As we mentioned previously. part of our fitness goals for the year includes walking at the nearby State Park. We have taken a younger Toddles on harder hikes with more cliffs and stairs, and yet his only injury happened just this last Tuesday on the new, easy trail.
This trail is so new, we represented our hotel on the 'first hike' event just earlier this month. It is marked only by red plastic tree ties, slightly shorter grass, and mowed down cactus. We don't know the trail very well yet and I'm sure we have 'turned back' on more than one occasion instead of finishing the trail when finishing it would actually be shorter.
There are some nice views on this trail, and some strange things to come across, and only a few areas where the footing is at all dangerous, mostly due to some very well camouflaged trunks to tiny trees they cleared for the path.
Tuesday, we were going to squeeze in some exercise before I headed to art class. Our babysitter called in, so we took Toddles with us. He loves 'walk-in-the-park' but on that day he just wasn't feeling it. This wasn't a problem, we always bring a metal-frame baby carrying backpack with us in case he gets tired on the trail. It turned out he just did not want to walk that day, so he requested to be put into the pack immediately. We loaded him up, and he wanted me to be the one to 'hol' you' so I strapped him onto my back. I was even happy to have the extra weight, more weight to move=more exercise, right? Plus, sometimes it is nice not to have to ...well, toddle along the path when you want to get a work out.
We walked along the trail, taking the trail clockwise from the starting point and making our way past some landmarks we are coming to know.
The T.A.R.D.I.S. It may not look like the box you know, but Toddles declared it 'Doctor WHOOO!" the first instant he spotted it through the trees. For anyone who doesn't recognize what it actually is, it is a deer blind. The State Park (apparently) closes for public hunts for weeks at a time, it is closed currently until Friday, so we're having to find somewhere else to hike. One day Toddles will understand what this actually is, but for now I'm happy to let him think it belongs to the Doctor.
The deer skull. Skulls are cool, everyone has one.
Some of the parts of the trail are a bit more scenic than others. Here is a beautiful bend of trail with sheltering oak trees.
This 'road' runs parallel and/or/perpendicular to the trail depending on where you are. We're still trying to figure out when exactly it is better to take this road back vs the trail itself.
We hiked for about half an hour, then I decided we should turn back soon if I was going to make it to art class in time. We realized we were very close to the main road, we could see where it connected to the above tire track dirt road. We could either head there and take a boring walk on the road back that would be faster, or wind back through the trail. I said 'We have plenty of time to make it back along the trail, let's do that." and we turned back. We walked for 15 minutes or so when I unexpectedly tripped over what was most likely nothing. Lord C was behind me and taking a work-related phone call. My world went into slow motion as I stumbled three steps, sure I would catch up and be fine. My body just could not compensate for the extra 35 lbs on my back and just when I thought surely everything would be fine, I was plummeting face first into a pile of dirt and cactus brambles. I hit the ground so thoroughly and quickly that I could see the dirt coming up and hitting my glasses before I even closed my eyes.
Since he was riding on the backpack putting his head slightly above mine, he was launched further into the brambly cactus (which by the way was on the side of the trail. If I had taken the fall immediately instead of trying to catch myself, we may have been just fine!) Lord C hastily excused himself from the phone conversation and went to aid us. Toddles starting crying immediately. Not the "I am not getting my way" or "I'm scared" cry, but the "I am in serious pain" cry. Scream crying. I pushed us up to sitting, and Lord C came towards us asking if I was ok. "I'll be ok, deal with him! Is he ok? Is there blood?" I ask, still sitting down as Toddles is lifted out of the backpack. (In my mind, his eye socket has been impaled with a stick and he's going to die. Worst case scenario, every time. That way at least as long as that doesn't happen, no matter what else happens it is no big deal.)
Once Toddles had been completely extracted from the backpack, I stood up and turned to look at him. I took him from his dad and looked at him while starting back down the path and directing Lord C to call the park office and see what they could do. Toddles was still scream crying, and had several scratches on his face, and a big area right in the middle of his forehead that was skinned. He was holding his arm out from his body and there were two patches of tiny near-invisible cactus thorns on his right hand. We get to a point where we can see the road from the path, and cut through towards it to make the path easier and faster. We got no answer at the park office, only a recording to call 911 in an emergency. I knew this wasn't a 911 type emergency, just the type that is going to suck a lot for the time being. Once we get to the road, I hand Toddles back to Lord C, and finally brush myself off. This whole time Toddles is breaking our hearts, scream sobbing and saying "It hurt me! Ow!" When I handed him off to Lord C, he said "It hurt me, Dad!" We consoled him as best we could
and arrived at our vehicle after a few more minutes.
I popped open the back and had him sit in the cargo area while I unclipped the first aid kit that came with our car to see what we could do for him. I got tweezers out and plucked the majority of the cactus thorns out from his hand, until his reaction to avoid the tweezers was worse than the crying when I wasn't trying to pluck more out. I antiseptic wiped off his face, and noticed a cut on his ear and a scratch on his eye I hadn't seen before. When we'd done as much as we could with what we had, we strapped him into his car seat. I sat in the back with him, and Lord C handed him a random sucker that happened to be in our car. That was the best medicine he could have in that moment. He was asking for another after chomping that one before we'd even made it home.
We got home and I started undressing him so he could take a bath. A soothing bubble bath would calm him down and clean off all the dirt and make the cactus spines easier to see. I did not expect to see this under his shirt:
These were the only two giant cactus spines he ended up with, thankfully. I snapped this picture while waiting for my other half to return, he had momentarily left the room. Once he was back to steady Toddles' arm, I pulled them out. It took a surprising amount of force, even though they weren't in very far. This started a new wave of tears and requests for candy. Lord C started running the bath water and bubbles while I finished getting him undressed, checking for any more scrapes or spines. I wracked my brain to think of where we might have some chocolate, and thought of part of a tiny choco-love bar we had left. Toddles was set in his bubble tub, with a segment of three little chocolate squares. We let him eat them slowly in the tub, covered with bubbles.
I thought for a while afterwards that I must not have had time to react, must not have even put my arms out for me to faceplant so well. The next day I realized I must have put my arms out indeed, and tried with all my might not to let us land that way. I have taken years of martial arts training and my arms have never been so sore. For three days I was so sore it was a major effort to do normal every day tasks. "Pick up this jug of water? No.... I'll just go thirsty today." All that being said, I got out easy, and would gladly take all of Toddles' spines and scrapes if it would spare him.
Here is a picture of his scabs mid-week. When people ask him what happened, he matter-of-factly tells them "I fa' cac'us." Sometimes followed by "it hurt" or "ow".
Here is his beautiful face just about one week later. We haven't been back to the park since his fall, since it is currently closed for a hunt, so we'll see how he does when we actually get back. He has asked for a walk in the park several times, though, so I take that as a good sign. The physical pain he had from the ordeal is bad enough, but what really kills me is that I know he is emotionally bothered by it too. Yesterday we were running in an area with dried mowed grass. He took a fall of the type he'd usually spring back up from and keep running, but this time he slowly stood up and stared at the grass all over himself and declared "I fall cactus!" I brushed the grass off of him with a "No, it's just grass! You're fine!" Several times since his fall when I have been moving him in bed or picking him up suddenly he will tense up, a couple times he has said "I fall!" and grabbed for me. I've cuddled him and told him "No baby, you're not falling, I've got you, I promise." I wish I could tell him I'll never let him fall again, but I know I'd be lying. The truth is I can't always prevent the tumbles of life. The best I can do is promise I'll do my best to cushion his falls, pick him up when he's down, pluck out his splinters, and give him some chocolate.