Thursday, September 27, 2012

When a Downfall Delivers a Lesson: Coast to Coast 2

     The first drops fell fat and heavy, random splatters as we crested the grassy flank of Grisedale Hause outside Grasmere village in the English Lake District. We’d felt the warning in stiff winds that buffeted our climb to a ridge with views of grassy hillsides, carved into jigsaw pieces by undulating ribs of rock walls.

    By the third day of the Coast-to-Coast distance hike, we’d grudgingly conceded that rain would be part of this trek, a 135-mile, guided National Geographic Adventure Travel outing  my husband and I had joined. We paused to catch our breath and gird ourselves for the next segment of a 9-mile afternoon that would bring us to our next hotel. We’d started late that day, after a morning exploring the Lake District home of poet William Wordsworth. Our itinerary estimated five hours of walking to our destination.

    Now, as a guide demonstrated how to hunker down and brace against the strong gusts surging toward us on the summit, we questioned the optimism of that time estimate. I pulled rain pants from my daypack and fought the wind as I struggled in vain to pull them over boots and pants. Frustrated, I stuffed them back in the pack and settled for the protection of a rain jacket.

    The trail turned rocky as we headed to Grisedale Tarn and then on toward lodging in Glenridding. Scattered rain gave way to a driving downpour that quickly sent streams of water sliding over the rocks of the trail. In minutes, my pants were soaked. Cold water dripped steadily from the hems into my boots.
    “I hate this. I hate this. I hate this. I should have tried harder to get my rain pants on. Watch your step. Watch the trail. I hate this. I hate this. I hate this.”  As conflict raged in my head, I fought back, trying to keep my focus on the path. Behind, I heard the footsteps of another hiker close on my heels--all of us impatient to get beyond this weather. Before I could step aside to cede the trail, I found myself lying in a heap of rocks and mud. The fall was so fast I didn’t feel it coming. It left me with a twisted ankle and a shattered ego. 

     I hobbled the final two hours of the walk, my feet sloshing in boots sodden with water. My mind flooded with self-criticism. It was fatigue of mind, not muscles, that toppled me. By the time we reached the hotel, Dean ahead of me and a guide behind, the sky had darkened into evening and the rain fell unabated. At the door, we poured water from our boots. 

    That night I soothed the ankle with ice and resigned myself to a day of rest in the sag wagon. With skillful ankle taping by a guide, I was back on the trail the following day, pondering the infinite irony of a fall that brought me, once again, to my knees before a  central message of my own books and workshops: Mindful walking! How easily it eludes me. “Teach what you would learn," the sages counsel.  And so I do. Hoping that with repetition I’ll eventually learn a bit more myself.

   Next blog: Walking on Water--or--Crossing the Bog. I'm having fun reliving this summer adventure and hope you're finding it interesting too.  If you'd like to try a walk of a  gentler nature, take a look at the Take a Walk section of my website. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Share your thoughts: