I remember being on the forward end of the longest portage on the Thoreau route of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway with my dad. We put in at Old Roll Dam and spent a few days on approach, down the West Branch of the Penobscot.
We made camp on the Penobscot side of the Mud Pond carry, its 1.3 miles daunting my 15-year-old self. My dad and I were putting up the bear bag, tossing a line over a higher branch. The end came down the trunk almost close enough to grab, just out of reach. We were jumping up the base of the tree to see if we could snag the line, taking turns.
My dad came down with an oomph, followed almost immediately by a sturdy “God bless it!” as he started bounding around in pain, favoring his left ankle. Thankfully it was a mild strain, and we went ahead on schedule with our portage and a long run of the Allagash, up to St John.
Recently, I was riding the 25-or-so inches we’d gotten around 1:00 p.m. on Chair 5 here at Telluride. Chair 5, the Polar Queen Express. services entirely blue terrain. I’d been lapping Chair 6 all day — I had discovered Sully’s Remote — and had just decided to take the rest of the day easy. My last ride on 6 was with my friend Samuel Adams (and I’m serious that’s his name). Sam had just had a close run in on the same area of the mountain that I had ; he said he’d worried for a second that he’d broken his femur.
So I made my way semi-gingerly down the spine just below Tempter House, scraping through a few times on the southern aspect. I boosted up onto the Chair 5 plateau and had a nice chat at the top of the lift with Jay in the yellow jacket, a Guest Services Ambassador and my co-worker. I headed down Dew Drop, a run I’d noticed from the chair still looking quite fat despite having been lapped all day by out of towners who weren’t into skiing steeps off Chair 9 all day.
I picked up speed on the steepening upper flank and buttered a little 360 in the snow in front of an instructor and his padawan. Feeling quite spry, I zipped over rider’s left, to a little tree gap. I saw a nice juicy pillow and leaned back to hit it and… WHAM.
Ouch. A stump a foot high made clean contact with my heel through the base of my board. Since I was reprogrammed for powder starting with Milk Run at 9:15 this morning, my front (left) leg was all but straight, almost locked. My body flipped over the log, my leg locked to the hip its fulcrum. I gave a shout and I suspect that the riders on the chair literally right above me considered asking the liftie at the top to send Patrol.
I gave myself a check. Nothing broken. And it doesn’t feel like any soft tissue damage. Ughhh…
I ended up strapping back on and doing one more lap, to test it, and to pray that it wasn’t injured. I had Coach take a look — he confirmed my initial assessment and suggested that I stretch and ice. It felt like a bone bruise; either way, I needed to take it easy for a day or two.
This shit’s real folks. The mountain doesn’t care — it is beyond caring, above caring. It’s up to us to take care of our bodies, as well as these vehicles of experience we somehow direct. In fact, that’s your primary imperative: to protect your self from injury and death.
I love seeing the world from so many perspectives. I need to keep this thing spry.
Author’s Note: A friend of mine, Trevor Husted, recently shared his own experience with injury. Thankfully, he’s finally recovered and recently got back from Japan.