Last December my pal Josh and I decided to venture 10k to Kennedy Falls with Rooney, my Greater Swiss Mountain Dog.
It was a beautiful sunny Thursday afternoon in the enchanted forest above Lynn Valley.
The backcountry terrain on this particular hike is very rugged. The train flows along the east side of Mount Fromme and the west side of Lynn Creek. While the trail has less elevation gain compared to many North Shore hikes, the route itself is quite tough with lots of roots, slippery creek crossings, muddy hills, and numerous fallen trees to climb over or under – all of which were covered in a thick layer of snow and ice at this time.
At 10:30am we began heading north up the trail to Kennedy falls and noticed the markers were not clearly visible. I’ve heard this was a difficult hike to navigate in the middle of summer, I didn’t however take in to consideration how trying it would be covered in a few blankets of snow.
After two hours of getting lost in gullies and backtracking around the trail, we could finally hear the waterfall; we were mere steps away from our final destination. There was one last obstacle: two fallen trees on either side of a creek. Josh took the first jump and flew over flawlessly… I on the other hand was not blessed with such grace. As I went for the leap, I fell, hit my knee on the side of the tree and landed on the snow-covered creek.
Josh and Rooney quickly jumped down to help me back to my feet but my entire right leg gave out, it was unable to support the weight of my now-frozen frame. I took a few deep breaths, it took everything in me not to scream in agony. Josh’s calm demeanor made it easier to think through the situation we now found ourselves in. We lifted up my Lulu’s to assess the damage, the wound didn’t start bleeding for the first few seconds – it was as if time was standing still. All three of us sat in frozen awe studying the fresh deep wound just under my kneecap.
We were 5k from any type of cell-reception. I wasn’t sure to what extent I was hurt, but I knew it was very bad. I had packed two granola bars, two oranges and a water bottle. That’s it. No first-aid kit, no emergency blanket, flashlight, lighter, rope or GPS (although I owned one, and happily took it to Peru but did not think to take it for a hike in my own backyard). I had a backpack, but I hadn’t come prepared.
I handed Josh a Cliff bar and opened one for myself. I knew we were in for a long haul and needed as much energy as possible. It was now 1:30pm, we had exactly 3 hours before the sun would set.
Rooney was trying to help clean my wound as the blood began to gush from the cut. Josh started cleaning the area with snow. We tied my headband as tightly as we could around the gash in order to stop some of the bleeding.
We both decided that our only option at this point was to work as a team and get out of there.
Josh helped me to get on my feet, the pain began to spike. Mind over matter. I can do this.
Josh repeatedly calmly assured Rooney and I that we’d be just fine. We would make it out before sunset and everything would be okay. One step at a time.
The smallest movements took all of the energy I could possibly muster up.
I stood for a few moments, observing a three-inch step over a fallen branch. On the way there I probably didn’t even notice it, now it felt like a mountain in itself.
I could feel my jaw clenching and my breaths getting shorter. My bottom lip was quivering and my entire body was shaking in shock. What happens if I can’t make it out? What if I need to wait here until someone rescues me? Will I make it that long?
Then, I felt Rooney. He slowly pushed his body into my left side, opposite the injury. I could feel his entire body tense up as if to show me he was ready to help carry my weight over the obstacle. I put my hand on his back and leaned on him as I pushed my body over the branch. One step at a time.
Josh and Rooney repeatedly had to run ahead to find the next marker and run back to help lift me over branches and pirouette me down jumps.
The sun had set as we finally reached the end of the hike. We made it. It was dark, but we made it.
My family was extremely worried. They didn’t know which hike I was on but they knew I was in trouble – I normally message that I’m back safe and sound and return Rooney to his home after a hike. As 4:00 pm rolled around and there was still no sign or message from me, they knew something was very wrong. They began calling friends that I might have been with and anyone who might know of where I had gone; they were mere moments away from calling North Shore Search & Rescue.
I was rushed to the hospital to get x-rays and stitches. Thankfully I didn’t completely ruin myself that night. I walked away with a bruised bone, damage to my cartilage and a torn LCL. A few weeks of rest and ice and I’d be as good as new…ish.
I remember going to bed that night thinking of how truly lucky I was to make it out alive and safe but also how bad it could have been. I will never go out into the forest without proper supplies again, it was a hard lesson but I learned it well.
It’s a wonderful world out there, full of adventure and stories to be had; to my fellow explorers: please be smart, safe and prepared out there.