And leave us nothing but grief and pain, For promised joy!" ~ Robert Burns
Yesterday was....well...."the best of times,...the worst of times", to quote Charles Dickens.
On Friday, it had dawned on me that we had not done any hiking since our trip to Hot Springs, NC, last October and I have been itching to hit the trails. While I can't afford a weekend jaunt to North Carolina (or even to North Georgia, for that matter) there is a great place to hike within about 45 minutes from where I live south of Atlanta.
The Pine Mountain Trail, located within FDR State Park in Pine Mountain, Georgia, is 20 plus miles of well-maintained hiking trails with some great loop trails that a person can hike for a few hours. Our plans are to eventually hike all the PMT and its loops. So, on Friday, the urge to hike - anywhere, anyplace - got to me and off to WallyWorld Ed and I went to buy items for our picnic lunch, Cliff bars, bugspray and sunscreen. The plan was in motion and our daughter, Gabe, and her two of the Fab 5, Olivia and Carson, accepted our invitation to go with us. Yippee....Hiking here we come!
Saturday dawned bright, beautiful and HOT! We loaded the car, swung by and got the "kids" and off we went. I was STOKED! Our hiking plans were to start out on the Wolfden Loop of the PMT, a route that would take us by some small waterfalls, beaver dams, and yes, a wolfden location from long ago when there were actual wolves in Georgia. We left it to be decided if we would go a couple of miles in on the trail and then backtrack for a 4 mile hike OR to do the whole loop trail for a total of 6.7 miles if we felt up to it. Either way, this trail loop is considered moderate to difficult and we all agreed that we were up for the challenge.
We got to the parking lot at the northeast end of the PMT. There were several cars already parked at the location, which has concrete picnic tables where we planned to eat our packed lunches. Just as we were leaving the parking lot area, a caravan of five cars pulled in. The trail was going to be busy, it seemed, but afterall, this was Memorial Day weekend and families were out doing family things, just like us. This group had babies, toddlers, kids, moms and dads and grandparents, too. It was nice to see others taking advantage of this little jewel of a state park in the middle of Georgia.
So off we went.
We walked and walked and walked, up hill, down hill, past the promised waterfalls, over creeks, though soggy areas and dusty, rocky stretches and through some very bad tornado damage, then up a particular long uphill section and we made it to our turning back point. We had done 1.6 miles. Now we had to decide whether to backtrack to the parking lot for a total of 3.2 miles or go the entire 6.7 miles for the whole Wolfden Loop trail. Remember that hiking in that environment is not like walking 3 or 6 miles. It can be strenuous, challenging, can get your heart rate up there. So we stopped to rest on the rock croppings at the top of that section of trail and assess how we were all feeling. We all came to the conclusion pretty quickly that we wanted to continue on and complete the entire 6.7 miles. Yay! Let's do it!!!!
Feeling good, feeling challenged, feeling in control, feeling I was up to this! I was looking at this as a victory and I marvel that I can do this. What a difference two years and a 100 pound weight loss can make! I knew I would probably have some sore muscles in the morning, but sometimes soreness is good! Yes, that's what I was thinking and feeling at the time, but there are times when our joy is complete and we are at our zenith that life has a way of handing us some reality. And that is what happened to me.......
I tripped. Yes, tripped......over a rock. And fell. Fell HARD. Fell hitting my face unto the ground, eyeglasses striking another protruding rock in front of me. Those eyeglasses probably saved me from hitting my eye or brow on that rock. Fell so hard, more to the left side, left arm trying to catch me, resulting in a huge gouge at the base of my palm. The brain's recognition that one is falling is second only to the blinding pain as contact between body and ground is made. In that instant I knew that I had done some serious damage to my mouth and I was expecting to come up spitting out teeth and bone sticking out from my left arm or wrist. I am hurt and it's not going to be pretty......yes, that what I was thinking in that split second.
Gabriel, who was actually last in line, was the first to make it to me. Then Carson, and Ed and Olivia. They helped me roll over onto my back and then sit up. I was spitting blood, but no teeth. Instead, there was a huge gash that I can feel with my tongue that runs from the corner of my mouth into the interior, where my upper tooth almost ripped through to the outside of my skin. Yucky, I know, so forgive me. Gabe got water, poured it into my mouth and I rinsed and rinsed with the cold liquid to try to get the bleeding to stop. By then the wrist and arm were hurting - hurting badly. But the good news was that I could move it, even though there was pain when I did, and I could move my fingers. Ed dug into his hip pack for antiseptic wipes and band-aides to doctor my palm. Quick-thinking Gabe retrieved some ice from one of the water bottles, wrapped into Ed's clean handkerchief and I pressed it onto the corner of my mouth, which was already swelling and showing signs of bruising. My legs felt very shaky and I was wondering if I could even make it back to the parking lot. We had probably walked an additional half mile, making it two miles back to the parking lot. But I had no choice.....it was no decision, really. We certainly couldn't continue on for another four and a half miles; the best was to turn back and hike the two miles back making it a round trip of four miles. And I would do it without eyeglasses, considering that mine had a severely bent earpiece and one of the lens had fallen out and was badly scratched.
And so, off we went for our return trip, me with shaky legs and all. It was hot, bloody hot. There were times I wondered if I would make the next hill, the next slippery creek crossing. But made it I did. By that time, the others were starving, as was I, and I managed to get just a little cold watermelon into my mouth, but not much else. We made the 45 minute drive back, dropped Gabe and the kids off at their house, and then we headed for Urgent Care.
To make a long story short, I stepped out of Urgent Care with a badly sprained arm (not broken, thank God!) and three stitches on the interior of my mouth.
Such are the ways with "best laid plans."
But do you want to know the strangest thing? Despite all the soreness and pain, I would rather have on my hiking boots and be back at Pine Mountain on the trail! The personal challenge is ON - I'm going back in the very near future to knock out that 6.7 mile Wolfden Loop! Once thrown, the best thing to do is to get back on the horse immediately and that's what I plan to do. Conquer or die, which yesterday seemed like a distinct possibility in that split second before I hit the ground. But I didn't. So, much like General MacArthur, my message to the trail is: "I will return."
|Before "The Great Fall" and I don't mean waterfall!|