Smackdown Along Safford Brook

I called it quits tonight after I walked a mere mile on the flats outside my door. It was a huge accomplishment.

For the past two weeks, I haven’t been able to walk that far. My absence from my usual 75 minute a day average of brisk walking or riding bikes was caused by a very nasty fall coming down the from Bigelow ridge after three days of volunteer work on the Appalachian Trail in Maine.  Guthook and I team up a couple times a year, spring and fall, volunteering for trail work on the Appalachain Trail.  He has a long section up and over Mt. Abe that connects to the AT near the Spaulding lean-to.

Guthook working up to Mt. Abram summit

The snow was still deep on that connecting section due to 3,00 feet of elevation, north side exposure, and thick conifers.

Guthook, struggling along. Yes, our feet were wet. Is it possible to get wetter ?

Me, post holing away !

Heading back to the car down the talus field atop Mt. Abe.

The last day, Sunday, brought us back to my section: the Safford Brook trail up to he AT, a short section on the itself AT, and lastly the side trail to and the Safford Notch campsite itself, where we cleared up fallen trees,a nd pruned away like madmen.

Safford Notch campsite detail

Three days of  work was finally done with only two miles to go to the car when I caught the toe of my boot on a rock or root that pitched me staggering down a descending grade until my increased speed of stumbling eventually pitched me smack down onto rocks that left me a quivering mass of hurt, with my left leg doubled up under me. Thank God that my hiking pal Guthook was right there to assist me in eventually unraveling myself from my ancient external frame pack that carried the pruners, loppers, axe and other tools of the trail corridor trade. Unfortunately, the impact of falling on those solid objects in my pack imbedded a series of grotesque blood filled tattoos, emanating from a hematoma that a doctor later told me held over a pint of blood. Guthook cut me two walking staffs that I used to brace myself as I shuffled, in pain, downhill two miles to my car, which was parked on the shore of Flagstaff Lake at the base of the Safford Brook Trail, which I maintain, along with a brief section of AT and the side trail to the Safford Notch Campsite, which is also my responsibility.
After I reached my car, I had Guthook drive it back to the Chalet, where had spent last night, as I sat as still as possible in the passenger seat. If I didn’t move at all, I was stable, but when I exited the passenger’s side and gingerly inched my way over to the driver’s seat, I was fighting passing out, but made it and promised Guthook that I’d pull over if I became faint while driving. I headed straight for the Belfast Hospital Emergency room, after downing 800 mg of ibuprofen that didn’t seem to do much for me.
Two hours later I was able to barely get myself in the door to the emergency room, where I was unable to sit until a nurse assisted me in laying down on a bed. It was a circus of the wounded and infirm in there on Sunday night, with only one doctor making the rounds. I wasn’t out of there until 4.5 hours later, after the Dr. determined I had no broken bones, however I also learned that I partially tore my left hamstring. Thankfully, there was no blood in my urine (One of the big hits was directly over my right kidney.). He gave me one muscle relaxer pil, and with a prescription for more tomorrow. I headed home, where I shuffled to bed under the very concerned eye of Auntie Mame, my faithful wife, and apparent nurse for this new round of lifestyle consequences. She measured what morphed into at least three square feet of techicolor- black and blue, yellow, green on my back, buttocks, and side.

It’s been exactly two weeks today of laying on ice packs, with no biking, and no hiking, other than brief trips to do things I must do outside the house.  I’m still hurting, likely due to bone bruising.  The blood has continued to draining back into me, with new vistas of bruises extending into my groin area and then down my leg into the back on my knee.

The real deal

I’ve been my time feeling distressed, depressed, and now impressed with a newfound resolution to ALWAYS have my trekking poles with me when I’m on trail.  I even bought myself a new pair, on the recommendation of Andrew Skurka- a set of Cascade Mountain Tech Quick Lock Trekking Poles.

I left my trekking poles them in the car, since I would be walking with either pruning shears or my chainsaw in hand. My free hand was also in the habit of throwing the slash back into the bush and off trail. I’m convinced that if I would have been using my Leki poles, I would have not fallen. The very act of descending with poles in hand forces me to be a bit more present in choosing pole and foot placement. Isn’t it true that accidents happen in the late afternoon when fatigue is at it’s peak?

A follow-up visit to my own doctor last week put my fretting to rest. He told me that I could start activity again, with pain as my limit guide. I walked a mile, then did two more with Mame in the last two days.

A very slow, but steady mile. (photo by Auntie Mame)

I’m getting better. My spirits are lifted a bit after yesterday, where I rode my riding mower, then walked behind the edging mower, and even felt decent enough to work the string trimmer in attacking the overgrown grass in the yard. Fitbit gave me 14,000 steps and some 7 miles of ambulation for my efforts.  I’m getting back.

It could have been worse.

About Tom Jamrog

I'm sixty-seven and live in the Maine woods. I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2007, the Pacific Crest Trail in 2010, Vermont's Long Trail in 2011, the Continental Divide Trail in 2013, the Camino Portugese (2016), and Newfoundland's East Coast Trail (2017) . I am outdoors every day. I offer guided backpacking trips and classes in Maine, through "Uncle Tom's Guided Adventures".
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10 Responses to Smackdown Along Safford Brook

  1. Chip Belyea says:

    Was horrified to read this post. So sorry for your injuries but relieved it wasn’t worse. Hope you continue to heal quickly. Thank you (and Guthook) for volunteering and your efforts to keep the AT open.

    Like

  2. Boy, Tom, this brings the meaning of “trail work” to vivid life!! Thanks for the post, and for the trail maintenance, and for managing to get out of it in one, if hurting, piece…

    Like

  3. Glad to hear you are okay. I’ve had some falls but none this bad!

    Like

  4. chefhannibal says:

    Things happen even to seasoned rogues like you, I guess. Sorry to hear of your discomfort and frustration. The body is an amazing thing, Healing and repairing itself. I am sure it is as excited to get back out there as you are.

    Like

  5. Rockdawg69 says:

    Was wondering what was going on – no posts for a while had me thinking you were lost. Sorry about the rock pile incident UT. Generally they are supposed to fall on you, not the other way around. Glad to see you are making progress though.
    Poles have saved me on several occasions. Wouldn’t be without them anymore. But I understand the situation with all the other stuff for clearing trail. Thanks for your service to the trail.
    Keep on trucking!

    Like

  6. Robert says:

    U. Tom, Didn’t realize it was such a jarring accident and looked like it too! Pretty close call. Good thing Guthook was there. Glad to hear you’re up and about. Hello to Auntie Mame. Robert

    Like

  7. Fidgit says:

    Thank you for always posting true to an experience. It can be hard for a non-hiker to understand what “a fall” can mean out on trail and you pain(t) the image vividly.
    Glad you are on the mend and for all the lessons, from safety to empathy, which you are taking away.
    Hike safe out there!

    Fidgit

    Like

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