We’d intended to take another trail, but there was a chance of rain and/or thunderstorms, and you don’t want to be above timberline during a thunderstorm.
At the hut, we dropped our packbacks, then scampered (I’m lying but that’s a cool verb that I wish applied here) up Mount Washington to enjoy the view and practice not being judgmental about the people who rode the cog railway up.
We, after all, had earned our view. We hiked, and I hate that about myself, that I felt just a little superior. The last time I was at Mount Washington, — where they’ve recorded some of the wildest weather imaginable – I, too, rode the cog rail up, and enjoyed a brief exchange with a hiker who felt he needed to comment on people like me. (I was heading for knee surgery and couldn’t have hiked it, but probably didn’t need to be a snot-ball to some kid who was proud of himself for hiking.) He said how pleasant it must have been to ride up (it wasn’t), I asked him if his mommy had bought him his fancy North Face parka.
I’m a turd like that.
But not this time, pal. I walked.
We in the all-girl posse are athletes, after a fashion. One runs marathons (that would not be me, though I’d be happy to drive one should the opportunity present itself), and one has a freakish ability to skip from rock to rock (not me either, for reasons we’ll soon discover) and one was an Athlete In Her Day (bingo) and Thinks She Still Is.
There is an art to hiking a rocky trail – and that is a necessary art when hiking in rocky old New Hampshire. You get into a zone, of sorts — or I do — that is downright meditative. A good hiker will focus on the next step, with an eye on the next few so as to plan her trip in the short-term. On a busy trail, keeping one eye ahead is necessary to avoid avoid running into other hikers. That may sound weird, but I have gotten so focused on the next step that I’ve nearly plowed into someone coming the opposite way on the trail.
Staying on top of things — leaping from rock to rock — feels like it must feel for a gymnast to stick her landing. You can balance on the tiniest of points if you’re paying attention.
But coming down from Washington, I didn’t pay attention for the briefest of moments, and before I knew it, I did a face plant onto a rock I meant to dance over.
I remember grabbing…something… and that must have been a rock because there were no trees — and swinging toward the earth. At least, that’s what it felt like. I’m told my head bounced when I hit the rock. I don’t remember that. I remember hitting the rock and being really, really angry about that, as falling was not in my plans.
I did not lose consciousness, didn’t hurt as much as you might imagine, and immediately swung around to sit up and spit blood into my hand. I checked my teeth and nothing was loose. A small goose egg popped up on my head, and my lip started to swell. I’d scrapped my arm and shoulder but — again, amazingly — there was no concussion. Mostly, I look like I’ve come in for a landing on my left side, starting with my lip, glancing off the side of my head, and then coming to a stop on my elbow and shoulder.
Everyone was suitably concerned, but I was mostly just mad.
Doing a face plant on a rock gives one perspective. We have hiked for eight years on some fairly difficult terrain and our overriding health concerns seem to center around weird bites (we’re not always sure they’re bugs), sore muscles, and digestive challenges – pretty much what you would expect on a venture like this.
This could have been much worse. When I eased onto my bunk that night, it hit me how lousy this might have turned out, and I was reminded that for a while there, my family motto was “It Could Have Been Worse” (and when I once asked Mr. DJ what the motto would be if things actually were as bad as they could be, and he said we would then change the motto to “It Could Have Been Worse, Sooner.”)
The next day, in the interest of reality, we did a quick hike up Mount Monroe (that’s where the photo above was taken), then hiked (climbed, slid on our butts, pretending we were at a nearby attraction, The Flume) back down to the car. We took the leisurely way home, got back to the Hartford parking lot where we’d met up on Saturday, and then everyone unloaded stinky gear into respective cars.
For a moment there, we were all up on the same highway heading to our homes, and I felt, as I always do, sad that the trip is over again. I joke that most of our hiking stories end with “we cheated death and then we had the best nap, ever.” And now we have more stories.
Ah, well. We’re talking about taking a fall hike. I’m not sure I can wait another year to head back out again. Besides, I’m fairly sure the swelling will go down by then. I’ll be good to go.