In dim light, I stretch my legs; crisp autumn air nips at my skin. I nestle into a down vest and watch the sun crest the mountain horizon. Golden rays shimmer through the cedars and dance on my face.
In seconds, I was reduced to a howling wretch, helpless as a young child.
In February 2015, a traumatic farming accident landed me in the hospital. Three 1,800 lb (816 kg) bulls crushed my entire upper body between two steel cattle panels and left me physically broken and devastated. I’m petite with a willowy frame, yet I have a reputation as an outspoken firebrand. I’ve been a risk taker, a tenacious hurricane force to be reckoned with. In seconds, I was reduced to a howling wretch, helpless as a young child.
Accidents and illnesses happen: real people are damaged. Standing at the trailhead, I mentally relived my spine and clavicle snapping, rib cage strangling my lungs, throbbing arms and shoulders, and my un-restrainable screams. I felt the faded echoes of injuries, but swallowed their memories, ignored physical discomfort, rearranged my gear, and discarded my years of experience.
It was time to start over.
This is the story of my return to the backcountry. It includes information about my recovery and training, and the story of my re-entry trip in the Canadian Rockies (and of course, my gear list!).
My injuries led me down a grueling trail of recovery.
For two months, I was dependent on prescription painkillers to remain conscious through pain. By September 2015, months of over-the-counter painkillers and prescription muscle relaxants had provided some relief from frequent inflammation and muscle spasms. Though I tried to use them infrequently, my normal opposition to taking medications was suppressed in the face of pain.
I lost significant muscle mass that left me questioning whether or not I’d be backpacking any time soon. Not long ago, I needed help just to shower and dress. For months, I gritted my teeth in agony and staggered from bed. I spent eight months crawling back from injuries, and I had been training for the last month for backpacking. Before the injury, I seldom faced doubt about going into the backcountry. At the trailhead, I doubted myself completely as I faced the prospect of what seemed like my first ever trip into the backcountry.