Biff America column: A fall from (lack of) grace
My friends have been dropping like flies this summer.
Broken bones, deep cuts, fractured feet and concussions have been sustained and suffered by more than a few of my pals. That does not include the numerous stress fractures, planta fasciitis and various over-use injuries.
A lot of these accidents and aliments were caused by biking, hiking, climbing and other passions of mountain recreation, but some were simply the cumulative results many years of an active lifestyle.
I’ve always had a fear that if I were to injure myself my mate would treat me like a lame racehorse. Though I would have no argument being “put out to stud” my guess would be she would take more drastic measures. For that reason, and due to the abundance of my friends getting hurt, I’ve become more careful when I’m out in the wild.
Since my mate and I do much of our biking, hiking, skiing, together, if one of us were to get injured, it would affect us both. I don’t worry too much about her; she hasn’t had a head cold in 10 years and has not hit the ground on her bike or on skis since Reagan was in office.
That is until last Sunday.
Hiking is one of the safer things we do. Of course you can get a blister or twist an ankle but, for the most part, it is relatively benign. Unless of course a cliff happens to stand between where you are and where you want to go.
We were three hours into what was expected to be a six-hour jaunt when we came to a 50-foot rock face that would take a minute to down-climb or a half hour to go around. I looked at it objectively, keeping in mind my new found cautiousness, yet determined that we could get down it safely.
I went first and found it no big deal. It wasn’t very steep, with plenty of footholds. The last 10 feet were fairly vertical but there was a sneak route that was certainly doable. I made it down with not even a second thought of fear and continued on.
Because of my mate’s athleticism and durability, I have gotten out of the habit of worrying about her. I was about a 100 meters away from that small cliff band when it hit me that she wasn’t near. I turned around to see her lying on the ground just under the cliff band.
The wind was ripping so when I yelled to her, I hoped she couldn’t hear me and was not unconscious. I ran back towards her. When I say “I ran” what I mean is I lurched uphill ignoring any trail but rather bush-wacked straight up the fall-line, through rough terrain and scree. I slightly twisted my ankle but couldn’t feel any pain for the worry. I could not continue to run and yell at the same time so I simply ran.
A Photo’s Worth
By the time I reached her, I was seeing spots and she still hadn’t moved. I was afraid to touch her.
“Oh my God, Ellie, are you OK?” I asked.
“Lie here next to me,” she whispered.
I eased onto the ground next to her, fearing a goodbye or a dying confession (I also hoped she would inform me where she hid the car keys) but rather she said, “Look through the camera lens and, from this level, the arctic gentians and elephant’s heads look like beautiful trees.”
After negotiating the small cliff, Ellie had lain in the grass to get a bug’s eye view to photograph the flowers. This was probably the 50th photo she took that day.
“Damn it, Ellie, I thought you were dead! I ran uphill to see. You scared the life out of me. Why didn’t you wave or something so I knew you were OK?”
My mate loves to answer a question with a question. “How many photos have you taken today?” she asked.
As if that settled the argument, she got up and said, “Let’s go, there should be another great wildflower section next to the creek below us.”
The byproduct of a wet winter and spring is amazing mountain wildflowers. My mate is obsessed in finding the best flowers at the best spots at the perfect point in time. I find myself secretly hoping that the first frost will come early so we can just hike and bike and not pursue flora and fauna.
We continued on what was a truly amazing day and destination. Though I am a little tired of chasing flowers, I never get tired of spending time in the mountains with my mate. We approached another patch of flowers that was almost too beautiful to be real. Just to be a team player, I pulled out my phone, squatted and took a photo. When I got up I groaned a little and mentioned that I tweaked my ankle. I didn’t mention that I did it running up hill to see if she was dead.
“You should be more careful,” she said. “I don’t want you hurting yourself. Fall foliage season is right around the corner.”
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on TV-8-Summit and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.