But on my Raven Rocks hike in Kumbrabow State Forest a week ago, I encountered a different type of fall. Coming down a steep section that was sloped to the left, the trail builders had laid down some logs - about 3 inches in diameter - in a wet spot. Like the trail, they sloped to the left and they turned out to be very slippery. I stepped on one as I said something to one of my brothers. So quickly I barely realized what was happening, my feet shot out to the left as if I had stepped on ice, and I landed on my right arm. My right arm exactly landed - about two inches down from my elbow - on one of the slippery logs. Although I didn't hear a "snap," I hit with such force and the pain was so great - driven all the way up into my quirky right shoulder - that I was sure I had broken something. My brothers offered to take my pack as I sat in the trail. I told them that I thought my arm was broken and to just hold on. After a while, I tried moving my fingers, twisting my arm, and grasping a hiking pole. I told them that I was OK, and stood up. We started walking again. Within 10 minutes, my forearm was swollen out about an inch and a half.
Back at camp, I iced the area of impact and carried on. The pain has gradually gotten worse during the week but seems to have peaked. Today, it is no worse and no better than it was yesterday. The bruise is spectacular - the photo below does not do it justice. It goes from my elbow to halfway up my palm, and the pain extends up about 3/4 of the way along my forearm. The doctor I saw yesterday told me it was not broken, but that I had crush damage to muscles and possibly tendons, lots of bleeding, and bone bruising, which causes bleeding on the bone surface and even inside the marrow. He said to rest my arm - no working out - and try to keep it elevated above the level of my heart so that the lymphatic system would transport the blood away and reduce the swelling some. Keeping your arm elevated while working - especially one's right arm - is not an easy matter, but I am trying.
|My "Fall Colors"|
Depending on how long the pain lasts, this could end my hiking for a while. I don't want the exercise of using a trekking pole while it hurts this much, and one article that I read said that the pain from this type of blunt force injury can last for months. We'll see - I still have some plans!
I think that falls are the number one cause of death and injury in the back country. I've never taken a fall while hiking before, at least not a full fledged fall. I did slip and bang my hip really hard a year or so ago on an urban hike on slick rocks, and that hurt for a good week. But it didn't hurt nearly as much as this has. I have a new respect for falls now. I have strong legs, great balance, and very quick reactions, and none of those helped me a bit this time. Even my trekking poles were useless this time. They must not have been planted on soil.
It is an experience that I hope not to repeat anytime soon. But all in all, I was lucky. You are talking 180 pounds of force dropping essentially from a distance of about 4.5 feet and all that force landing on about two square inches of my arm. I could have snapped the radius like a twig, but didn't. So I will take it easy and deal with the pain for a while.