In October 2014, I celebrated my one year anniversary of a near death experience.*
Out for an overdue ride with a new friend, Mr. Chris Mellick. We went OUT THERE! I can’t tell you where we went, but I will tell you that I rode through heaven, passed through hell and walked with an angel out of the woods.
After some excellent cross country and brown pow, we got to a ridge that had been built out with simple yet artistic lines through the forest. Trail building is an science and an art form that I am coming to appreciate more and more the closer I get to it all. The lines that the trail followed- climbing, traversing and descending the ridge were spot on. So clean, so clear and intentionally intuitive.
As I followed Chris up and down the slopes, we’d check in with smiles and high-fives. I had a huge bike boner- besides paddling and skiing (and sex) – this is as close to my own personal nirvana as I’m going to get. We were rippin’ along, shredding the silence with our deep breaths and shouts out, when we came to a STOP.
Chris explained that we were going to follow the trail to the right, so that we could look at (not HUCK OFF) the big drop that presented itself as optional feature on this private trail. This place was invite only. If I told you where we were, I’d have to…
Like those secret fishing holes you don’t get to hear about, this trail is only for those in the know. Know what I’m sayin’!
Our front tires sat on the edge of the ridge, imagining crazy kids dropping in and riding up the other side with substantial speed- enough to send it through the air on the opposing bank and land on a down slope corner. (@ 1:33 in video– see below) If you made it that far, the rest seems like gravy.
That’s what I thought.
We rode around “all that” to avoid the whole risk vs. reward factor. As we bypassed the “tough stuff”, we came to the next section. Chris cautioned, “This is the section that has all those guys that come out here to huck it, are scared of.” I remember thinking OUT LOUD that “WOW, this is such an easy trail, sure there’s a huge drop to the right, but the trail looks pretty easy to follow.” I remember saying something to that effect and then all of the sudden, my front tire turned and impeded any forward progress. (@ 2:11 in video)
As my bike came to a an immediate halt on the trail, my body began an absolute free fall. I remember attempting to reach out for the tip of a fern (in a futile attempt to save my fat ass) as I fell endlessly downward.
You know the whole, “My life flashed before my eyes” thing!
It’s real. Really REAL.
Next stop: Earth.
25′ freefall. Blackness.
I was fortunate that the undisturbed forest floor provided a crash pad landing of soil and stuff that had built up over the years. It was an earthen sponge that absorbed my impact. Most important was that there were no obtrusive points awaiting my arrival. Otherwise: GAME OVER.
Laying with my face mashed in the dirt, I spit out a clod and rolled over and took a DEEP breath.
I was ALIVE!! OMFG. Thank YOU.
I landed on my face. My glasses gouged into my left eyebrow. Blood streamed into my eye. The helmet did its’ job and got to retire once we made it home.
The other two points of contact were my left elbow and knee. Needless (pun int) to say I got crushed. HARD.
My Savior appeared. Chris had scrambled down the embankment and was on the scene to provide the care I needed. Happy. Alive. Next?
My left arm was crushed. I unzipped my bike jersey and created a sling for it to rest in Napoleonic fashion. After a lot of swearing, deep breathing and a couple “I want my mommy” cries outloud, I got on my feet.
First. We had to figure out how to get back up to the ridge.
Chris climbed up the embankment as I stood at the base of the wall. We used a downed tree, broke off the branches and extended it down the hill. I tucked it under my right arm and he pulled me back up to “safety”. I started my walk out of the woods as he gathered my bike and gear and followed me down the trail- recognizing that we were missing some epic lines.
I imagined wounded Civil War (or any WAR for that matter) Soldiers and the pain and suffering they endured. I equated the pain in my left shoulder to that of a musket ball being lodged above my heart. “Bite the bullet and get on with the march,” the voice pounded inside my head.
GO! Keep going.
Teaching moment: “In the history of armed conflicts, there has never been a good time to be wounded in battle, but the soldiers of the American Civil War were especially unlucky that their battles took place during the early 1860s. Those four years were a brief period when recent developments in arms and ammunition made battlefields far more lethal than they had been a decade before, while discoveries in medicine – which could have partially counterbalanced the awful effects of the new ordnance – were still a handful of years in the future.” – The Bullet that Changed History, NYT.
While not doing this to Save the Union or defend the honor of my country, this pain was the real deal and the only way out was to walk to the nearest road. Not a public road, but one of the forest roads that criss-cross the mountain. On the walk out, I slipped once and slid down the hill (@3:12 in video) and shouted out yet another “I want my mommy!”
We made it to the road and Chris began the climb to hook up with another HERO of the day who was making his way towards us to pick me up in a vehicle. Greg Mroz to the Rescue! YES. Saved.
BONUS: Video of the trail we rode.
Points of interest: Big Huck @ 1:33; Crash Site @ 2:11; Slippery Slope @ 3:12
*Well, OK. Top 3!
Blackcomb & Deception Pass as top rivals.
C7B_ situations excluded. 😉