I heard the rumble of gravel as my hiking boot skated across the rocks. Gravity, like a bitch, began to yank me down to the ground. I heard a loud popping noise as my ankle flexed the wrong way. It was the kind of noise you never want to hear a body part make. As I continued to fall to the ground I thought to myself “this was it, I was going to break something today”
As I laid on the ground I realized that I had already broken something that day. Although it was not a bone, it was my spirit. I had spent the entire day walking around on a mountain that was above my ability. I was wiped out physically and to add icing on the cake the mountain sent me for a tumble to reassure me I had no business being there.
The day has started out well, with the first two-mile accent being fairly easy. I was clocking in reasonable 35 minutes miles. After I passed mile 2, things turned into a downward spiral for me. I went from 35-minute miles to 1 hour and 25-minute miles. YIKES.
The trail guides listed the trail we were on as moderate, which I would agree with for the first two miles. After mile 2 I would consider the trail a moderate +.
I am not an avid hiker. And I will fully admit that I do not really care for hiking in general. I hike for the reward of the mountain lakes and alpine views. Exercising the dogs is also a benefit that I like to take advantage of.
Each break I took added more minutes to my hike. I started to ration out my water because in addition to underestimating the trail I had also underestimated how much water we needed.
As I sat on a rock near some granite slabs, I looked up the mountain hillside. I could see a break in trees, which usually indicates the location of a lake. I knew I was near the end of the trail, but I was still debating on giving up and heading back to the trailhead. It was blatantly apparent that I was physically tired but also mentally tired.
According to the trail guide, you can trim off some of the trail’s length by traversing up the granite slabs I was sitting near as opposed to following the trail. There was no mention of which was easier, but the thought of trimming down some of the distance was motivation enough for me to give it a try.
I began slowly slaloming my way up the hillside. At this point, I had let the dogs off leash. I am sure they were grateful as they no longer had a tug on the leash as their four legs moved much faster than my two.
After many zig-zags up the slabs, I took another break and sat down. Boomer came and sat next to me. Although he is not a certified therapy dog, he always knows when I need to draw some strength from him. I looked over at Boomer and informed him “that’s it, we’re never hiking again.”
Unfortunately, that wasn’t going to be an option unless I built us a house on that spot and somehow figured out how to grow food. And since I wasn’t about to build us a house, we would have to walk back down the mountain. There I would drive myself back to civilization and admire the mountains from the valley floor, instead of admiring the valley floor from the mountains.
I spent several minutes struggling with what to do as well as managing the fit I was throwing. I decided to carry on. It was the second time I had wanted to give up in about an hour. But I knew it would be ridiculous to turn around at that point. I had to suck it up.
Finishing would also prevent me from having to answer the questions of why I gave up. And someone would inevitably say “but you were so close”. Being so close to the end and not getting to the end would have irked me as an unfinished task that needed completion. And since I had decided earlier to give up on hiking, I knew I would not be returning to finish this trail in the future.
I drew in a deep breath at nearly 6300 feet. The cool breeze brushed against my face as my shoulders fell in despair. I looked over at Boomer. He looked back at me, panting with a slight smile. My sweet water dog needed to be rewarded with a swim in the lake. So I stood up, turned back up the mountain and continued on to the lake.
We arrived at Beehive Lake where the three of us went our own ways. Boomer charged into the water and waited for me to throw something for him to fetch. Jovi found herself a spot to pick huckleberries and filled her belly. And I took my boots off to soaked my tired feet in the icy water.
As I laid out on a large boulder to soak in some warmth from the sunshine I came to the realization that our hike was only halfway over. Although the return trip would be all downhill, it did not mean it was going to be easier.
After sufficient sun soaking, I gathered up our belongings and put my boots back on. It was time to walk back down the mountain.
We headed out with enough time that we would still have daylight, even if the trail took as long to hike down as it did to hike up. Although it would be logical that it would not take as long to walk down. If it did, I could have potentially run out of daylight. Although I had a flashlight, the thought of walking down the trail with a small flashlight in grizzly country was about as appealing as punching myself in the face.
I weaved my way down the rock slabs back to the trail, crossing paths with the first person I had seen that day on the trail. He was also a solo hiker and we exchanged our thoughts on the trail. Both of us were in agreement that the last mile was one hell of a climb.
As we went our separate ways he said “I can’t believe you’re walking back down the trail on the same day. I’m so tired, I don’t ever want to walk again”. I laughed and thought about my earlier resolution to never hike again, that I had made that day.
Shortly thereafter I ran into a hiking couple and their dog. We both took advantage of the rest and chatted about the trail. I mentioned how I was surprised that I had not seen anyone on the trail up until now with them and the man just ahead of them. The woman said, “but it’s nice to hike alone, you have the place all to yourself”. I jokingly responded, “yeah but there’s no one to help haul you out if you break something.”
Perhaps I foreshadowed my own future.
I navigated the rest of the hard part of the trail with ease. I reached mile two and knew that the rest of the trail would be easier, with the exception of the large granite gravel that plagued the trail. Although the trail was less steep, the gravel did add an element of footing issues. Something that I am sure would have been manageable if I was not dead ass tired.
I was very fortunate that I was still able to walk after my fall as well as only being about ¾ of a mile from the trailhead. I also had shock working for me, as the real pain had not completely set in yet. It was a lesson learned for sure.
Even though I threw a temper tantrum earlier that day, stating that I will never hike again, I am sure that will not come to fruition. And like with every travel experience I have, I learned something. Falling on the trail taught me that I wasn’t prepared for a potentially bad outcome. And although all the preparation in the world will not ensure prevention, being somewhat prepared as opposed to not at all is better than nothing.
I’m also buying trekking poles. We shall see if that helps keep me off the ground too.
Have you ever experienced not being prepared for something while traveling? How did you handle it?