Holistic Coach and Consultant
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Such a short hike today, up the Santa Elena Canyon, I didn’t even sweat; but I still have that crusty sensation on my skin from yesterday’s hike, because I’m in the desert—not many showers here.
Three nights ago, I set up a shower bag on the back door of my van named Jane; two nights ago, I had a sponge bath. Last night, I just wore baggy clothes to bed, as night and sleep came on quickly. Now, I want to immerse myself in water, possible at a boat launch and picnic area located on the banks of the Rio Grande, on the way back to the campground.
A river guide pulling out canoes and loading them onto a trailer comments as I walk by him in my Crocks and suit, “There is good river access if you take the river trail—less muddy than here,” and he points to a rocky prominence down-river. I thank him, as this boat launch is quite steep, as well as muddy.
I walk the short trail that soon opens onto a shallow and flat portion of the Rio Grande. Footprints cross a muddy slope toward water deep enough to immerse myself, and I walk in that direction. Suddenly, my left foot sinks in mud to above the knee, then the right foot sinks as I put weight on it, trying to pull out the other foot. I finally give up trying to also pull out the Crock sandal, and point my toes—my left foot slides out with a sucking sensation. I reach down to pull out the Crock—no way, it sinks further while trying to tug on it.
My right leg snags on a mud-drowned stick, leaving a wide, harsh, red bruise as it emerges also, with a sucking sensation. As the left leg once more sinks, I flash on my sixth-grade report about how to get out of quicksand—position one’s body parallel to the surface. By now, my left arm is sunken, and I begin rearranging myself on hands and knees; three of my appendages are coated with thick, heavy mud as I crawl to solid, rocky ground. If I hadn’t realized this technique, I would have kept on sinking in this mud; I would have panicked.
Back up on solid ground, I stand upright, and re-assess the terrain; by walking further downriver, I can stay on actual hard surfaces to get to a rocky part of the water flow. Fortunately, my feet are not completely tender, and this plan is feasible.
In a shallow flow of water, I sit on small pebbles, and first rub off the mud—so sticky! Now I wish I’d covered my entire body with it—a true mud bath. Then I lie down for a whole-body rinse; good; this was what I had in mind.
Jane is the only vehicle at the boat launch; the river guide is long-gone. I put out of my mind how if I’d called for help, none would have been available.
This quick stop on the way back to the campground has become an adventure with a lost a pair of Crocks, and learning about mud that behaves like quicksand. Or is this mud a kind of quicksand? I’ll have to look that up when I have reception. . .
On the way to the campground, I gaze in awe at the scenery—Big Bend National Park could define awe. I love this state of wonder; I love exploring, and immersion in solitude and nature. I don’t want to compromise this life. Yet I’ve just had one of those moments that was an in-my-face message about the risks of being alone on these explorations.
About a month ago when hiking in an old-growth forest in Alabama, my toe tripped on a vine; I was walking too fast to catch myself, and landed with a full-body fall on a fortunately non-rocky trail. After the initial jar, I took a slow breath while lying still, assessing every body part; nothing was broken. The only real pain was in my left upper chest; I landed on the phone in my breast pocket, and I could feel a bruise, I hoped, and not a cracked upper rib.
I soberly and carefully completed this walk. I was grateful that crawling out of that trail with a broken limb was not necessary; oh, yes, I was glad. Then, as today on the river, I was alone, and did not see another hiker the entire afternoon.
The left upper chest pain lingered; I couldn’t take a deep breath, and considered getting an Xray, but then I knew they wouldn’t do anything about it if a rib was broken.
A few more days later, I wondered if I had a lung injury—but didn’t worry enough to enter the medical system; the image of walking into a hospital or urgent care center is so averse, I’d have to really be injured. Over the following week, the pain slowly decreased; now, it’s barely present. I suspect I did crack a rib.
From today’s mud adventure, the only consequences are the superficial injury from a sharp branch, and loss of a pair of plastic sandals. I’ve had them five years; now they are deep into the earth’s crust—made from petroleum products, I wonder, how many millennia will it take for them to turn back into liquid oil? Or is that transformation possible? A recent visit to a petroleum museum has stayed with me; I would return there if it was nearby, to see if I could answer that question.
Those sandals were my only pair of slip-on shoes; I wore them when showering, and for quick trips to fill a water jug and such. They can be replaced in this world of consumption, for now. I imagine the ingenuity that may be required, perhaps in the near future, when such ample resources may instantly disappear, say, if Trump actually fired a nuclear missile and immediately all the boats filled with Chinese-made products headed to the U.S. turned back. . . .What then? How about a pair of carved wooden clogs, or moccasins made from animal hide? Or, remember those sandals made from old tires?
Back to this life of personal risk that has definitely caught my attention with the fall, and almost getting sucked into a mud bank. I decide to take these reminders as a message to be ever more careful. And who is to say these risks are any less than commuting on a busy road in a large city?
I don’t want to know the statistics. I also know I could be rationalizing.
Still, deciding to be more careful and minimize the risks will serve me well. I could use a pair of walking sticks—add that to my shopping list: sandals, and walking sticks. I will also hone my senses ever more while assessing any situation; walk on hard ground in the desert when near water (now I really know that); make sure enough daylight remains to take a particular loop trail; pack extra water for a desert hike; give myself a free ticket to turn back on any trail, any time, if I sense disharmony in the environment for any reason, including within me—do I have the stamina and experience to pursue this particular adventure?
This June, I will be sixty-six; I will build and maintain my strength so I can continue to live this life that I love.
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