A slip, a fall, a softball: A backcountry mistake

Chances are if you enjoy backcountry adventures, you have learned some lessons thanks to a mistake or two.  I would like to think that my past mistakes of mine have made me wiser, so I share this with the hope of making you, the reader, wiser as well!

In June 2010 my sister and I met in Jackson, Wyo to run a half marathon and then head into the Grand Teton National Park for a three day backpacking trip.  After being cheered on by our mom during the half-marathon (my first one ever!), we rested for a day before setting out on our adventure.

Our trip began with taking the gondola from the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort to the top of Rendezvous Peak where we met up with a trail that would take us to Marion Lake and the Teton Crest Trail.  We had done our research, talked to rangers, and brought our ice axes and yak-tracks because we were told there would definitely still be snow, which was confirmed when we picked up our backcountry permit the day before.

Renee & I getting ready to take the gondola up!

Renee & I getting ready to take the gondola up!

We got off the gondola with our backpacks and headed for the trail, which we got on and began moving through some snow.  We quickly lost the trail and also learned that the snow was not even close to being hard packed, like we had been briefed.  Not to be deterred, we got out our map, oriented ourselves, and figured out what direction we needed to head in.  It was at this point that we began bushwhacking down and up sides of mountains. 

This was the last time we saw the trail

This was the last time we saw the trail

As we continued to posthole through snow up to our waists, we learned that we could take our packs off, slide them down the mountain to each other and move a bit more efficiently.  We were definitely getting a good workout and knew we were headed in the right direction; suddenly we saw a trail (on dry ground!) and were stoked!  We looked at the map and knew that trail would intersect our desired trail.  As we pushed our way through the snow and down the side of the mountain towards the trail, we realized that we were going to have to cross a fast-moving stream that was very full due to runoff. 

This was the stream we had to cross (taken post crossing)

This was the stream we had to cross (taken post crossing)

Let me take a break at this point and say that we were both experience hikers but both relatively new to backpacking (it was my 4th trip and my sister’s 2nd). Ok back to our story…

We got to the bottom of the mountain where the creek was flowing; we looked for the best area to cross.  When we thought we found it my sister began to cross.  She was weighted down with her backpack (which we now know to either throw across the creek or at least unstrap the waist and chest belt of) and the rocks on the bottom of the steam were slick.  Before I knew it, she slipped on a rock and was floating downstream face first!!  I was able to reach her pack and help her pull herself back to the bank of the stream.  We decided that the only thing for us to do was find a way across this stream as going back up the mountain wasn’t possible and the drainage was too narrow for us to simply follow the stream, plus we were trying to reach that darn trail!

After finding a good, sturdy stick, I was able to stay on one bank holding an end and she could slowly walk across holding the other end (we have since learned proper stream crossing techniques).  We crossed the stream easily and were beyond joyous, that is until we realized that Renee had landed hard on her shin during her first attempt. 

We were very thankful for this stick!!

We were very thankful for this stick!!

We took a look at it, let the adrenaline of the situation wear off, and realized that she had a lump that was swelling to the size of a softball on her shin!!!  After getting up a short hill to the trail, we reassessed and decided that our original plans for the trip now had to be scrapped due to her injury, but she wanted to continue on with something.  Taking the map out we found other options that would give us less elevation changes but still allow us to enjoy our trip.

The bump swelling up on my sister's shin

The bump swelling up on my sister’s shin

We set up camp that night and I begged her to be honest with me and that if it hurt too much or looked worse in the morning we could just hike out. After that promise, we were able to still have a great trip and see amazing sights, to include our first bull moose and an elk watching us sleep during an afternoon nap (but those are entirely whole different stories!).

One of many unexpected but spectacular views we were treated to

One of many unexpected but spectacular views we were treated to

Want to learn from the adventure missteps of others?  Join me, some other bloggers, and the fabulous staff of Sierra Trading Post for #STPLive on Twitter this Thursday, March 27 at 4pm MST. 

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12 responses to this post.

  1. Well, that certainly sounds like an adventure. I haven’t camping/packing in the backcountry more than 10 times. I am obviously still learning because it seems that something goes wrong every time I go. I bet you guys sit around and talk about “and THEN guess what happened” and have a chuckle.

    Reply

  2. Wait… was the water cold? As in, almost freezing? It sounds cold. And somehow that is the most traumatizing thing I got out of all this! Glad you were able to make the most of the trip, all things considered!

    Reply

  3. Holy cow! That is one swollen shin! Glad it turned out okay. My dad always said you can’t learn everything the hard way. But sometimes it’s the hard lessons that we remember best.

    Reply

  4. Dude! I thought that was her calf and when I realized it was the front side of her shin?! YOWZA!!

    Reply

  5. Dang, that’s a nasty shin bump! I’ve done a similar thing, but just hiking. Sounds like quite the trip! I hate getting bad intel too, it can be pretty frustrating!

    Reply

  6. HOLY COW!!!! What a frickin’ bump that is!!! (also, I’d never guess that you and your sister are related. You look nothing alike! ;)) (also, also – it’s so cool that you and your sister backpack together! I wish my fam was closer and interested in backpacking/hiking too.)

    Reply

  7. […] Read the full story at: An Appetite for Adventure […]

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