A hiker gets back up

  • The Mount Kearsarge range as seen across frozen Lake Sunapee. COURTESY PHOTO

Thursday, February 01, 2018 8:55AM

I’m on the injured and sick list. I currently have bronchitis. Just climbing the stairs from my couch to my bed makes me cough and wheeze. And, since two weeks before Christmas I’ve been struggling with pain in my left ankle and right knee after a fall. It’s not even like the fall happened while I was on an outdoor adventure, exploring a new trail. No, I fell walking across my entryway and my pant leg snagged something on the floor, making me roll my left ankle and take a full hit on my right knee against the stone-hard tile floor. Nothing broken, but bruising, swelling and pain have hobbled me.

Even beyond the pain and limits this set on me, I am equally, if not more, frustrated with the feelings of vulnerability I have about my body. Discomfort follows me like an impending dark cloud. Ready to open up a downpour of cold rain, forcing me to stay inside. And there’s nothing worse for a hiker or runner than to be stalled behind walls. 

Three years ago I fell on ice while at work and had a deep enough gash in my knee to require six sutures.  For two weeks I was a good patient and babied the area, kept my leg straight and avoided rough or icy ground. Being a nurse, I removed the sutures myself on a Friday. On Saturday I decided to explore a class six road-trail I had been eyeing all winter. It was a melting, warm day. I wrapped my knee in an ace bandage and took Carson-dog with me – before he was retired. He jumped and danced to go outside.

Not too far down the trail we came to an ice flow, spreading downhill and across the full width of the trail, extending maybe 50 feet. It was much too early in our hike to turn around so, no problem: I sat on my butt and slid down it. My bottom was a bit wet, but I didn’t even think about how I was going to get back UP that same ice flow when we came back. This same scenario happened a couple of more times. I felt caught up in the outdoors. And happy. But then we turned around and faced the ice flows going back, mostly uphill.


Two we could work our way around, one we couldn’t. I literally crawled up with a very wet glove on one hand and my other hand on Carson’s orange backpack helping to pull me across while his toenails gripped the ice. My knee that had just healed? Not so much. Open and bloody under the ace wrap, I had to set myself back to low impact rest for another 10 days.

“Old bones heal slow,” my wise mother says. This applies to any body part when a person is over 50. Which is me. I don’t like that not only do I feel vulnerable to injury, but I’ve even become afraid of falling this winter. Which I have coupled with the winter blues and used as an excuse to NOT GO OUTSIDE. What happened to my core toughness and endurance?

Fear and depression are never good places from which to make decisions. They shackle and limit movement. I have needed to get back up from my fall and the blues. I needed inspiration. So, two weeks ago I took a short road walk with young Brooke-dog to a place where we could see the Mount Kearsarge range across frozen Lake Sunapee. I knelt down next to her and pointed at the distant hills and valleys, and said out loud, “I have hiked that whole range. I will hike it again in the spring.” I looked at Brooke and asked, “Will you come with me?” She set her cold nose on my cheek and wiggled her hind end. I nodded. So now I’ve made a promise. Even if only to my dog. I am getting back up and going outside.

Lisa Hoekstra splits her time between Peterborough and Sunapee. She hikes for physical and mental health, finding solace and energy when surrounded by the woods. For comments about hiking she can be reached at: lisamhoeks@gmail.com.