Sunday, July 3, 2016

Broken Leg Anniversary

Celebrating two years since my stress fracture with a solo backpacking trip up Broken Leg Mountain in the Swan Range of northwestern Montana.
This is as high as I climbed.  Because it’s OK to turn around and not risk injury to reach the summit.
The stress fracture turned out to be a turning point in my life, shaping my PCT experience and my time beyond.  It is something that I think about everyday.
No longer following any footprints that came before.  Must make my own way forward.
Still wearing the same hiking shoe style and microspikes that I was when I got the stress fracture.  Sometimes I wonder how much has changed in two years.  Certainly not my gear.  But how about the things that matter?
Because of those heartbreaking ten weeks that it took to heal from my injury in 2014, I learned I couldn’t continue to have hiking be my sole source of happiness.  Happiness couldn’t be dependent on anything external.  Instead I found that joy that bubbles up from inside.
The sweet scent of wildflowers.
Something also clicked inside me after the stress fracture that made me want to find out what it means to give back.  At the time, the pain and disappointment were consuming and overwhelming.  Thankfully, I was surrounded by supportive friends that made all the difference.  I joined AmeriCorps in 2015 and signed up for another term this year.  Serving in AmeriCorps doesn't even begin to repay the generosity that had been shown to me, but it's a start.  And it shows me how I want to be in the world. From that desire to give back, I ended up finding my new passion that I hope can turn into the what-I-do-with-my-life.
When I look out into the distance to twinkling of small town lights, it makes me wonder about my place within the larger community.  From my hammock hung beside wildflower meadow, overlooking sunset sky.  What am I doing out here by myself?  What am I doing with this one precious but seeminly brief life I have?
Entering the world of parks, I also had to let go of the labels that I thought defined me and were so important in my old world— Dr., scientist, evolutionary biologist.  My old identity shattered when I left the ivory tower.  Disarmed may be the best descriptor.  I started fresh, humbled.  I could no longer wrap protective layers of labels around myself.  It turned out to be a good way of being.
Wrapped in my hoodie, surrounded by down, within the hammock.  And yet, there is not much at all between me and the world here.  Wind gusts in.  The ticks find their way in.  I feel part of it all here.
I used to think that life was about finding that one singular thing that you were good at, and then pursuing that one thing to an extraordinary degree of specialization until expertise was achieved.  Now I see that a rich life can take on multiple trajectories.  A rich life involves growth.  Growth can happen quickly by starting fresh.  Switching from one track to another involves so much letting go (as painful as that can be for those that like to cling and resist change.)
Glaciers left those lines in the rock.  Glaciers carved that valley.  Sometimes, it helps to sit still and think about all the things that used to be here, but are gone now- the layers of rocks that got scraped away, the miles and miles of glaciers that moved through here.  And how smooth and beautiful that which remains is.  (Does the smooth rock miss the glaciers?  Does it miss being hidden beneith other layers of rock?)
Changing light of sunset.
Two years later, I can celebrate the anniversary of my stress fracture by appreciating the changes that came as a result.  Now life outside long trails has never seemed brighter.

Date hiked: May 30-31, 2016
Trail hiked: Echo Broken Leg Trail #544 in Flathead National Forest


  1. Love this philosophical babble. Sometimes we must break to rebuild. You're doing a GREAT job at choosing what stones will become the building blocks of your new universe. I say we choose how to write the chapters of our personal story and you've taken that one step further by completely reinventing yourself.

    1. Thanks Jan. Yes it did feel like breaking to rebuild- love that phrase. I'm glad you understand!

  2. "Chance favors only the prepared mind." Louis Pasteur. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Well said! Thanks for the comment!

  3. And I also admire your strength of character.

    Just this morning I found "Elina Travels".

    If you haven't come across her yet, you might find value in what she writes. ( )

    1. Wow this is a wonderful read. Appreciate you sharing it.

  4. Well said and thanks for the opportunity for reflection.

  5. Well said. Keep going and keep growing. Happy Trails- SlowBro