Hiking Broken

Let go or be dragged.

Zen Proverb

Readers of my blog may recall that I fractured my shoulder about six months ago. When it happened I recall feeling hopeful that I would have the entire autumn and winter to recover, then would be back on the trail by spring. Isn’t that the way it is supposed to work? We fall. We break. We heal. We get up. We are back on the trail. Life goes on after a brief hold.

Sadly after six months I still have a broken shoulder and a fair amount of pain. That is the sad reality of aging. Those “holds” are no longer brief. Healing takes awhile.

My recent trip to Sedona for a week of hiking was motivated at least in part by a desire to find out what I could do. I wanted to believe that a broken shoulder would not interfere with hiking. I use my legs to walk, not my arms, certainly not my shoulder. Of course I could hike. That’s who I am.

On the first day after most of the snow had melted I set out to circumnavigate Cathedral Rock near Sedona, a route of about eight miles. Eight miles under ordinary circumstances would be no big deal for me. I have easily averaged twenty miles a day in the past and with a pack on my back.

But this was different. The trail was still slick from the recent snowfall, and where it became steep I had to reach out and grab hand holds to keep myself from slipping. There is a reason they call it slick rock. After about three miles the pain in my shoulder became increasingly difficult to ignore. The rhythm of swinging my arms was taking its toll. I turned around and returned to the trailhead the way I had come, a total of six miles for the day, hardly a long trek.

That evening I took some Tylenol in an attempt to deal with the increased pain I was experiencing. I hoped it would be gone the next day.

The following morning I hiked a shorter route, a distance of about four miles. The pain again increased but not with the same intensity. I was relieved. I was learning that my pain level is directly proportional to how many miles I have hiked. I have a kind of yardstick. It does not measure the miles, but it measures the pain.

I took a few days off from walking and hiking after returning home. I had to do some soul searching to figure out what to do about this. I have been a hiker since I was a very young chid hiking along forest trails with my family. Who am I if not a hiker?

Most of the time I simply want to shake my fist at the pain, at the world. I will hike however many miles I wish, the length of the Rail Trail perhaps, nearby mountain trails as the snow begins to melt. Of course I can do this.

At other times I sit back in a chair, giving in all too readily to the limitations an injury has imposed. Mostly I try to think about balance, which is never static, never still.

In yoga we sometimes do a pose that involves standing with our hands at our hearts, eyes closed. We are asked to simply feel the movement that occurs at such “still” times, the constant shift of body weight, as if the world were subtly moving beneath us.

Perhaps someday my roots will extend as deeply into the earth as the bristlecone pine you see in the photo above, still standing after a few thousand years, twisted with the beauty of aging, happy to be in one place, watching the world, feeling it move.

Published by Colleen Drake

Colleen Drake (AKA Teacup) has over sixty years of hiking exerience (yes, I'm really old) and has seen some pretty big changes over those many years. Join her on the Solitude Trail & share some of these adventures while exploring with her the value of solitude in the wilderness.

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