Ok, maybe the title is a little melodramatic. I most likely would have survived the mile and a half hike over the rocky trail. My life certainly wasn’t in jeopardy on the long drive down the mountain. I’m not so sure my leg would have ever been the same, though, if I did not always carry a roll of duct tape.
It has taken me a little while to write this post. I needed the shock of it all to wear off, and I needed to lose the fog of the pain meds. I actually tried writing it all down earlier this week. It came out as one really long sentence that was so unintelligible, I couldn’t even decipher it right after I wrote it out. Hopefully, after waiting a bit, the story will now roll out for you the same way it has been rolling around in my mind.
Thanksgiving was Squishy’s birthday this year, he turned the big 0-4. Even though we had his donuts party the weekend before there was still a party mood to the day. Too much of a party mood for him. We had spent the morning rushing and cooking, then rushed over to Poppa’s house for the big feast. My dads house was packed with people and smells and noise. It was no wonder that Squishy fled to the comfort of the mud outside.
If you read our blog regularly, you will know that a little (okay a lot) of mud doesn’t bother us. Even when said mud is covering Squishy’s cute Birthday outfit. The fact that his boots were discarded the moment he escaped to the digging area at Poppa’s was almost expected. That is just who he is, and luckily MOST of my family gets it. I say most because holidays at my dad’s means that extended family will come by. People who do not have an everyday knowledge of our life. People who might not understand that keeping shoes on this kid is not something I put a lot of effort into.
The perfect storm, that I knew was coming, exploded. We carried a screaming Squishy out to the car before he got to taste the birthday ice cream he had made with his Big Uncle Z.
The perfect storm, that I knew was coming, exploded. We carried a screaming Squishy out to the car before he got to taste the birthday ice cream he had made with his Big Uncle Z. Que mom guilt… In my mind I know that it is useless, but hind sight is one of those pesky reminders that I wasn’t being present. I wasn’t paying attention to his ques. I was, god forbid, enjoying the yummy food and adult conversation swirling around me. (And no this is not when I used the duct tape, though it did cross my mind.)
I had already planned to #OptOutside on Black Friday. We had invited some of our adventure friends and were going to get away to explore. Squishy was excited to share one of his favorite short trails, and I was excited to put Thanksgiving behind us. I chose Indian Pools because it is short and easy enough for the super little hikers going with us. It also has enough interactive elements for the older kids and beautiful views for the adults.
It was going to be the perfect day. (Que ominous music) I checked the weather, triple checked my supplies, checked the roads, I even checked the Sierra Sky Cam. Snow was not due until the following day,temperatures were well above freezing, and it was going to be sunny all day. Of course I plan for worsening conditions. I have my little guy to think about, and our friends as well. I pack extra socks for Squishy, layer him from thermals and a t-shirt to polar jacket. He has his waterproof high top trail boots on, and an extra pair in the car. It was a good thing too, because we found snow!
There was no snow anywhere else on the mountain, except our little trail. The kids could not have been more excited. Some of them had never seen snow. Granted, it wasn’t a lot. It was barely a dusting on the ground, and I am pretty sure it was blow over from the man-made snow at China Peak Ski Resort. It was enough to make snow angels, though, and it felt like we were walking through a Christmas wonderland.
Indian Pools is an out and back trail. We spent the morning meandering down the path, stopping every few feet to let the kids explore, climb, and just be wild. They were all mystified by the ice covering the creek. Why was it covering some spots and not others, how was the water still flowing, how thick was ice, how thick did it have to be to ice skate on it? Squishy kept testing the ice with his walking stick, to see if it was the eight inches I told him that it needed to be for ice skating. The fact that we didn’t have ice skates wouldn’t have deterred him if he found those eight inches. I love their inquisitive minds, but my mom brain kept screaming for them to get away from the danger. The kids were actually much more cautious than I would have been at their age and I have to give them credit for their awareness of the situation.
It was the perfect day, until it wasn’t. When we got to the end of the 1.7 mile trail we played in the snow, had a snack, did a bit of bouldering, and just enjoyed each other’s company. As the day wore on the kids started giving us the “time to go” signs. We packed up and headed down the mountain.
This is the moment forever etched in my mind. We had gone about a hundred yards away from the end of the trail when I realized that Squishy had forgotten some things. A couple of toys, his fishing net and his walking stick (which would end up being my lifesaver , is that irony?) were left back where we had stopped. I ask Squish if he wanted to go back with me, but he wanted to stay with his friends. So I hustled back up the trail alone, hurrying so Squish wouldn’t start to get worried or upset, while the rest of the group continued on back to the cars.
I mentioned how prepared I was. I should clarify, I was prepared for anything as far as Squishy was concerned. He was wearing his sturdy hiking boots, I was wearing my light sneakers with virtually no grip at all. So, as I am running over the granite boulders and my foot lands on a patch of ice, there was really only one thing that could have happen. I slipped over the edge of the boulder and the fell the short three feet to the ground. That is where my foot connected with a rock the size of a small pumpkin. I heard the snap, I saw how limp my foot was, and I knew I was in big BIG trouble.
I am sure I was in shock. I felt no pain, just the surreal panic of how to get to Squishy and back to the car. I propped my ankle up on my other leg, so it wouldn’t be jostled or move out-of-place again. I knew that they would send someone back if they didn’t see me soon. I took off my pack and started yelling as loud as I could. Just when I finally remembered to use my whistle I heard the troop coming over the rise. The girls freaked out, of course, which triggered a freak out in Squish, but we were able to quickly regroup.
Miss Jamie went back down the trail blowing her whistle. Luckily, there were plenty of other hikers out that day. She was able to flag down a couple of guys to help. Meanwhile Daniel and Dom helped me to splint my ankle with a couple of sticks and the Duct Tape from my pack. I was literally held together with Duct Tape. I was able to hobble up onto the cursed walking stick that I had run back to get.
All I could seem to focus on in those first few moments was one of my dad’s bad jokes “Just Duct Tape an aspirin to it and you’ll be fine” whenever anyone gets hurt. But I wasn’t going to be fine, and I still had a mile and a half of trail to maneuver through. Two other hikers came to my rescue, the ones Miss Jamie flagged down. Between them, Daniel and Dom I was hoisted down the trail. I felt like a sack of potatoes, a very heavy sack (I am not a delicate flower). I felt like dead weight, and I remember apologizing for being to heavy for them. I hated being helpless and dependent, but I was not going to make it down the mountain with out them.
I completely regret that I was so busy thanking and apologizing to my rescuers that I forgot to ask them their names. So if you happen to know two adorable 20 something’s that live in LA, but are originally from London, and who spent their holiday near Shaver Lake…Give them a ginormous hug from me!
They alternated between the basket hold, the fireman carry, me sliding on my butt, or hopping with Squishy’s walking stick. The trail seemed so much easier when we had headed up it that morning. Amazingly it only took an hour and a half to get back to the cars, which was less time than it usually takes us. Even more amazing my splint was still intact and we had managed to keep all my weight off of it the whole trip down. I was bundled in my car, my leg packed down with snow and driven down the mountain to the Emergency Room. That is where they told me that I was broken.
It is a common injury. In fact it seems like everyone I have talked to lately has had a similar ankle injury. Being out on the trail makes any injury scarier, though. You are stuck, relying on the kindness of your fellow hikers. You are hoping that you prepared enough, and that you have everything you need in that small cube strapped to your back. I am so thankful for the kindness of my fellow hikers and that I remembered to pack my Duct Tape.