Pied, Orion and I are all early morning risers for different reasons. Pied likes his coffee and a little smoke; Orion needs to tend to his horses and I greatly dislike hiking in the heat. I was the first to set off. I’m walking as the sun crests over the tallest hills. I am thinking it can’t get any better than this…quiet time early in the morning with the sun rising.
Within the first 5 miles Pied passes me and then takes a break for more coffee and smoke. Because it’s getting hot (I was using my sun umbrella before 830) I decide to hike on to the Acton KOA campground. I am daydreaming of ice cream and cold soda as I walk past wild sage and open vista views.
Then just 0.8 miles from the KOA, I know the distance exactly because I checked Halfmile once I got myself back on trail, a dark colored rattlesnake is crossing the trail as I am already stepping forward on a very steep decent. I’m not sure what occurred after and how exactly it happened but I end up falling 20 feet down the cliff side. I know I was head first, then rolled, then feet first chest against the cliff, rolled again before self arresting my digging my feet into the dirt/rocks before stopping against a little bush. I quickly assessed myself…no apparent snake bite, phew…then assessed the situation. Climbing down didn’t make sense as I worried snakes would be lurking on the sunny cliff side. Climbing up was difficult…sometimes I would slip losing everything I gained but eventually made it back to the trail. I know I tweaked my right knee (the one I destroyed skiing years ago). I have only two options: to hike down or sit and wallow in despair with a resident rattlesnake. I chose the first. Below is a picture that either Buffy or her dad Papa Bear took of a same colored rattlesnake in the same location the following day.
Slowly I walked myself down and into the KOA. I was a mess, dirty, shirt torn and skirt, cuts everywhere. I was so shaken that upon entering the office/store, my lower lip was shaking like a 4 year old girl and I was near tears. I was led to the bathroom where I was able to wash the gouges and cuts to my hands. The manager then kindly drove me to Hiker Heaven where I had my resupply sent and was planning a zero day tomorrow. Still shaken upon arriving at Hiker Heaven, I just sat on the ground, put ice on my knee and slathered antibiotic ointment all over.
While in hindsight I know he was trying being very helpful, there was a hiker who just rubbed me the wrong way in every which way about the event and how he tried assist. Then on top of it, he pushed his phone in my face and took a picture. He sent it to me and here it is. I look so ridiculously pathetic.
I slowly gathered my wits and decided to shower so I could rest, elevate and ice my knee. To make matters worse one lowly tick managed to hide inside my hiking shirt from the day before and decided to attach on my stomach…thankfully it was only there at the most 3 hours. So gross. Now I have to watch for not only a gangrenous infection from my numerous cuts but also about Lyme and other tick borne diseases…just a mild case of hyperchondria.
Later into the day Pied and Orion showed up who were also going to be zeroing. It’s nice to have friends, however new, around. That night we all along with Donna (the homeowner of Hiker Heaven), several other legendary hikers and New York Times columnists sat around and shot the breeze as if it were the most normal grouping. It’s crazy and yet so amazingly wonderful how this trail brings all sorts of people together. We are one and the support and care we all have for another is unlike anyplace I have ever witnessed. I feel blessed everyday I am out here and not a single day goes by that I do not appreciate it.