Never run downhill
There is a story about an old man who had jumped into a river and was swept over a waterfall. Miraculously he survived and a young man asked him how he managed such a feat, as there were a lot of rocks that should have smashed him to smithereens. Basically it amounted to going with the flow, not fighting the currents, becoming one with the water, letting it carry you where it may.
Indeed, a friend told me how he recently wrecked his bike. He decided to follow this principle while careening into rock and root. He didn’t escape unscathed like the old man but neither did he break any bones.
Going with the flow works, even when doing really stupid things, as I shall now illustrate in my first in a series of Really Stupid Things I Have Done So That You Won’t Have To series, brought to you by the department of redundancy department.
Me and my cousins and brother were busy one summer building a cabin, I mean fort – okay, a hutch in the North Carolina mountains. There were two ways to get to the remote spot we had chosen for our cottage; one was to follow the trail leading up the mountain, and the other via a more treacherous route straight up the cliff.
We chose the trail.
However, after several hours of hard work cutting down the trees to make this fine fort/cabin/cottage younameit thing, I was pretty danged thirsty and didn’t feel like taking the long walk down the trail. I decided to go down the steep cliff.
Piece of cake! I’d gone up and down those cliffs a million times over the course of my 13 years. So with hiking stick in hand I commenced the downward trek across loose gravel and rock. I found I could make better time and use less exertion if I took little hops.
Let me be the first to tell you that taking little hops on a steep cliff face is not a prudent act, unless you want to be the proud recipient of the Darwin Award – bestowed posthumously, of course. In fact, I soon discovered to my great chagrin that my little hops had accelerated into a blistering descent with my head moving downward slightly faster than my racing feet. This is a recipe for disaster, so I ran faster and faster, basically trying to keep up with my head.
Oh, did I mention that at the bottom of the cliff was Highway 105 with its steady stream of cars and trucks racing by in excess of 60 MPH? And here I was, now running 60 MPH myself – and headed right toward this deathtrap.
And I do mean running. By this point I was no longer taking tiny hops. Nope. Now I was bounding downhill in gigantic, loping strides measuring half-a football field in length, careening out of control toward my bloody destination with 105.
My hiking stick was of no use and was jettisoned as I rocketed headlong down the cliff, all the while cleverly contemplating my next move. I was clearly accelerating, moving faster than my gangly legs were designed to go, still trying desperately to keep up with my forward leaning head.
So I stopped.
That is to say, I stopped running. I didn’t stop moving, obviously, because that would go against the laws of physics.
I had figured, and rightly so, that a controlled fall onto rock was preferable to an uncontrolled high speed collision into asphalt and truck tires. So I stopped running.
Now hurtling in mid-air at the speed of sound I had little time to contemplate my stupidity before plummeting head over heels upon gravel and rock. But I was fortunate and a gigantic blackberry bush cushioned my fall with its barbed brambles.
I hit and I hit hard, but a goodly distance from the Highway of Death below. After a few dozen obligatory bounces I stuck to the bush like Velcro. And even though I was sliced to ribbons, still I was grateful for those blackberries, as I lay upon the gravel and rock and thorns staring up into blue sky.
So my lesson to all – go with the flow! And if you insist upon running downhill, pick one that is flat, one that is not a mountain cliff and preferably one that does NOT have a highway at the bottom. (Brambles optional.)