The last time I fell down a mountain was July 4, 2001. Buck and I had taken son Richard, daughter-in-law Sharon, and their two youngest daughters, Ariel and April, to the Shining Rock Wilderness in Crusoe, North Carolina for a day hike.
I had already lost my tree-branch hiking stick in a scramble up a granite rock pile. It was an in-and-back trail that day, not a loop, about ten miles altogether. We had just begun the return when it happened. The path was very rocky, root-woven and wet in places. April is a champion soccer goalie now, and her sister, Ariel, is a first year architecture student, but on that day in the woods seven years ago, danger was on my mind. I guess that’s why I took it upon myself to be “hiking coach” to April, who was walking right behind me in our single file convoy.
Pretty funny. Here was my advice: It’s dangerous out here. Watch where you put your feet. Take your time. Focus. Be careful. The rocks are slippery. Don’t take your eyes off the trail unless you have come to a complete stop. And, oh yes, don’t be running your mouth talking instead of paying attention to your. . . . . BAM!!
BAM!! Yep. That’s the sound a know-it-all who didn’t follow her own advice makes when she trips, slips and falls face first into a pile of sharp rocks. “Granddad!!” (That was April to the rescue.)
The older girl, Ariel, led us down the trail into the by-then dark parking area. Those last four miles were tough; me bleeding and limping; Buck holding onto me; and the rest of our group highly vigilant and upset.
The next day brought a doctor visit and a tetanus shot. We decided against xrays for possible broken ribs, because bruised or broken, the treatment was the same. My doc pointed out how lucky I had been — no punctured lung, and no other broken bones. One wrist was very swollen, shins a genuine mess and my face had clearly had an encounter with a gravel bed. I spent the next couple of months trying not to breathe hard, laugh or God forbid, sneeze.
Feet remember. Bones and muscle have a memory. It has served me well on mountain hikes since that day in 2001. Yesterday, for example. Focus and foot placement were tools; a transcendent experience the result.
Buck is not only my True North, but my teacher and my guide. (More photos and a description of yesterday’s hike up to the Beech Mountain fire tower later!)