“August 23. Rose and crimson sunset, and soon after the stars appeared the moon rose in most impressive majesty over the top of Mount Dana. I sauntered up the meadow in the white light. The jet-black tree shadows were so wonderfully distinct and substantial looking, I often stepped high in crossing them, taking them for black charred logs.
August 24. Another charming day, warm and calm soon after sunrise, clouds... faint, silky cirrus wisps, scarcely visible. Slight frost, Indian summerish, the mountains growing softer in outline and dreamy looking, their rough angles melted off, apparently. Sky at evening with fine, dark, subdued purple, almost like the evening purple of the San Joaquin plains in settled weather. The moon is now gazing over the summit of Dana. Glorious exhilarating air.
August 25. Cool as usual in the morning, quickly changing to the ordinary serene generous warmth and brightness. Toward evening the west wind was cool and sent us to the campfire. Of all Nature’s flowery carpeted mountain halls none can be finer than this glacier meadow. Bees and butterflies seem as abundant as ever. The birds are still here, showing no sign of leaving for winter quarters though the frost must bring them to mind. For my part I should like to stay here all winter or all my life or even all eternity.”
-- John Muir (1869 journals), Mountaineering Essays, Richard M. Fleck, Ed. (Gibbs M. Smith, Inc., 1984)
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The human body is a truly amazing thing, as anyone who has spent time studying it or reflecting on it knows. And we all have the experience of living inside one!
Our bodies have the ability to keep growing and regenerating cells throughout our lifespan. When we injure ourselves, an extraordinary healing process takes place.
Some injuries heal quickly and completely, and recovery from others can be frustratingly slow. For physically active people a serious injury can be a challenging experience indeed, requiring huge doses of patience.
And of course some injuries result in permanent damage and reduced mobility, which can test anyone’s morale. The relative fragility and all-too-limited lifespan of the human body (and we who occupy it) help define the human condition.
I’ve been very fortunate to have sustained relatively few injuries in my life (and never a “catastrophic” one), especially considering all the hiking I’ve done.
As some of you know, hiking has been an integral part of my life for many years. I’ve been leading hikes full-time for 38 years, and have been out on the trails an average of 3-4 times a week during that time (I also hiked incessantly in the 9 years before I became a guide). On our website it says I’ve hiked 75,000+ miles, which is actually a wild guess. The numbers aren’t important anyway.
The main injuries I’ve had were a stress fracture in my hip years ago, along with a couple of pulled muscles and several ankle sprains, which used to happen every 5 years or so. Then I started wearing stretchable fabric ankle braces while hiking, and thankfully they’ve (knock on wood) worked like a charm for years.
I’ve addressed the subject of injuries here every few years or so, in part because I’m aware that some of you who hike with us or who are otherwise reading this have had to deal with the (sometimes serious) consequences of injuries.
The reason I chose this particular week to bring up the subject is because -- as those of you who were signed up for hikes the past couple of weeks already know --- I managed to injury myself while hiking by myself on a hot day in late July.
I didn’t fall, but started to feel pain in one hip and leg while climbing a small mountain, so turned back and shorted the hike. The next day I tried a short easy hike and the pain worsened. The following week while walking on concrete I suddenly couldn’t put weight on my “bad” leg at all, obviously a bad sign.
I had an appointment with an orthopedic doctor for 8/8 and expected to get a diagnosis then. That morning the pain intensified and I couldn’t walk at all. I ended up at the emergency room of Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern.
They found a fracture in my hip and the next day I had surgery – they put a metal plate with pins in my hip, a one-hour operation. 15 hours later, to my surprise, I was up and walking (carefully, with a walker!), and I returned home on 8/11.
The prognosis is excellent and since I’m healthy and in great shape, the healing will hopefully come relatively quickly. Estimated recovery time is 4-6 weeks.
The bad news, of course, is that I’m not going to be able to hike for the next few weeks. Which means that, with great regrets, I’ll have to cancel our next few trips.
If all goes well I’m hoping to return to the trails by mid-to-late September, although time will tell. I’m not going to try to rush the healing process, which would be foolish indeed. I’ll keep you posted as to when our trips will resume.
I’m especially disappointed that I won’t be able to lead our end-of-August Labor Day weekend trip, which I’d been looking forward to, as always. I’m wondering if there’s any possibility of rescheduling that trip for sometime later in the fall.
Life does seem to have a way of throwing unexpected challenges in our path every now and then. Hopefully you’ve been spared such challenges for the most part, but some of you definitely haven’t… and none of us is immune from unforeseen events including accidents and injuries.
Thanks for your patience and understanding. If you’ve paid for trips that you won’t be able to take, you could get a refund, of course. However, trip fees help pay my bills, and I only get by with a small margin, so I’d be extremely grateful if you could take credits for any missed trips and reschedule later on. Many thanks.
By the way, since I’ll be mostly house-bound for the next week or two (doing my walking with a walker indoors), I should be reachable by phone at (845)357-3380 most daytimes and evenings. Feel free to call if you’d like to say hello!
-- Charlie Cook