The Fine Art of Falling!

HikeItForward-Final-SmallThe master hiker may never fall but walking for miles with a 30 lb pack on your back can cause some balance problems for beginners. Throw in some slippery trails, wet rocks, tricky roots, and stumbling blocks that come out of nowhere, and the nice walk in the woods quickly turns into a wipe-out course that would challenge the equilibrium of Daniel Boone.  Thru-hikers have a special vocabulary for many aspects of the adventure including falling. For example….

Banana Flip = a fall in which your feet fly up in the air and you land on your back, as if you’d slipped on a banana peel. Falling on your back while carrying a heavy pack is less than desirable.

Face Plant = a face-first tumble. I have painfully watched some of my grandchildren practice this move. It brings new meaning to the phrase, “no skin off my nose.”

Turtle- ing = a tumble in which the hiker lands on his/her pack and struggles to regain footing. “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”

Umbles = stumbles, bumbles, and mumbles that may signal a more serious malady, such as dehydration or hypothermia.

I have not seen these “falls” in print as trail jargon, but I would offer them into evidence from my own limited experience:

Flying Butt Drop = an unsuspected fall on an incredibly slippery surface that immediately puts you on your posterior without time to react.

StreamFord2The Edsel = this is a ford gone wrong – the fall that occurs while attempting to ford a creek, stream, or river. These wet and often very dangerous falls can result in muddy shoes, drenched clothes, lost poles and hikers trapped underwater because of the weight of the packs strapped to their backs.

Runaway = falling off the trail because one’s momentum/speed is out of control. One would think that going downhill would be easy for the thru-hiker. However, sometimes the grade of the downhill is extreme and traversing the trail can offer great challenge. Once momentum takes over, stopping and changing directions is not always easy.

Leadership Lesson: I was out this summer on a hike after it had rained for a few days. The trail was muddy and slick. I found myself slipping and sliding quite a bit. After successfully catching myself for the tenth time, I realized that a safely navigated slip was a great alternative to a fall and an injury. As I continued to reflect on hiking and life (there is lots of time to reflect while walking in the woods), I formulated a leadership principle based on the slippery trail. “Every slip can be a learning experience and a positive event as long as it doesn’t result in a thud.” I have made lots of missteps in my professional life and have taken some risks that have resulted in poor footing. But the more I “walk,” the more I learn about the trail of life.

COUNTDOWN –  220 days!

“ford” photo found at http://www.atforczc.blogspot.com/

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Backpack, Hiking, Thru-Hike, Trail | Leave a comment

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