Short cuts and long recoveries

I was born fast.  I work fast, read fast, write fast, talk fast, run fast…and use to listen fast.  All of those things have slowed down with age, but “fast” is still a goal.  Sometimes fast is substituted with “Easy”…if I can’t do it fast, I will try to do it the easy way.  Late in life realization…”fast” adds risk and “easy” usually involves short cuts that may add risk, as well.  Damn.

Case in point, I hiked out to the active lava field well before dawn yesterday.  Long hike with the last couple of miles being over rough lava that is filled with cracks, textures, drop offs and lots of slippery areas…made more slippery by a brief rain shower.  Until I get to the area of the active flow…where I encounter red hot bright lava…the lava field at night is dark and featureless unless illuminated by a light…and then you just see that one small lighted area.  It is a dangerous place to be hiking…at age 70…with maybe 25 pounds of camera equipment and bottled water in my back pack…at night, with moisture in the air and on the rocks and in a hurry to get to the active flow prior to sunup.  Dangerous as heck.

So…I’m pretty experienced at this kind of hiking.  I pack as light as I can.  I know that heavy leather gloves can save your hands if you fall onto the lava that is often like broken glass.  I know that long pants can provide some protection to my bare legs should I fall.  A respirator is a must just in case I encounter an area where there is an accumulation of nasty volcanic gases.  I know all that stuff and own all those safety related items.

So, yesterday I decided on fast and easy.  No gloves.  No jeans.  No respirator.  And a super small flashlight to light my way.  Made really good progress right up to the nasty fall I took that knocked me out and scraped me up.  I’m fine…but I am pretty banged up and the whole episode slowed down my hiking partners to the point that we all nearly missed the sunrise.

One more time I am reminded…just do the right thing the first time.  If I can’t do it right…just don’t do it at all.  And my photo and business partner, and friend, CJ Kale, took this opportunity to remind that I was lucky I was hiking with companions…they saw me go down, got me back up and actually took my pack and tripod from me so I could hike the rest of the way without that weight on me (Nick Selway will laugh at this part…because he has grabbed my pack from me on many occassions, as has CJ).  A couple weeks ago we all went out to the lava field.  I took off by myself to see if I could reach the lava breakout quite a ways away prior to sunup.  I made it…but not after being taken to my knees by volcanic gases…having left my respirator in the car and having no one out there to drag me out of the dangerous area.  I rallied back up to my feet, staggered out of the area and vowed not to do that again.

So…shortcuts can lead to long recoveries.  God, I hope I can remember that lesson.  I’ve done pretty poorly on remembering it thus far.  I will be reminded of it in the weeks ahead as the various bits of lava rock work their way out of my leg and hands and as my possibly broken finger mends itself  (no need to see a doctor as my fingers are not all the straight anyway).  I’m into “life long learning”…the hard way.  Aloha.