For instance, when I was looking to get back to the campsite after that anarchic music festival in Central America, and a friend said we could hitch a ride with one of the truckers breaking down the stages, but then it turned out his flatbed trailer was so full of equipment and dozens of other festival-goers the only option was to sit on the roof of the truck’s cab as it whizzed through the rainforest at 3 a.m….I COULD have said no. I could’ve stayed sitting once the truck started lunging down the pitted dirt trail instead of electing to stand and drunkenly grab at bits of rainforest….but no.
Despite tending to be physically reckless, I’ve really only injured myself twice.
The first was when I was six or so and broke my arm while ice skating. The most memorable part of this experience was when I was allowed to drink a Coca-Cola as the adults were running around trying to figure out how to get me to a hospital. My parents weren’t into giving us sugar as kids, and this was a big deal at the time.
The second involved me chopping my wrist open with a machete. This was ALSO when I was in Central America, specifically at a remote farm in the coastal mountains. I wasn’t TRYING to chop open my wrist; it was just very close to the coconut I was trying to cleave open for its sweet, sweet juices.
Instead of sweet, sweet juices, I got a lot of blood. It took me about a day to get to a hospital, as we were in the middle of nowhere, but the doctors were able to stich me up. Unfortunately, the sutures were all torn out a couple hours later while I was being mugged on a vacant soccer field.
It could’ve been a lot worse, since I kept trying to punch all the guys mugging me, one of whom was brandishing some kind of shank, but I lived.
That was the last time I was really injured. Until last month.
I was running the Joppenbergh trail in Rosendale, something I pledged to do every morning in preparation for backpacking New Hampshire’s White Mountains in the spring.
I have a particular way of walking and running, born from sneaking around my parents’ house as a teenager. My father has ears like a bat, so whenever I walked about the house after 10 p.m., I would carefully place the backmost outer point of my foot on the floor first, then roll the outer edge of my foot down, then the rest.
It makes you silent. However, if you incorporate it into your everyday life, it occasionally screws you.
I had just silently reached the peak of Joppenbergh when it happened. The backmost outer point of my foot hit the trail, but on uneven turf, so my ankle bent inward, and my full weight came down while my foot was at a 90-degree angle to the ground.
There was a violent pop, and I fell hard enough to bounce.
I howled. It was a howl of pain; it was a howl of distress; it was a howl of anger, because I knew I was injured, and nothing is worse for an avid hiker than an ankle injury.
I kept it up for several minutes, cursing the trail and the sky and the God that let this happen to me. I slammed my fist into the ground, hurt it, and then started howling about that.
Towards the end of this thundering anguish, I realized my yawps were echoing all over Rosendale from my point on Joppenbergh’s acme. This made me pull myself together, since I didn’t want to add embarrassment to the experience by having a throng of police rush up the trail in search of someone being slowly stabbed to death.
Of course, this still left me with the problem of getting down the mountain. I wrenched myself upright by grabbing a tree, then gingerly placed my throbbing foot on the path. There were no further pops, so I figured it wasn’t broken.
I limped down the path, crawling a couple times when the grade was steep, all the time preparing what to say when the throng of police arrived (“Screaming? Up here?”).
I got down, but now, a month later, my ankle still kind of hurts. I can walk with no discomfort, but running is still out of the question, and I haven’t hiked since.
I feel this is my comeuppance from the universe for keeping me uninjured for so long despite my devil-may-care attitude. It wasn’t drunkenly surfing the cab of a truck through the rainforest that did me in. It wasn’t trying to fight a Central American street gang. No. It was hiking, my most prized and common pastime.
I hope my ankle gets better by the warm months. If not, I’m going back to Central America. It’s safer there.