I shouldn’t have insulted the lake, especially since this lake was known for being prickly (Porcupine Lake)! It probably didn’t help that it was a full moon, and a super moon at that. For my insolence, the lake demanded a blood sacrifice, which it took immediately, my bright red blood spattering across the cold grey rock.
It had all started innocently enough, doesn’t it always? I just wanted a campsite with a nice view, preferably of either the sunrise or the sunset. I’d hiked a quarter mile up a steep, rocky side trail to porcupine lake, hoping to find myself a nice campsite. When I got to the purported sites by the side of the lake I was sorely disappointed… They were all clustered together and the only views were of tents, rocks, and trees. Not my favorite kinds of views, so I decided to go explore down by the lakeshore… If I wasn’t going to get a sunrise or sunset view, maybe I could at least get a view of the lake?
It didn’t seem like it was too much too ask, and from a distance it even looked like there might be a couple of flat spots down by the shore at the far side of a small boulder field… Definitely worth checking out. I got over there with no problem, but once I got up close, I discovered that the spots were far from flat… My standards for flat are pretty low, but these spots definitely weren’t campable.
I grumbled some unflattering things about the stupid lake, and turned to go back up to the dark, viewless campsites where everyone else was camped when… Wham!!!!! The lakeshore jumped up and punched me in the nose with a giant grey rock!
The boulder I’d stepped down onto didn’t hold my weight… The footing must have eroded out from underneath one side of it so that when I stepped down, it immediately flipped me over and onto my nose. It happened so incredibly fast that I didn’t get a chance to break my fall with my shoulder, my pack, or my arm… I broke my fall with my nose… Thwack!!!
All thoughts were immediately erased from my head and replaced with pain… It felt like a combination of getting hit in the nose with a basketball and doing a bad backflip into a chlorinated pool, the kind that forces you to snarf chlorinated water up your nose…
I tried to stand up, but at the weird angle I was at, and with my pack still on, I couldn’t. Instead I managed to roll onto my back, but as I did I felt something wet spurt out from my face… Not a good sign. I tried to stand again, but with my pack still on I couldn’t. I lay there for a minute… Tears streaming down my face… Trying to collect myself. I was incredibly thankful that I hadn’t been knocked unconscious with that fall, and I still had all of my teeth… It could have been much worse… But it was still far from ideal.
Eventually I unclipped my pack, slipped out of it, and stood up. Man, oh man, did my nose hurt!! As soon as I stood up blood rocketed from my nose and splattered across the rocks a few feet away… A brilliant red splatter on the cold grey rocks…
Sh**!!! I grabbed my bandana and gingerly held it up to the fountain. I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly the bloody nose stopped, especially since my nose was so tender I couldn’t apply any pressure to it… The slight metallic tang in my throat suggested that it had found another route, but that didn’t last long either. I tried to think… Breaking my fall with my nose… Broken nose? I’d never broken my nose before. What was the biggest thing I needed to worry about? My airway… Had I screwed up the alignment of my nose or deviated the septum? If yes, I’d be hiking out to the nearest road and heading to the ER… I reached up and gingerly probed my poor nose… It hurt like heck, but it still seemed straight, and I could draw at least some air through each nostril, but I applied slight traction to the septum just in case… The alignments seemed like they were still ok… “Phew!” No forced march to the ER for tonight.
I blinked back the tears that had come unbidden to my eyes… I was definitely a mess… My face and bandana were covered in blood, and now that the initial shock was wearing off, I noticed that my right arm was scratched up and oozing blood and my right shin had a big egg on it, which was also oozing blood.
It was suddenly convenient that I was by the shore of a lake. I walked down to the shore (about 20 feet away), rinsed the bandana out, and then used it to try to wash the blood off… I wished that the water was colder… Ice, what I really wanted was some ice to put on my poor nose… I could feel it swelling up already… Unfortunately, ice in the backcountry is rarely an option…
Once I’d cleaned myself off I decided that I’d better head back up to the main camping area… Even though I’d eaten 600 calories in the last hour, I still needed to make dinner and set up camp for the night, which meant I still needed to find a campsite… There was nothing to do, but do it, so I hoisted my pack up onto my back and set off, rather gingerly.
Da Vinci must have sensed that something was wrong as I hiked painstakingly from the rocky lakeshore back up to the area where everyone else was setting up their tents. “Hey Patches, are you ok?”
I blinked back tears and tried to control the waver in my voice, “I will be,” I said as I continued my slow plod to one of the remaining clearish spots tucked into the trees. I thought that I had pulled myself together before I left the lakeshore, but I was wrong. I was having trouble keeping full-fledged sobs from erupting from my body as I walked. Each heal strike felt like a new blow to my nose… This wasn’t fun at all!
I was far enough away from Da Vinci, and it was close enough to dusk, that he didn’t get a good look at me as I walked by. GearSlut, however, was closer. “Are you ok?”
Reflexively I went to nod my head yes (I didn’t trust my voice anymore), but I can assure you that that was a very bad idea… My attempt to nod yes caused massive pressure shifts in my nose and made me burst into tears as I plunked down to the ground. I don’t know whether GearSlut heard me crying, or saw me wince, but he was close enough to know that something definitely wasn’t right. Also, I must not have done as good a job cleaning myself up as I thought because as he approached he yelled out to the others, “first aid kits, we’re going to need some first aid kits over here!”
Before long GearSlut, Da Vinci, and DirtWolf were all sitting around me and the contents of all of our first aid kits were strewn around the campsite. “What happened?” They asked as I gingerly dabbed at my bleeding bits with disinfectant. “We didn’t hear you scream,” someone else interjected. “That’s because I didn’t scream,” I said, wincing as I dabbed at my leg. As I continued cleaning up I told them the story of what happened.
“Do you want a bandaid for your nose?” Hmmm… I wasn’t sure… I knew my nose hurt like heck, but I couldn’t see it, so I had no idea how bad it looked. There aren’t very many mirrors in the backcountry! Da Vinci, however, had a plan and handed me his cellphone… The wonders of modern technology, there was my nose!!
Damn! Instead of skinning my knees, I’d skinned my nose! Amazingly, my nose was the only thing that looked battered and bruised. The bridge of my nose was definitely still bleeding, I had to admit, it could use a bandaid. I tried to put the bandaid on my nose, but it went on crooked. I pulled it off (ouch!) and tried to replace it. Doh! Even more crooked. Trying to put a bandaid on my nose using a “mirror” and without my glasses on proved far more challenging than I would have thought! After three tries I finally gave up and asked for help (I am willing to ask for help when I need it).
Once I was all patched up, everyone went off to finish setting up camp and to make dinner, including me… The spot I’d plunked down in was a horrible site… Too small, rocky, and buggy… I was clearly a little out of it, and was just going to set up there anyway, but GearSlut insisted that I take the site he was partially setup in.
I told him that I would be fine, but my weak protests were ineffective and he had moved elsewhere before I had gotten around to unpacking. I looked around my site, it really was awful… The spot GearSlut had just vacated was much much nicer… The best that Porcupine Lake had to offer… so I picked my stuff up one last time and settled in for the night.
My nose throbbed, it hurt to chew my food, and I was exhausted, but I was lucky and I knew it. You can be the most experienced hiker in the world, but sh** still sometimes happens… It’s a side effect of living… And I’ve been living an amazing life.
Tomorrow would be a rough day, but I would get up in the morning and hike… It’s what I do, it’s what I love… I may not hike far tomorrow, and I may not hike fast, but this too would pass… Eventually.