Well, we hiked

This weekend, the all-girl posse disappeared into New Hampshire for our annual trek into the heart of darkness.

On this trip, we hiked up the Ammonoosuc Ravine (right next to a series of beautiful waterfalls) to Lakes of the Clouds hut, a rustic part of the Appalachian Trail.

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.


31 responses to “Well, we hiked

  1. Love the humanity!!!

  2. Glad you made it back in one piece.
    The Flume looks incredible.

  3. Sounds like a grand trip. I’m happy for all y’all.

    • It was fabulous. And Maine? Did you enjoy it?

      • Much so. And the two young men from my scout troop that hiked the 100-mile Wilderness and stayed with us for a couple days for the ride back had a great time as well.

        All in all, very good trip.

        • I have never hiked that stretch of the AT, though I kind of think I want to. Something about moving forward on a trail like that intrigues me, especially when there’s nowhere to step off and get a shower, buy more grub, etc. Good on those young men.

          • I want to. And will once my balance is strong enough. It is a hard section. Of course, there is one part at a lake, where you can ring the bell and a boat will come for you and take you to dinner at a hostel across the lake.

            They also met some very interesting characters.

            • I had not heard about that boat. Kewlness! Lemme know when you do it. I’ll go first and clear the way of snipes.

            • Carol the Long Winded

              I had a professor who had a stroke. To get over it, he hiked the John Muir trail…by himself. Bert Kaplan, RIP and you were a badass.

              • Bad ass, indeed. Fifteen years ago, I hiked 300-plus miles of the AT through MA and VT and stopping in NH. Along the way, I met a college student whose trail name was Cougar. He’d been horsing around in his dorm room one night, had a stroke, and took off on the trail to get over it. He dragged one foot behind him and kept having to buy new hiking boots because he destroyed the one he was dragging. I watched him come into a shelter once and someone asked what happened to him (thinking he’d been injured on the trail) and he replied, “Got shot.” And that was it. No pity. No tears. Just a bad ass kid. I’ve thought of him countless times since. He made it to Mt. Katahdin (the northern-point of the 2,100-mile trail). I know because he sent me a photo of him, naked, on the summit. He sent others that same photo, too. Nothing weird there, but I was so proud of him. I even met his parents. I hope he’s enjoying a fabulous life because he was a fabulous young man.

  4. It sounds beautiful and fun, except for the falling part. Will you get yourself checked out by a doc? I’m concerned about your “head bouncing off a rock”. That could do some internal damage. I can’t help it. I’m working on becoming a nurse and those thoughts come up.

    • As they did for Mr. DJ. Not a problem. My shoulder was hurt worse, but I rolled over at night (just too tired to do anything about it, once I got home) and it popped and all’s well. I am watching the patient for signs of disorientation, irritability, etc. — though that might be hard to see in her normal range of behaviors. Thanks, friend.

      • Can you tell me your name?
        Do you know where you are?
        Do you know today’s date? Or, at least the month or day of week?

        If you were my patient, I’d have to ask you those questions about every 4 hours. Since you’re not my patient, I’ll pester you, as usual, with much tougher questions.

        I hope you are ok, DJ. Mwah!

        I’ll get back to you with better questions.

  5. Jac and I are sharing the same thoughts. Get a little check-up. and I’m so glad you’re back in relatively good shape.

    You really need to write another book. Easy for me to say but when I read your columns and more so a long post I really want more. “The further adventures of that little Missouri girl”

    • Oddly, no one else seems to be asking for that. Maybe I should just send a handmade copy to you?

      Nah, I kid. That’s very kind of you. I’d do that if I could quite farting around on this damn blog.

      • “…no one else seems to be asking for that. ”

        Bullshit. We have too.

        • Language! I was being self-deprecating. Depracating. Whatever. Quick! Someone get me SpeelChek!

          • Right the first time.

            It would be a tremendous sacrifice for us, but I think I speak for all of us when I say that we would cut you a little slack on this blog if you promise to use that spare time to write another book.

            • That is just the excuse I’m using this week. Next week, it’ll be corns on my feet or something. When I feel I have something to say in a book, I’ll say it.

              Right now I’m reading Daniel Woodrell, the “Winter’s Bone” author, and feeling terribly inadequate.

  6. Mario Saccoccio

    I must admit that when I first saw the photo I thought that “something” had flared-up on your lip, perhaps a cold sore.
    Kinda glad it was only a bruise.
    Was I the only one who thought that?

    • Cynical Susan

      I figured she’d had a fight about bunk-beds and lost when the other two piled on…

      • I am pretty angry that you think two people could overtake me in a fight over bunk-beds.

        Actually, I had a “are you alright, dear?” question in a store over my lip. I think it looks like herpes, or like someone slugged me. The nice lady who came up to me at the store on Tuesday thought I’d been hit. I appreciated her concern.

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