It’s funny how the story in your head can change in an instant.
There I was practically skipping down the Granite Mountain trail, with a blog idea formulating in my head: The many faces of Granite Mountain.
And who could blame me on that warm, sunny Sunday? Granite Mountain – arguably Prescott, Arizona’s most iconic promontory – had shown itself well that day. Backed by an azure-blue Arizona sky, the views of the pink-tinted mountain had shifted constantly as we ascended and descended its 7,600-foot summit. Despite the tough climb, I was relishing the many different faces.
Then, wham, I got an up-close look at Granite Mountain from an altogether new vantage point: In my face, as I slammed into a piece of granite jutting into the trail.
Tripping on a small point of jagged rock protruding from the trail, I had lurched forward, stumbled, and face-planted onto a larger rock about 10 feet down the trail. The pain of impact was excruciating.
Since we had been going at a good clip on the downward section, I had plenty of momentum. My forehead, nose, eyes, and cheekbones took the brunt of it. The metal bridge of my Ray-Ban sunglasses cut into the bridge of my nose, and the sunglasses’ nose pads dug hard into the tender skin beside my eyes.
As I sat up, I felt blood running down my face, and numbness spreading from my nose to my forehead. I didn’t realize it then, but my wrists, arms, shoulders, and knees had also taken some of the impact, and would be sore for days.
Looking down at my sunglasses, with their cracked lens, bent frame, and twisted nose pads, I had a sinking feeling that my injuries went beyond the usual aches and scrapes of hiking.
All of a sudden, the story in my head went from “Wow, what a beautiful day” to “Do I need urgent care?” My friend, who I hike with often, was a calming force, and walked me slowly for the remaining mile or so to the trailhead. After a quick look in the car mirror, I answered “yes” to the urgent-care question, and we spent the rest of the sunny afternoon in a stuffy waiting room with a dozen flu-ridden patients.
Actually, it could have been a lot worse. My cut was small, no bones were broken, I didn’t damage any teeth, and my eyes were OK (probably thanks to the protection of the Ray-Bans). I did end up with two black eyes, a few facial abrasions, and over-all soreness.
The incident served as a reminder on a couple of points. One – granite is HARD. In a community that was originally named Granite City, the impenetrable rock is everywhere in Prescott. Along with Granite Mountain, there are the Granite Dells, Granite Gardens, and Granite Creek. With all of that beautiful rock, it sometimes slips my mind that the boulders and dells can be treacherous. But my encounter on Granite Mountain definitely drove that point home!
Also, there’s the point that hiking comes with some obvious dangers. Nearly everyone who has taken to the trails has a story about a hiking injury, an encounter with a lightning storm, or a close call with a rattlesnake. I’ve been hiking for more than 20 years, and other than a few twisted ankles and some minor scrapes, I had escaped largely unscathed.
So for now, I’ll take my scrape with Granite Mountain as a little warning. From now on, I pledge to focus more on the trail in front of me, and less on the story in my head.