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How I Broke My Finger July 6, 2010

Posted by markgeil in Family, Travel.

I had a small orange sticker in the center of my forehead with a single word: “awesome”. On the way to Cloudland Canyon, we found a Mad Libs-like game that came with a sticker sheet of nouns, verbs, and adjectives. We had passed the 2-hour drive labeling things. Hannah’s ear lobe got a sticker that said, well:

 My ball cap got a sticker that said, “cap”. And naturally, I chose for myself the sticker that said “awesome”.

We arrived in good order, visited a lovely overlook, and tossed a Frisbee while we waited for one more family to arrive. Soon all were present and accounted for: 4 grown-ups, 4 girls, and 3 boys. It’s unusual for our outings to feature so many of my gender, so I looked forward to a lively hike. 

The trailheads at Cloudland are all on the rim, so the way in is downhill and easy. Sturdy steps and wide paths speak to a well-maintained park. When we reached the first fork we noticed our energetic passel of young “leaders” had ventured off on the wrong path. After redirecting the wayward youths we completed the short trek to the first waterfall.

Our kids have this habit of ignoring the warning signs at state (and national) parks and leaving the marked trails for a little adventure. The base of the first waterfall didn’t really have a marked trail, so they scattered right away with nary a glance over the shoulder. The temptation here was to swim in the pool under the falls, despite the numerous large signs stating NO SWIMMING. We might have let them wade in a little, but there was another family there and we wanted to set a good example and look like responsible parents. So, we perched on some boulders and ate lunch while watching the fish swim in the pool instead of us.

The next waterfall landed on a rock base instead of a pool, and there weren’t really any nearby signs cautioning us to stay on the trail, and we were the only group in sight, so, well, you get the idea. There seemed to be two approaches to the falls, and as the boys headed down and around the rocky path, I scouted a much more direct route down a muddy hill. Since we didn’t care to finish the day with wet shoes and socks, we doffed our footwear and the girls and I began our descent, only slightly motivated by the chance to beat the boys to the falls.

Beat the boys we did, and soon I was the first to stand under the falls. The water was pleasantly cool but certainly powerful.

The falls pelted us as we posed for pictures and then crossed to the other side, where the canyon dug deep under a rock face. The boys joined the wet photo op while Rebekah and I watched.

Bek, our 9 year old, was my constant hiking companion, holding my hand tightly on the rugged rocks. The rocks were really quite interesting, hewn in sharp geometric patterns, almost like a haphazardly tiled mosaic. That mosaic would soon be my undoing.

Bek and I decided to explore the open-air cavern a bit, navigating the rocks fairly nimbly in our bare feet. The footing had been sure, enough to make me a bit complacent, apparently, until I stepped on a wet, sloping rock that was so slick it could have been placed there by BP. My foot slid down the face of the rock until my toes jammed into a waiting crevice, and down I went.

A fall  on a rock would not be too memorable were it not for the fact that I was still holding Rebekah’s hand as I fell. I would like to say I was alert enough to release her little fingers on the way down and avoid her completely. Instead, I must hang my head in shame and report that, indeed, I pulled my daughter down with me! I can’t recall the mechanics of the fall, but the aftermath is vivid. Rebekah somehow fell across an adjacent rock, landing on her knee and thigh. We were somehow still holding hands when she started wailing, saw the blood on her knee, and amped up the screams even more as my guilt descended.

I managed to pull Rebekah over onto my lap as my hand and knee throbbed. I glanced at my five bloodied toes and then saw Bek’s bloody knee quivering. Really, the whole leg was just shaking. It took some time and TLC, but the tremors stopped along with the sobs, and we realized we had still had to find our way out of there.

I did not relish the idea of climbing back up a muddy hill, especially with all the open wounds, so we decided to hike back to the trail using the boys’ route. The going was slow and painful, but Bek was a trooper and we managed.

The boys had ascended another small waterfall to get to the big one, and it became a great challenge to figure out how to get Bek down this 5 foot drop. The hike then turned into a rather exciting rescue mission for all the kids. Two tried out possible routes over the ledge. Two stayed with us, one just ahead and one trailing behind, offering encouragement. After much pondering, we figured out a way to get me down the falls, then move Bek to a little landing from which I could carry her down the rest of the way.

The plan worked, and I think we even washed a lot of the blood off along the way. With our rescue mission accomplished, we snapped some “war wound” photos:



… used up all the Band Aids we’d carried in with us, and finished the hike. Ironically, it was my only non-bleeding injury that hurt the most. I guess I had tried to break the fall with my one available hand, and the first two fingers promptly swelled up like sausages.

Sausage number one looked awfully crooked, so after we got home and grabbed a bite to eat I went to an urgent care place. Turns out the index finger is fractured right at one of the joints. It should heal fine, but I’ll know for sure on Friday. Of course, the splint has been a nuisance, and there’s all kinds of pain shooting through the finger even as I type this, and I have a renewed appreciation of all the things I use my right hand for. More importantly, though, Rebekah is healing up quite well and quite quickly.

Time for the moral of the story, if you’ll indulge me. Despite the stumble, I was really struck by the canyon‘s beauty. It felt like more than a few of the ferns and wildflowers and shafts of sunlight were placed by God in just the right spot for me to enjoy that day. After the fall on the falls, I was doubly grateful that I can call this God my Father, and that He’s infinitely more dependable than me. Here’s what’s funny. Even after standing under a torrential waterfall, after failing to negotiate the rocks, after unwittingly inflicting harm on my dear child, one of the kids noticed that I still had that funny little “awesome” sticker on my forehead! And there, in a place that really did inspire awe in me, created by a Father with the strongest of arms who faithfully holds my hand and guides my way, I chuckled. No, I’m not awesome. Far from it, in fact. But God knows that, and He loves me anyway.



1. Sonya McGullion - July 6, 2010

I can appreciate the splendor of God’s creativity in that canyon! It is beautiful there, for sure. I can also appreciate the “awesomeness” of one Mark Geil! I won’t embarrass you by naming all the reasons why, but just know that God knows!

2. Michelle - July 6, 2010

I feel your guilt. Days before having Kalei, when Jessica was 4yrs. old, I decided to take her out to lunch. Upon exiting the building I insisted that she hold my hand as we were entering the parking garage and incoming traffic. I was so busy watching out for the traffic that I failed to notice the handicapped entrance onto the sidewalk. I stepped half on the level ground and half on the downhill swoop of the ramp, twisted my ankle and down I went dragging her down as well. Some sweet bystanders rushed to help me up and then went inside to get Jessica some ice, but by the time we reached home her eye was already turning black and blue. I felt so bad that I had pulled her down with me, I tried to let go on the way down, but I could not untangle our fingers fast enough. It was also quite embarrassing as we went to the hospital to have Kalei with all the nurses and passersby asking what happened to her eye. And of course, the pictures are wonderful reminder as Kalei gets held by her proud big sister with the big black eye.

3. markgeil - July 21, 2010

I guess for posterity’s sake I should add that I broke two fingers, not just one. The urgent care doc missed one on the X-Ray. Alas.

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