Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Moose

After a 2007 failed PCT attempt due to a vicious bout with salmonella, I went back to work in an outdoor leadership program in Montana. For 3 years, I aimed to get my wilderness skills better, to get my head straight, to prepare for another attempt at the PCT and a lifestyle I wanted to live. Up until 2007 I struggled to find the courage to live the life I craved. While the conflict of loving my job in Montana and the urge to go out on the PCT remained ever-present, the impetus to again attempt the PCT laid in the path of a severe injury and a moose. After the incident noted below, I was restricted to a neck brace for 3 months with fractured vertebrate in my neck. In the process of mending I began to reflect and ponder the life I had lived and the life I yearned. I kept thinking: "I don't want to be 40 saying I wish I would have."

The broken neck and the moose prodded me into the life I love today, into a life of wandering, of enormous goals and adventures, into freedom, into courage, into exploring the curiosity of life and self, into powerful relationships I am grateful for (including a wonderful wife), among other meaningful things. I cannot help but think of people I hear everyday afraid to live the life they dream of, afraid of what others will think of them. All I can hope for is that a 'moose' will come along and push them over the edge. Even as I write this, I am envious of the ones who did not need a 'moose.' Those are the people I truly admire. But I can tell you this: it is never too late.

Get out and live. Live bravely and true to yourself and your beliefs. 
Dream big, act big.
Below is the account of a close encounter with a moose during the Devil's Backbone 50m adventure race outside of Bozeman, MT in July of 2010. I wrote the race director to tell him of the event as he had heard of the crazy situation I was involved in from others. All along my neck was broken from a silly event the previous week. I have yet to recount this story in a blog entry mainly due to a little feeling of shame and embarrassment. However, lately in my life I have been thinking about how thankful I am for those events below solely for the fact of the path that I am now on is no one's but the path that I have chosen, that I will fight for the life I truly aimed to lead.

6 months later I ran a 50k when the neurosurgeon told me that I should never run again.
5 more months went by and I trekked the PCT.

"Hey Tom,
Yep, needless to say, I am pretty much in disbelief. I had a fall a week ago last Saturday and landed weird on my head, neck and shoulder area. I felt a crunch/tear but I figured it was a pulled or stretched muscle in my shoulder/neck area. I kept working out in the week and felt okay by Friday, though the mornings were and are the worst part. I'd thought I'd be okay to race but, boy, was I wrong. I was in pretty good pain--trouble breathing, numbed left arm, tingling arm, etc. I dropped halfway up the Hyalite snow wall and headed back. About 1.5 miles from the trailhead I ran into a bull moose. Big, young bull with 2-3 ft paddles on each side. We met on the trail about 20ft apart on a blind corner. I was in pain hiking quietly down the trail with my head down and my mind was completely out of sorts--frustration, pain, anger, etc. I backed away and he began charging and chasing me. I took off back down the trail towards Arch Falls. I stopped after running a 100yds or so. I checked to see if he was still there; he was and he charged me again. I wasn't quite scared yet, just trying to figure a way out of the threat.
I ran again--there wasn't any 'good' enough trees to climb up and I was starting to get  freaked out. I took a fisherman's trail towards the creek hoping to get to the other side to stay wide of the moose, thinking he was trying to scare me. WRONG! I crossed the creek, scoped him out and he was slowly making his way to the creek. He then saw me across the creek while poking his giant head through the willows and charged again. I tried scampering up one tree but it was too small for me to get up and the branches kept breaking. I tried another tree and the same thing happened. Plus, I lacked the strength enough to grapple hold from the neck pain.
Then, I noticed the bull was about 20ft from me in the creek coming at me fast. I booked it upstream through the thick forest. Now I was really, really scared. I ran for I don't know how long jumping over downed logs, up and down swales, and fighting brush until I saw a big snag with big limbs near a huge log spanning the creek. I could feel his presence behind me and the whole time I thought he was about to club me in the back of the head. He was that close! I reached the log and looked for the moose. He was coming up the creek right up the middle of it. I climb the big snag about 12ft in the air, the whole time feeling like my arm was going to pull off from the injury. The moose stopped underneath me and stayed there for about 20 minutes. Blood dripped from scrapes that I had gotten from attempting to climb the trees. He turned around and went back the way he came and went into the willows/brush. I scaled down the tree after a 45min. wait, then scouted for him on the log. Once I figured I was clear I headed back towards the trail. I was not going to go back down the trail where I met the bull. Keep in mind, I had no positive idea of where he went.
So, I looked around frantically trying to find a way back to the trailhead. By now I was in so much immense pain that I new it was important for me to get to a hospital. I spotted a cliff band high up and figured the moose wouldn't follow me up there. I also thought the moose was near the creek and wouldn't be able to hear me crunching through the woods so far above him.  So, I scampered up towards the cliffs and traversed above the trail and creek back towards the trailhead. I was so shaken up I ended up about 1/2mile past the trailhead in the brush above the road, my legs and arms scratched from the scaling and sliding down trees, and my neck and back wrenching in pain. I went to my vehicle, drove to Billings to the walk-in clinic and once they got the x-rays back they sent me to the ER to get a catscan. The results are a fractured c6 and c7 vertebrae. I see the neurosurgeon tomorrow who'll hopefully say I don't need surgery. For now, I think I have to put running on hold until I get better, which means dropping some races...

Crazy day and a crazy story. I apologize for the long diatribe. I am happy to be walking and feel very lucky and at the same time mad...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Gossamer Gear Blog Entry

A few months back while on the Pacific Crest Trail I did a guest post for the Gossamer Gear Blog entitled "Thoughts on Walking Straighter."

In my effort to gain more efficiency on trail I began investigating the way we walk. To read more about this topic click on the article link below.