several stiches in my head (that was just cross country skiing). I am ready to try "AT" skiing all while rembering my many injuries in a short 5 year span in Eugene in the 70"s.
Advise from a novice:
1. Buy Crampons but be careful you dont slash your leg.
2. Spray stickem on the bottom of all your shoes
3. Buy a headlamp and use it! ???
4. Use treking poles?
LOL, good stuff. Besides being a good looking woman you are a warrior. Your Hubby is a truly a lucky man.
Thanks! I would know I would be deadly with crampons! I would have to wear armor! Me wear a headlamp? I'm the last in my group to put on a hat - gives me the itchies...but I do learn from my mistakes usually! My husband is definitely a saint (and used to running me to the emrgency room!)
..we pay for our love of the outdoors. Thanks for sharing your story and I used to think I was bulletproof until I tore a medial mediscus, screwed up my rotator cuff, ripped a calf muscle, broke my finger, etc etc etc. Of course I did all of those after I reached 63 so I guess I've been fortunate overall. However, thats what physical therapists are for and mine has kept me going even though he keeps shaking his head and asking me what I think I'm doing at my age. I'm a bit more careful now but I can relate to your situations and appreciate them. As the kids say, "you rock" Kathy. Keep a going and stay young.
My total is a crushed foot (boulder in talus), a broken finger, two knee surgeries, one shoulder surgery, worn out arthritic toes on both feet, and too many sprains, scrapes, bruises, blisters, cuts and stitches to count.
I've never broken a bone, but I have a an artificial hip joint thanks to a fall on some loose scree. Other than that, my various falls have been more a source of embarrassment than anything else. The worst was when I fell in the caves at the Pinnacles - no headlamp - and banged up my knee falling into some water. I was soaking wet, so I stripped off my pants and wrung them out when I got to the dam, much to the amusement of some tourists.
I second Deltaoperator17's recommendation of hiking poles. My ortho doc does too.
I hear you though. I have several pairs of crutches, an air boot, a couple of braces, various reachers, exercise & rehab aids, etc etc. .. my more disabled colleagues refer to these items as "gimpliments" ..
That's what the scars and aches are, every one of them. I don't have as many as you seem to, and I've never had a really serious one (but give me time), but I love them all. Just yesterday, I got a nice nasty gash bushwhacking in Shenandoah to some godforsaken crag on the east side of Old Rag. Of course, I didn't so much as wipe a spot of blood off until I got home and hit the shower. It was more fun to walk around bleeding and with a slight limp!
I would be the loser. My entire life, I've been called Mister
Careful. Even though I love the outdoors, I bear no scars and
consider myself extraordinarily fortunate.
But, I do feel for those (around me) who always seem to wear
their scars with pride and dignity - and, that's what keeps me
going ... to know there's people having a "shitty day," and to
hopefully LEARN something from them at the day's end.
Guess all I can do now is to keep on submitting pictures to this
Site, and praying that I won't trip over a rattlesnake and fall
(face first) into a grove of cactus.
Time heals all wounds, 'cept for the ones on one's insides.
(Don't stop, 'cause that would be the death of you... and me!)
Definitely no contest here Larry! I didn't break anything between the ages of 14 and 57. I was careful too but I was always into something near sharp rocks or whatever! And being the loser in this contest (if it is one) is really being a winner!
And don't worry about me stopping anytime soon! I just found out that we have to go to New Hampshire this summer for a wedding. Sounds like a good excuse to get some hiking in!