Sunday, November 8, 2015

Actually, Really Slippery Stuff (long post about a hike gone wrong)

So the hike.

It started out in glorious fashion. The rain misting and then falling heavily til big glops fell from our hoods and hat brims, the trail coursing with run off between the massive sopping trees alternately covered in lichen and moss and fungi or stripped clear and beaten smooth with rain water. It was lovely. I was hopeful, energized, curious, and motivated to make a new summit.

We hit the first section of talus and found ourselves exposed to the wicked winds of the higher elevations. The hubby had been using an umbrella to shield Baby Bananaface from the rain but it now half-flipped out and became useless. Fearing the upcoming exposure and wind further up the trail, the hubster said he didn't think we could go on. I really wanted to. I hadn't summited a new peak in years and he had told me I could this. We decided to split up.

***Yes. I know, bad idea. We were very much aware of this after the fact, with the hubster regretting his decision to give me his watch and set me loose almost immediately as he hiked down and back to the car***

The first part of my solo hike went pretty well. The trail through the next talus slopes were hard to discern but I found my course and kept a decent pace. I enjoyed the wet, rocky section with orange tinted sand and rock, streams of water flowing over my yellow stone road. I felt good, I felt like I was going to make the summit and achieve something. It would be an analogy for my life, some sort of example I could live by as I practiced setting boundaries and taking care of myself.  I rearranged my hood under my waterproof hat borrowed from the hubs and cinched the strap tight to my jawbone to combat the wind and went forth into the harsher elements, accepting the challenge.

Along the way I met other hikers. One nice lady told me there would be a little ice and snow near the top, I thanked her for the heads up. Another told me to make sure I shut the door on the lookout tower and do not open the shutters. I reassured him that I would make sure it was shut and took comfort in the fact that he seemed to think I could make it.

It wasn't long before I encountered snow and thought of the woman's words-I must be getting close to the top! Little did I know that first small patches of snow and ice would be quickly replaced by large swathes of snow and a pathway of wet, icy snow and then packed icy snow each speckled with sharp rocks and large boulders. I hate hiking on snow period but without gloves, sticks, or microspikes? I should've turned back. I should've turned back so many times....

Instead, I kept going. I was stubborn. I wanted it. The hubs said I could make it. He said, "turn back at 1:00 pm," so I should make it by then. The man told me to shut the tower door, the women told me of the snow, I should be able to do this. I scrambled forward.

After half an hour of climbing over rocks, snow, boulders, and ice, with my bare hands in my pockets as often as I could balance or scramble without them, my once-waterproof jacket sopping and cold, the wind blowing up the side of the mountain in a fierce fashion I had never witnessed before, I found myself on a snowy trail, reentering the forest but still exposed to the wind. A bright orange trail sign bore a brown and white sticker of a watch tower and an arrow, another sticker with a large letter "P" for parking with an arrow pointing back down the mountain. It was 1:30 pm.

I hadn't made it. I couldn't make it. My hands were a bright shade of pink, my body so cold the wind hit me like someone had thrown razor blades into the gusts. I knew that the summit must be close but I couldn't go on. I fumbled with my pack, even colder with it off my back, grabbed two of the snack bars and hurriedly replaced my pack. I ate one of the chilled bars as quickly as I could, pocketed the other. I would eat it when I hit the spot I had split up with the hubs I decided, a benchmark to motivate me.

Getting back down the mountain was horrible. I was disappointed that I hadn't summited, embarrassed that I hadn't handled the situation with more wisdom I didn't have, and angry at my husband for misleading me about the trail. I could barely contain the emotional strain but descending tore me apart. Going down in a state of hypothermia wasn't just cold, it hurt. Not to mention the missteps and falls resulting from my diminished mental and physical state. I slipped on snow and caught myself as I fell down boulders, I slipped on a boulder farther down and found myself in a stream of water, soaking through my jacket, pants, and boots; I trudged, slid, and fell down the mountain without fanfare, I was beaten down in so many ways I didn't see faces when people passed, only boots.

***Another stupid moment, I didn't ask for help, I think I was too ashamed and uncertain of what anyone could do for me, but gloves certainly would've helped. Thankfully I'm not suffering any long term injuries as far as I can tell****

My left knee began bothering me pretty quickly once I began my descent. After a particularly unhappy fall I thumped my right elbow pretty hard and gave myself a goose egg on my right hand, that was when the "something extra" kicked in and the pain started to fade.

The pain faded but my legs were quivering and dragging. I fell again and upon standing found a triangle shaped rock near where I had fallen. I grabbed it. I stood it up on it's bottom like a Christmas tree. Then I took of my pack, shoved it in a pocket, and took it. I never do that. I know there are rules for collecting things but I did not familiarize myself with them, I never took anything. Until now. It was my rock and I did not feel it's weight at all. I slogged on.

When I reached the first talus slope where I had separated from the hubster and baby I promptly ate my second snack. By this time my pockets were so wet from the rain sliding from my sleeves it was difficult to get my hands warm though I had a wool cap in my left pocket that helped a bit. I began to worry about my baby, thinking about how he hadn't eaten and I abandoned the chant of "step lift up" (or something like that, I cannot recall the original version) reminding me to lift my feet so I didn't become entangled in rocks or trip for a single word, his name.

By the time I reached the last portion of the trail I was canted forward and dragging my wobbly legs down the trail as fast as I could, splashing through any mud or water without caring how much got into my boots or on my legs as I was already soaked through and toting standing water in my boots.

When I made it to the car the hubs was jovial, obviously not comprehending my troubled state. I told him I just wanted to nurse, and I peeled off my pack and jacket and sopping shirts. Baby was hungry and even though my pants wet his pants and socks, he didn't care. The hubs noticed my vacant stare and slack face, he felt my pants and boots and realized how wet I was. He asked if I wanted my boots and socks off and the bottom portion of my pants and I said yes.

I ended up in my wet, now shorts-sized hiking pants and a button up hiking shirt I had left in the care to change into. My bra had been so wet I couldn't keep it on and I didn't care who in the parking lot saw what. A few minutes later we had driven down the road and the hubs looked over at me. My arms were crossed, my shoulders slumped, my legs smashed together and my knees drawn up in as attempt at a fetal position. I still stared, I didn't talk much. He touched my leg and my arm and they were cold. He pulled over and cranked the heater, unbuckling both our seat belts as he gathered his dry waterproof shell, fleece, and my fleece. I put on his fleece, he wrapped mine around my legs, and laid the shell over the top of my lap.

I was still cold for quite some time, nearly the entire drive from the trail head to Lake Stevens, my toes burning from the car's heater before my core felt warm again.

But eventually I warmed enough to started talking. My voice wavered and tears came to my eyes as I described the hike. I had felt so helpless. And then I remembered the anger at my husband. Why were we even on this trail? You couldn't have made it with the baby at all! The conditions... what I was wearing, we weren't prepared. You sent me... Why? I can't believe it was a mistake. How could you do that? I was mad and heartbroken.

There had been an incident before when the hubs picked a hike for us to go on as a couple. I was excited and ready to try a new trail but it didn't take long to realize it was beyond my skill level. I felt ashamed, betrayed, heartbroken... and this made me feel all those things again but it was so much worse being out there by myself. It felt like a major break in the trust between us. Like more and more we are less partners and more roommates doing our own thing. I miss understanding and accommodation, caring and comfort, finding something that will please both of us and building happy memories instead of traumatic ones. It's bad enough being depressed, but then these feelings? Jeesh.

So... I know this is long but I hope it gives a taste of what I went through and what it meant to me. That hike was supposed to be a great achievement, something to encourage in me in working toward a healthier, happier me, but instead it turned into a horrible analogy of all the worse parts of me; putting my well being last, pushing myself too far, straining to achieve unrealistic expectations, not being kind to myself. It is embarrassing but too important not to share.

Failure happens.

***The hubs told me later that he immediately realized how woefully unprepared we were after our separation. He did not have a pack, any water, nothing and he realized that we did not have proper layers of clothes and he also realized how bad the weather could be further up after observing the weather down below. Initially, when I had approached the car he had asked if I had summited and said he wasn't sure if he should be proud or concerned. Awkward!****


  1. Sigh.
    All a learning experience. And some day you/I will learn in a way which ISN'T painfull. Just the same, no you didn't summit (this time) but you didn't do major damage to yourself (quite possible) and you made it back safely.
    You are stronger (and better) than you think. Again.

  2. Hi Hannah,

    I echo Elephant's Child's comment. It is amazing what we learn from our experiences. Sending you a hug and much love.

  3. Into the wild... you may not have reached the summit this time, but boy, can you write a gripping story! Plus you got to take the summit home with you. I'm sure it will serve as some kind of symbol soon. And I really hope you make it into a positive symbol. Count yourself a little lucky that your H decided to go back with baby, and he tried to warm you up. and you mothercreature, you, immediately presenting the boob. Plus venting your anger and your H no backing out. You two are my heroes.

  4. PS I DO see all the anguish and doubts about your marriage etc. and am not brushing it off the table. Just wish you could see yourself a little thru my eyes...
    My only accomplishment today was to have my hair cut... So there!

  5. A learning experience, as EC and others have said. I see more positive than negative. Hugs to you!

  6. Wow, a HUGE learning experience. And a great story to tell.

  7. I find it amazing that you have taken this terrible and grueling experience and made it into something positive. It is so hard for the depressive brain to get out of that negativity loop and yet you did just that. xo


Thank you for reading and commenting!

Be well, HBF