My summer took an interesting turn in early July. I volunteered to help a local organization with some trail rehabilitation work. We hiked up a steep south aspect on a trail with countless switchbacks, pulling spotted knapweed, cutting deadfall and/or encroaching snags, and widening the trail itself where erosion and gravity had made it too narrow or rutted for safe travel. I wielded a pickmattock, a wicked-looking but effective tool for this kind of work.
It had been agreed that we would be back at the trailhead for cold beverages and salty snacks by 4:00 pm. We were about two miles up trail by 3:00. Our volunteer coordinator said we'd knock off work at 3:15 to begin the hike down.
I finished up the section of trail I was working on and took off my hard hat and safety glasses and put them in my backpack. I turned and took three steps down the trail.
I fell to my left down the steep sidehill. I put my foot out to stop my fall, but there was 3 or 4 feet of space under my boot when I did, and I did a fast endo (as in end-over-end) and came to a stop with my head facing uphill.
I laid there for a bit, a little stunned at how quickly it had happened and trying to assess for damage. The only thing that hurt (other than my pride) was the ring finger on my left hand. I pulled off my glove, and saw that the finger was 10 or 12 degrees canted out of alignment.
"Dislocated," I grunted, and pulled the finger until I felt it pop and straighten.
I had the presence of mind to know that the finger would swell, so I removed my wedding band.
Then, I dropped it. On talus.
I heard the ring "ping" three times as it bounced down the hill. I put my hat down on the spot where it first struck, and began what I believed would be a futile search. Odds were pretty high that it had fallen down the interstices of that coarse rock field, but as luck would have it, the odds were ever in my favor.
A week later, the dislocated finger was still swollen, and the bruise seeped down into my palm.
After two weeks, my wife said "You need to get that thing checked out." I called the clinic, and set up an appointment for later in the week. After a brief exam, the physician's assistant sent me for X-rays, a 40 mile round trip to the hospital in the neighboring town.
Apparently, the finger isn't dislocated.
Tomorrow, precisely five weeks after I broke it, I'm having surgery to repair the break.
Apparently, I'm either hard as nails or the elevator doesn't rise above my chin. I've been living life in the meantime, and a long-scheduled trip to Canuckistan wasn't going to be cancelled, especially when it involved a friend from Colorado who had already purchased airline tickets and rented a condo.
143.6 miles from my front door, we launched the boat.
Shortly thereafter, things got busy.
My girl can fish.
This is an amazing wild river, and the log jams this year were epic--maybe a little too epic.
We spent the night in the condo, which seems to cater more to skiers than summer tourists. The parking arrangement was a first for me. Cue the theme to "The Jeffersons."
When in Rome, do as the locals do.
The scenery has come to mean as much to me as the actually catching of fish--perhaps more so. Unfortunately, the skies became increasingly smokier as our three days progressed.
While we had a substantial snowpack this past winter, it hasn't rained (to speak of) since May. The river is getting low and some runs will likely be impossible to navigate with a drift boat in the next few days.
We've been fishing here for close to 20 years. Traditionally, half the fun has been casting obscenely large dry flies. I have, no lie, fished size eight Royal Wulffs on this river to great effect. My wife's favorite pattern has been a size eight red Turk's Tarantula. However, we soon learned that sizing down would be more productive this time. A size 16 flying ant in ginger, black-and-red, or purple would all be consistently productive. However, these flies were far from durable, often unraveling after a fish or two.
Cue the foam bee.
Artsy-fartsy waterproof case photo entries.
Day three was more, much more, of the same. Temperatures were on the rise though, and we would have a three-hour commute home after yet another day on the water. We agreed to knock off at 4:00 pm.
A couple of days later on my home water (in fact, just five minutes from my house) this beautiful creature decided it liked my streamer. The curious 85 pound Lab is just there as a size reference:
All of this fun occurred knowing my finger was broken. The surgeon told me that he planned to use two screws to anchor the bone back in place, as the ends of the broken pieces have slid past each other. He also said he may have to install a plate, but that would be a game-time decision.
I remarked that I was surprised how little pain I had experienced thus far. He laughed darkly and said, "Oh, that's going to change once I do what needs to be done."
I suspect I'm done fishing for a while.