A final day in the White Pass, and I’m injured

Wednesday, August 7th, was my final day of a week-long RV outing in the White Pass, a week that included lots of hiking and photography. Wednesday was a partial day, though, as I realized that I may have hurt myself in a fall the day before, and drove home.

The day began early as usual – at 05:24, the colours of dawn had begun to light up my world. The first photo, shot from the motorhome, looks north over Summit Lake.

Dawn at Summit Lake in the White Pass
By 05:49, the sky was getting very colourful, and it was looking like we might have another very good day coming.

A colourful dawn at Summit Lake in the White Pass
I wanted to start the day off very early by making a short hike to the first waterfall on the International Falls trail, to do some low-light shooting. I’d been very pleased with the results of the early morning session at Bridal Veil Falls the day before. On the way, I detoured to get a shot of the Welcome to Alaska sign a few hundred meters beyond.

Welcome to Alaska sign on the South Klondike Highway
The next photo shows the start of the International Falls trail, from the highway. I was pretty sore from my fall at Summit Creek the day before, and was a tiny bit dizzy. I thought for a while about whether I should be going down the very steep drop into the valley, finally deciding that I just needed to get moving and work the soreness out.

International Falls trail, South Klondike Highway
I arrived at the first waterfall at 07:10, and the light was near perfect for what I wanted to do. I should have been there a few minutes earlier so the session could last longer, but it was still good.

The first waterfall on the International Falls trail, in the early morning
I only spent 10 minutes shooting, then it starting getting too bright to accomplish these shots. I mentioned at Bridal Veil Falls that these shots can be done with neutral density (ND) filters, and yesterday I ordered another set to fit the lens I use most now, a 24-105mm.

The first waterfall on the International Falls trail, in the early morning
The very steep climb back to the highway, with ropes installed by a tour company in Skagway to help their clients, but with all of us benefitting.

Ropes installed on the very steep first part of the International Falls trail

I’ve been unsure for the last week about how much to tell you (if anything) about what happened from then until today. Some of you have been with me for many years, though, and there may be a long silence after today. Here’s why…

The climb back up to the highway was tough – the soreness from my fall wasn’t working itself out, and the dizziness wasn’t getting better. We had a very quiet day, but by early afternoon I decided that I needed to get home – something wasn’t right.

By the time I got up Thursday morning, I was starting to get numbness in my core (around my tailbone where I’d hit) and tingling beyond that. By that afternoon, I started to feel like I was losing some important bodily functions. I drove into Whitehorse that evening to meet with my Klondike Road Relay race teammates. When I started to drive home, I only got a mile before deciding that I needed to drive to the hospital instead, to get checked out at Emergency.

Though there were a dozen people in the waiting area, within minutes of arriving at Emergency, I had nurses and a doctor assessing me. To keep a long story short, my symptoms got worse, and they worked on me all night. Multiple CT scans and other tests showed nothing definitive. A series of MRIs on Friday morning had the same result. The summary is “spinal trauma,” but there’s nothing definitive enough to treat. I shot the next selfie while waiting for the MRI.

Murray at Whitehorse General Hospital

About 20 hours after arriving at Emergency, I was admitted to Whitehorse General Hospital and moved upstairs to the surgical ward. I posted on Facebook that I didn’t want any visitors at the hospital, and my friends respected that request. In my case, misery does not love company.

People talk with distain about hospital food but I had no complaints. The roast beef dinner shown in the next photo was very good, and large. All the meals are made from scratch, and there’s lots of variety. I’ve certainly paid good money at banquets for lesser quality. Cathy brought a big box of Timbits on Sunday night as my bonus for being good πŸ™‚

Roast beef dinner at Whitehorse General Hospital
The view from my room on Monday morning. I had a bad spell later that day – nurses packed me in heated blankets to get me warm.

By Tuesday my basic body functions had returned and I had stabilized. My doctor was in daily consultation with a neurologist in Vancouver, and I was on the list to be medevaced out, but no beds were available in Vancouver.

On Wednesday morning, I posted on Facebook: “Okay, enough of this being sick shit. Ditch the hospital gown, to start – that’s just bad energy. My doctor, though, is awesome – I’m keeping her.”

Murray at Whitehorse General Hospital

Finally on Thursday night, with no bed in Vancouver yet, I told my doctor that I didn’t need a medevac flight – with assistance, I could do a scheduled flight. That was the key – on Friday evening, I was released from hospital. Cathy and I have reservations on the 07:00 Air North flight Monday morning, to meet the neurologist at the Emergency department at Vancouver General Hospital, to do some further testing. Cathy needs to get a wheelchair for me at the Whitehorse airport and a golf cart at the Vancouver airport to get us to a taxi, as well as possible other assistance.

I can’t say enough about how good Whitehorse General Hospital is. Everybody, from room cleaners to doctors, was wonderful. Although I have no definitive diagnosis yet, it’s certainly not from lack of trying, with all the most modern equipment. And the cost isn’t one of things Cathy and I need to worry about. Everything, including our flights and associated expenses tomorrow, is covered by the health care that all Yukon residents have.

I was in a split room – the other person was a German guy who had crashed his motorcycle on the Dempster Highway. He has broken ribs, a punctured lung, and some other injuries, but from the photos of his BMW, he was lucky to have survived until the rescue helicopter arrived. The only other patient I talked to was a guy from Ontario who had also crashed his BMW motorcycle. His crash was on the Alaska Highway, and he now has a foot full of staples and steel pins. He said only an airbag-type vest saved his life. Boys and their Adventures! One of my nurses said that she never sees multiple women being hurt this way πŸ™‚

It’s now Sunday morning. I’m simply waiting for tomorrow. I can walk as long as I have not too long a span between things to hang onto. I can’t come up the right word for what’s going on – dizzy, spacey, disoriented? I’ve had to cancel all further activities that I’d planned, though – those primarily being the Klondike Road Relay, and a motorcycle trip to Yellowknife with my son that was supposed to begin 6 days from now.

I won’t post anymore about this story on the blog until there’s a resolution to the problem. I hope to be back posting about that, and about Adventures, soon πŸ™‚


A final day in the White Pass, and I’m injured — 39 Comments

  1. Geez Murray, I sure hope this gets resolved quickly and painlessly, and you are back on the trails you love soon!
    Thanks for sharing the story… did I miss the info about the fall itself? What happened there?

    • Thanks, Joyce. That was in the previous post, simply stated as “I had a bad fall at the spot where I took the two photos above. My tripod started to fall, and in grabbing it, I twisted and fell backwards, landing on a small boulder with my tailbone. The pain was literally blinding, but after a few minutes recovery and some test movements, I decided I could continue with the hike.”

  2. Crazy how some seemingly minor event creates a massive turn on future plans. I sure hope its temporary. Thank you for taking the time to expand on your turn of events. Now this may seem premature. But i thought i might as well inform you of a Youtube link that could become relevant. Its an interview by Joe Rogan, with Mel Gibson, regarding Mel’s Father and his miraculous recovery using stem cells. This is only just one of the interviews Joe has done on this subject. Where even himself has had the benefit of this method. Anyway, i thought, hey, you could just check it out and file it for the future if need be….here is the link. https://youtu.be/OtL1fEEtLaA

    • Thanks, Tim. The fact that it was (or seemed to be) such a minor event still boggles me – it’s not like I fell off a cliff! That video, and a lot of related reading I did beyond that, has been very interesting – thanks for that as well.

  3. I am really glad you let us know what’s going on. Those of us who have been following you for years appreciate your words..it especially hit home with me the part after a fall not being mobile anymore. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Please keep up updated as what works best for you…Jackie

  4. Love your photos and reading about your adventures Murray. Such beautiful country! I’m too chicken to go out on those types of hikes alone.
    I hope your trip to Vancouver brings you some answers about your injury.
    Sending healing thoughts.

  5. I wish you the best of luck and that invancouver can give you results n they are good ones take care and a good flight.

  6. Hope you get well soon, MurrayπŸ‘ and take your furry friends back on the road😎

  7. Sending best wishes for a speedy recovery, Murray, and hopes that you will be back to doing what you love as quickly as possible.

  8. Wishing you a speedy recovery, Murray .
    And thank you for the great photos and writings that you post .
    Mary (quest at Yukon Quest 2015)

  9. Get well soon!
    I’m from Germany. I’m in the Yukon in two weeks. I like reading your stories about the beautiful landscape. Your stories and pictures are fantastic. Thank you for posts every week!
    Best wishes for healing for you! Heidi

  10. Whise you all the best and hope you recover soon. Wje like you storys verry much.lots of greetings from me and mij wive.
    Whe have bin living in Whitehorse for 3 jears and whe liked verry much our adress whas top of Blackstreet. Also greetings from The Netherlands.

  11. OMG. As long as you are ok , that’s all that matters now Murry . Again you were out there getting tremendous shots for all of US . Thank you , sincerely . I hope that this maybe becomes a minor warning about being alone while hiking the most difficult trails imaginable. You do it weekly during the season for your soul and for the blog . Murry , that shot of the lake at daybreak is incredible. TY .

    • Thanks very much, Hugh. While it is a good lesson in what can happen, it won’t change what I do – that harsh country is where I thrive.

      • I am truly pleased to hear that you have survived and are almost ready to resume your explorations . I laughed at your going to see the docs in Van . What a joke the whole system can be and usually is along with the food and yes coming soon your cost for their care . Continue your own rehab . Only you know your limits without compromise . Need I say be careful , I would like the pleasure to meet you one day sir . God bless you Murry and thank you .

  12. Speedy recovery Murray. Thinking of you and know you will do what the doctors say to get better. You love the outdoors and we appreciate all the articles you write about your life in the Yukon. They are an inspiration to get back and see what we so enjoyed with our kids back in 1990.

    Get strong soon.


    • Thank you, Art. Spinal injuries scare the shit out of me, and although my wife is nervous because I’m not good at being tied down, I’ll be doing what I need to do to heal properly.

  13. Wishing you a speedy recovery! Hopefully the neurologist in Vancouver will get to the bottom of things quickly.

  14. Oh Murray, I am so sorry to hear this news. I hope you are fully recovered very soon.

  15. I’m sorry you are hurt and hope for a fast recovery back to your normal self. Thank you for letting us know All the best to you from Me & Tina

  16. Murray, wishing you a very speedy recovery! Looking forward to reading about your adventures and seeing your fur=babies πŸ™‚

    Janie Elsey Campbell

  17. Hey Murray

    Sorry to hear about your bad luck!!! Admittedly it will be disappointing to not see many blogs of your adventures over the coming weeks (I love reading them on my lunch break – I changed jobs and no longer have an office view of the Ottawa river, so they especially now make the cubicle walls a LOT less dreary), but I would be much happier to see you have a full recovery!
    Keep us posted on your recovery and I will be definitely will be thinking about you.

    • Good morning, Murray. How are you feeling? Have they found out what it is? Hoping you are well and on your way to good health!

      Janie Elsey Campbell

  18. Although I did unfriend you when your Trump comments became personal, I still look forward to your blogs and adventures. I was really upset to hear you had taken a fall and not doing well. I will keep you in my prayers for a full recovery my friend. PS. I do miss our chats lol