Dear Natalie: Told You So

Ask Natalie Banner Dear Natalie: Who else does this?

By Natalie McCarthy

Dear Natalie,

Seriously, didn’t we tell you it was dangerous out there?

Signed,

Yourself, and society – again

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Dear everyone,

So yeah, it happened.

My friend Inga and I, both aiming for a grand total of at least 52 hikes by 12/31/18, decided to go on a quick hike one Saturday in February. The sky was a bit overcast. Gray skies on our valley floor, a mere 1000 ft. in elevation, often mean snow storms at 4000 ft. We opted, then, to avoid a mountain trail. Instead, we decided to hike at lower elevation, closer to home.

 

Dear Natalie Told You So 1
Midway up, we were starting to see patches of snow

 

The trail started off damp and drizzly, but easily navigated. As we went higher in elevation, the rain got heavier, and by the time we reached our destination – a viewpoint at the summit of a foothill, maybe only 2000 feet in elevation – it was actively snowing.

 

Dear Natalie Told You So 2
Inga, about a mile from our turn-around point at the top of the hill. The trail was quite snowy by this point.

 

We tried to relax a bit and enjoy our accomplishment, but the skies were angry, and the snow was freezing. “We thought we were going to avoid this,” Inga reminded me, and after rolling our eyes and muttering a few choice curse words, we headed back.

 

Dear Natalie Told You So 3
Actively snowing at the top of the hill, looking out over the trees and a large lake. The lake is barely visible through the snowy air.

 

At some point during the hike, I told Inga the story of the first and only previous time I’d hiked this trail. On the descent, I stumbled on gravel and fell into a split, sliding a few yards down the trail and scraping up my legs. Luckily I was able to get up and dust myself off. Other than a couple sore spots and a few scratches on my shins, only my ego was bruised, and even that was minor; the only witness was my then-husband. “I learned my lesson,” I said, nodding to the fancy trekking poles I brought with me this time.

As we lost elevation, we navigated icy spots and chunks of accumulating snow. The faster we hiked downhill, the faster the snow turned to rain, and eventually we were walking between drizzle-drops on a muddy, soggy trail.

This is when it happened.

I was speaking, or maybe Inga was, but before I knew what was happening, I was in the air. I felt my right hand let go of one trekking pole, and as I noted the other still in my left hand, I heard the sound of a thin branch snapping. An explosion of pain shot up my left arm, and suddenly, the second trekking pole was gone. I was on the ground, right arm wrapped around the left, and I was sobbing.

It wasn’t a branch that snapped; it was some part of my left arm.

I tried to explain to Inga what happened, and though I was achingly inarticulate, she was right there, grabbing naproxen from my backpack. “The damn bottle won’t open!” she muttered, and as though possessed by Bear Grylls, I grabbed it with my teeth and opened it also with my teeth. As soon as the pill hit my tongue, Inga was tilting my canteen into my mouth, and I was back on my feet – still crying.

She took my trekking poles – one had flown six feet away, while the other had landed just next to where I had. She slowed her pace. I held my left forearm with my right hand, and we walked. Within minutes, it became clear that my wrist was broken; it looked like a pale, rubber prosthetic topped with a swollen hand-shaped water balloon that was tilted at a sick, unnatural angle.  Around this time, the trail crossed a forest service road, and we were able to bypass the trail and walk instead on more stable ground. A few miles later, we were back at the car, where Inga fashioned me a sling out of a blanket and began the drive to the hospital.

 

Dear Natalie Told You So 4
Selfie snapped en route to the car shortly after breaking my wrist. My face is wet with tears, melted snow, and rain.

 

I waited a few hours in the emergency department with Inga, and our friend Jessica brought me snacks and additional moral support. Eventually I left with painkillers, a splint and a sling, and x-ray confirmation that I had broken my wrist in two places. Several splints and casts, two surgeries, and multiple medical appointments later, and my left wrist and forearm are internally reinforced with small steel plates and screws. Externally, they have the support of a splint and a heavy wrap.

 

Dear Natalie Told You So 5
Me and my first (ugly) cast.

 

 If I hadn’t been hiking, this wouldn’t have happened.

For a few days, I was despondent about this. “Now I have to exercise in gyms,” I thought bitterly, screwing up my face at the thought of spandex and treadmills. “Now I’ll be scared to go up mountains,” I told myself, tears trailing down my cheeks at the thought of boring, flat, developed cityscapes. “Now I can’t hike alone,” I said, and that’s when I got angry with myself.

The fact is, my outcome would have been the same if I were solo. Yes, my friends offered me much-appreciated help and support – but if they hadn’t been there, I still would have ended up getting medical care. I still would have walked back to the car; after all, Inga didn’t carry me. I would have driven myself to the hospital, which, while painful and challenging, would not have been anywhere near impossible.

Another fact is that I’m also capable of getting injured at home alone, or shopping with friends, or running around the seven miles of hallways at my daily job.  There’s a legitimate argument that hiking is more dangerous than regular ol’ walking, but I would argue it’s safer than driving an automobile – something I do much more frequently.

I have fear that my injury – which is the most common bone break, statistically – will lend credence to the myth that outdoor adventure is an inherently super-dangerous activity, and certainly not a hobby one should pursue alone. Despite my initial tearful-fearfulness, I feel the same about walking in the woods as I did before.

In fact, I am moved to get outside even more. This injury has opened me up wider to the kindness and generosity people freely offer. My friends took shifts to care for me after surgery. My youngest brother re-routed his air travel to stay with me. My coworkers collected a generous sum of money to make sure I could order all the Thai take-out I wanted and would not need to cook while convalescing. They also signed two greeting cards with messages that entertained me for days. The computer gurus at my job fast-tracked dictation software for me, saving me from the time consuming task of typing with only my right hand. My friend brought by elastic, thread, and her seamstress skills to make my button-up pants easier to slide into. One of the psychiatrists at work even offered me his shoulder when I was required to elevate my cast.

 

Dear Natalie Told You So 6
Photographic evidence of using a psychiatric doctor as an armrest. I figured I’d protect his identity, lest anyone try to take advantage of his kindness.

 

When I am reminded of the goodness humanity has to offer, I yearn more strongly for the beautiful, pristine places where I feel most connected to that goodness. If that means slipping my rain jacket over my cast so I can hike to those places, so be it.

With Love,

Natalie

 

 

 

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73 thoughts on “Dear Natalie: Told You So

  • April 13, 2018 at 12:39 pm
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    Oh noooo! That must’ve been painful – but it’s a good thing you’re feeling better now. Also I must say good luck on meeting your goal of 52 hikes til the end of the year. I have not done one wehehe. Inspired to maybe do a hike this weekend though – hopefully I don’t break my wrist aswell hehe *knock on wood*

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    • April 13, 2018 at 7:32 pm
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      You can do it, Johna!

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  • April 12, 2018 at 12:53 pm
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    Sorry to hear about what had happened. There are truly unforeseen situation like this that is beyond our control, but still I’m happy that you were trekking with a friend during that time, or else it would be very hard to get back to your car and help yourself. Anyway, I hope that you’ll be okay and fully healed as soon as possible. This is also a reminder for me to never underestimate mountain as i’m into trekking as well.

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    • April 13, 2018 at 12:52 pm
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      Thank you! And yes, what a great motto: Never underestimate the mountain!

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  • April 12, 2018 at 7:59 am
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    I find you so brave. And despite what happened, you still find the good out of the situation. I wish you more hiking if you truly love it. Because i know, you will never look at others things differently or bad. You have such a good and positive heart.

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    • April 13, 2018 at 7:32 pm
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      What a kind comment ♥️ Thank you!

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  • April 12, 2018 at 6:04 am
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    I agree that sometimes unfortunate incidents or occurrences happen to us so we could see the good in people around us. Thus, those shouldn’t prevent us from pursuing our passion. Also, no matter where we are, if it is our time, it will happen. The best we can do is to be careful and plan ahead of time. So check the weather news or check the sky if it will be a good day to hike. I personally hike only on a clear day because I’ve experienced falling several times when it rained.

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    • April 13, 2018 at 7:33 pm
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      Yes! Sounds like a good plan for you! Here in Oregon, we’d be waiting until July for a clear day… haha the beauty of living here…

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  • April 11, 2018 at 4:42 pm
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    I’m so sorry you got hurt! I really like how this doesn’t seem to have tempered your enthusiasm though. That aspect of your post totally brightened my day. I hope you have many adventures and no more than bring about injury 😉

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    • April 13, 2018 at 7:34 pm
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      Ha yes, hoping to avoid further clumsiness! Thank you for the kind words 😊

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  • April 11, 2018 at 4:18 pm
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    Ouch! Sorry to hear about your injury but I guess, there are times we get unlucky and this was one of those unlucky hours. Hopefully, you are getting better now. I just wish you a speedy recovery and that you fulfill your goal of having the 52 hikes by the end of 2018! Can’t wait to read about it!

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  • April 11, 2018 at 6:44 am
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    First of all so sorry for your injury and the surgeries that followed. My husband had a similar accident during tour of Cambodia. So I can imagine the trauma you have been through. I hope you will be up soon and complete the target of 52 hikes by year end. Cheers to you brave girl!

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    • April 13, 2018 at 7:35 pm
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      Thank you so much! I hope your husband had a speedy recovery.

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  • April 11, 2018 at 3:08 am
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    Awww! That looks terrible. I have short tolerance for pain, really and seeing someone in that situation makes me feel sad. You were still such a brave soul. But those incidents like yours always makes me think twice and so i keep of holding myself back. Get well soon!

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    • April 13, 2018 at 7:36 pm
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      Thank you! I think it makes sense that we have the impulse to hold back – it’s been a real task to push myself not to, and instead, to get back out and about.

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  • April 10, 2018 at 9:06 pm
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    OUCH! It sounds painful but still amazing the lessons you are choosing to take from this experience. Instead, of saying you’re never hiking again (a loss for sure) you’re raring to get back out there and have seen so much good in people. Nice, that you turned such a negative into a positive. Sending lots of love and healing thoughts.

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    • April 13, 2018 at 7:36 pm
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      Thank you! It has been a real work in progress to get back to the outdoors game.

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  • April 10, 2018 at 7:52 pm
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    Oh dear, hope you recover soon and are up and running in no time! Can’t wait to read more of your adventures!

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    • April 13, 2018 at 7:37 pm
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      Thank you! I hope to have more adventures to report soon!

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  • April 10, 2018 at 3:16 pm
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    No risk – no fun, right? 😉 I’m glad you’re ok! Hope you get on the track soon enough:)

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    • April 13, 2018 at 7:37 pm
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      Totally! It’s a definite risk to reward ratio we manage out there!

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  • April 10, 2018 at 1:10 pm
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    OH NO!!!! I fractured my wrist when I was 11 and I remember how much I hated that cast. Wishing you a speedy recovery!

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    • April 13, 2018 at 7:39 pm
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      The cast was utterly lousy! Thankfully, earlier this week, my doc said my plates and pins are strong enough that I only need a brace now. Thank my stars for that – I can shower without wrapping my arm in a trash bag. Hahaha!

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  • April 10, 2018 at 5:15 am
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    Sorry to read about your bad hike, I’m happy to read that you’ve come out of it with a stronger resolve to get out and adventure 🙂 At least you make it out to the trail…. For some reason, my wife and I always get into a “lovers quarrel” when we attempt to hike together. Needless to say, we don’t attempt to hike anymore haha.

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    • April 13, 2018 at 7:40 pm
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      Oh yes, I remember those with my ex… I wish we’d had the good idea to avoid further hikes together! Smart move on your part!

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  • April 10, 2018 at 4:29 am
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    This is such a great post. I was glue reading this. Thank the Lord you made it out ok. I hope your wrist is healing well. Thanks for sharing.

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    • April 13, 2018 at 7:40 pm
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      I’m thankful you read along, Ophelia. Thanks for the kind wishes.

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  • April 10, 2018 at 12:34 am
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    Oh my goodness, this is what bravery gets you, huh? Lol. Sorry you got hurt on your hike, but I know it won’t slow you down for long!

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    • April 13, 2018 at 7:41 pm
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      Thanks Beth!! No guts, no glory!

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  • April 9, 2018 at 8:56 pm
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    Sometimes adventure hurts, I guess. I’m a little less adventurous so I wouldn’t hike that mean places or even go that high up. I hope you make a speedy recovery.

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    • April 13, 2018 at 7:43 pm
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      Thank you, Luci. 🙂

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  • April 9, 2018 at 3:18 pm
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    So sorry to hear that you got hurt while hiking! I hope you’re still able to meet your goal at the end of the year. Definitely don’t let this injury keep you down and hope to read more when you’re all healed up 🙂

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    • April 13, 2018 at 7:43 pm
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      Thanks Leah. I’ve got a hike planned tomorrow, so I hope to stay on track!

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  • April 9, 2018 at 2:22 pm
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    It’s good that you still keep your positive vibes despite the injury. Stay motivated like this, and don’t let anything stop you from what you love, as tacky as it sounds but the yolo situation is totally applied in that case! 😛

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    • April 13, 2018 at 7:44 pm
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      Hahaha you are so right! I’ll proudly sport the YOLO motto!

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  • April 9, 2018 at 7:15 am
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    Oh, my! That was indeed painful. But it was a good thing that it was the only thing that got broken. It could have been worse. I also fractured my right elbow recently. It’s still in the process of healing.

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    • April 13, 2018 at 7:44 pm
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      Oh no! The elbow sounds painful. How’s your recovery coming along?

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  • April 9, 2018 at 2:34 am
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    Someone once told me that the greatest adventures are the dangerous ones… I’m not really sure If I am going to agree with him or not but he certainly got some points. It must be a thrilling and absolutely risky hiking adventure for you. I don’t think I have enough strength and courage to hike on a snowy terrain like that so kudos for your braveness.
    I just hope you are doing okay now.. i can imagine the pain.. i broke my arm few years back and Gosh.. i can recall the screaming pain I had 🙁

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  • April 9, 2018 at 12:57 am
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    I used to live in Whitefish Montana and I would hike Glacier NP about twice a week, usually alone. There were bears there for sure and always the chance of a broken wrist, but the benefits and sanity that hiking brought me far outweighed any risks. I was definitely in race situation with my knees failing and knowing that I was going to have to leave the mountains sooner or later. Solo hiking probably bought me at least a season or two more of ski instructing and a summer or two more hiking before my knees finally go so bad I had to get a full bilateral replacements. I wouldn’t trade a memory of any one of those hikes for a mountain of rubies.

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    • April 9, 2018 at 1:37 am
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      Beautiful thoughts – made me smile that you made such great memories. Sorry about the knees, though. Do they need a stern talking-to??? (Haha!)

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  • April 8, 2018 at 10:44 pm
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    Omg! So glad you’re ok! Glad you said after the fact, I won’t go hiking alone! Harsh, but great life lesson.

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    • April 9, 2018 at 1:39 am
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      Thank you! And actually, I think I *will* go hiking alone still. I’m thankful I had a friend with me, but overall, I don’t think I would have been desperately worse off without her. She made things more comfortable for sure, but I still would’ve made it to the ER alone. I want to make sure fear doesn’t trump the joy I get in solitude. 🙂

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  • April 8, 2018 at 8:22 pm
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    I hike all the time alone and worry that it can be dangerous but you can’t always wait around for someone to go with you. Maybe skip the snow hiking and you’ll be fine!

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    • April 9, 2018 at 1:39 am
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      You said it, Janna. I think I need dry land for a while!

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    • April 9, 2018 at 1:40 am
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      Thanks Sean. I’m healing up okay! After all, this is just the first step in becoming fully bionic. 🙂

      Reply
  • April 8, 2018 at 1:56 am
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    Brr. It looks so cold, way too cold to be hiking up a mountain. It can be so hard getting hurt when you are miles up a trail. My wife fell and hurt her wrist when we were hiking on the Appellation Trail and she had to walk three miles to our car, without pain meds. Now we always carry some in our first aid kit. I am glad that you didn’t let your bad experience ruin hiking for you.

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    • April 8, 2018 at 11:24 am
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      Thank you Chris! I’m glad your wife is okay now!

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  • April 8, 2018 at 1:15 am
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    You said it right – you can get hurt anywhere, so you can’t let a situation as this stop you from going out there and doing what you love. Ohhh but sounds so painful. I hope you have recovered well and can go back to doing what you love. Hiking is such a wonderful way to explore the nature – to be one with nature and forget the woes of city life. I feel so at piece when I am in amongst the nature.

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    • April 8, 2018 at 11:25 am
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      Soraya, me too! And after an injury, peace is especially important to me!

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  • April 8, 2018 at 1:04 am
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    Oh my goodness, I hope you are feeling much better now and hopefully planning your next adventure.

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    • April 8, 2018 at 11:25 am
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      Almost there. I’ve been out of commission for the past six weeks, but hopefully I can be out and about soon!

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  • April 7, 2018 at 6:11 pm
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    Those views are stunning but definitely NOT worth the pain! OUCH!! Sounds like such a dramatic experience! Hope you recover well!

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    • April 8, 2018 at 11:26 am
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      Thank you Chloe 🙂

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  • April 7, 2018 at 5:42 pm
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    Wow… thank you for sharing!! I love that you are so positive after this experience! I wish you a speedy recovery

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    • April 8, 2018 at 11:26 am
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      Thanks for reading, Tiffani!

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  • April 7, 2018 at 5:20 pm
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    Ouch, that photo looks like you’re in pain! I hope you’re well on the way to healing by now.

    You’re absolutely right, though, this sort of thing can happen absolutely anywhere. My sister broke her wrist once riding a bike (with safety wheels!) right outside our house. You definitely shouldn’t let it stop you from getting back up those mountains!

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    • April 8, 2018 at 11:27 am
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      Thank you 😊 It was tough being vulnerable and scared about something I love so much.

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  • April 7, 2018 at 4:25 pm
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    Life is risk and we are lucky that for the most part we get to choose it. Your experience reminded me of my oldest daughters experience on a mountain hike, she was running when she should have been walking, and tripped. She shattered her foot and had to be carried out off the mountain. She too needed pins and plates and surgeries. She isn’t scared, but she does strongly believe that going alone isn’t worth the risk for her. It was a freak thing. All this to saw, we are lucky to get to pick our risk.

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    • April 8, 2018 at 11:28 am
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      What a great way to put it. We ARE lucky to pick our risk.

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  • April 7, 2018 at 3:26 pm
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    Ouch! Hope it’s healing nicely. Stunning view though 🙂

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    • April 8, 2018 at 11:29 am
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      Stitches come out tomorrow, woohoo! And yes, the view was awesome (but maybe not enough to warrant a broken bone).

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  • April 7, 2018 at 3:23 pm
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    I love that you both went for it! I’m tired of people saying what we can and can’t do because of our gender. I say, go for it!
    I love that you kept this attitude even after your injury…you go gal!

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  • April 7, 2018 at 1:40 pm
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    Oh no Natalie, I’m so sorry this happened to you and hope you have a fast recovery. You are totally right – it’s easy to be scared off by these things and limit yourself in the future. But like you said, you could also get hurt walking at home or crossing the street. Good on you for not letting an accident like this limit you – keep on keeping on!

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    • April 8, 2018 at 11:30 am
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      What an encouraging comment. Thank you Diana!

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  • April 7, 2018 at 7:30 am
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    That sounded so painful, I hope you’re feeling better and on your way to a full recovery! It’s great to read that you’re still positive about hiking and being in nature. Nothing beats the feeling of being in the outdoors and taking in the surroundings.

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    • April 8, 2018 at 11:31 am
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      Thank you Lisa. It was a bummer there for a while, but it is still a big deal to me to keep getting out there.

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  • April 6, 2018 at 10:57 pm
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    Natalie,
    I am so sorry you got hurt. I’m sending you good thoughts and hope you are healing well.

    Reply

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