In The Blink of an Eye
In the Blink of an Eye
by Mike Bailey
In The Blink of an Eye
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Click on photo for a larger view:

The crevice in this story runs diagonally across the middle of the photo above. In enlarged view, you
can see it clearer, especially to the left of the person wearing the black and white tennis shoes. The
crevice is probably 40 feet deep at this point.
This past Sunday (03/30/2014), my friend Jenny Buckner and I went on an outing in Northwest
Georgia at a place known as Rocktown. Click here --
Rocktown Hikes -- to see some pictures of
this fantastic place over in Mike's Picture Library wherein I talk about another hike here with
another friend.

Jenny was a co-worker of mine before I retired from Big Blue a few years back and since she still
works for IBM, I knew that she would be just as anxious as I was to get out of Dodge, so to speak,
and go hiking somewhere where it was peaceful, quite, and beautiful.

With a perfect spring day in the making, our journey started out easy and carefree after a quick
stop at a local McDonald's to get something to munch on doing our early morning trip. We normally
hike in one of several county parks near where we both live but decided today we would go for the
gold -- head for new ground to explore together.

After a two hour ride and leaving civilization west of La Fayette, GA, we weaved our way up the
side of Pigeon Mountain and found the trailhead for the trail into the wilderness and to the rock
formations known as Rocktown. We parked the car in the trailhead parking lot and after getting
suited up with our backpacks carrying our water, cookies, first aid stuff, etc., we set off on the
easy one mile hike into the formations.

Almost immediately we could start to see huge outcropping of gigantic rock formations -- some
rising upwards to 30-40 feet high above our heads. There is one stone formation along the way that
looks just like a giant thing, dragon, whatever, that is asleep with his head leaning over and propped
up against a huge tree. The more you look at it, the more it sort of freaks you out.

We were seeing lots of young folks on the trail -- some going, some coming back – with multiple
thick rubber pads strapped to their backs. In a way, it looks funny seeing these kids trying to
navigate the narrow trail through the trees and shrubs with these huge (maybe 3x5 foot) pads
strapped to their backs. Sometimes when we were behind some climbers that were short, all you
could see ahead of you was this wobbling cloth thing with tiny feet bouncing and bobbing along in
front of you.

Anyway, they lay these mats on the ground directly below where they like to free climb and
hopefully, they will help them survive the fall if they lose their grips on the rock faces they are
attempting to scale. We passed by lots of places where climbers have been before as you could see
all the places where they had gripped the rocks to climb that were covered with white talc powder
they used to help them with gripping the rocks. What was also amazing was to see those places
where the rock face slopped outwards back over your head if you were facing the rock wall. This
means that the climbers were literally hanging onto/from the rocks as they climbed upwards.

It must be nice to be that young – I’d hurt if I fell back into my bed!

Finally, we reached the heart of the rock formations that make up “Rocktown” and Jenny was
totally blown away with how beautiful all of it was. The ancient sandstone formations with all the
various colored layers of rocks are beautiful to look at, especially if you can see them from being
up on top of them.

Having been here several times before, I knew where a pathway was that was close to where we
were that went up between two gigantic rock formations and that with a little bit of easy climbing
ability, we could work our way up on top of the huge rock formations that surrounded us.

After a few minutes of groaning on both of our parts, we had successfully climbed up on top of the
huge rock formation that we wanted to see. Once on top, we starting to explore the top of it and
enjoyed all the intricate rocking carving designs – caused by years of erosion that had sculptured
the tops of the boulder formations that surrounded us with beautifully carved lines of various
layers and colors of sandstone formations.

As we explored the top, I went over towards the back edge of the huge rock formation we were on
and looked at the formation next to us. Separated by a 30-foot deep crevice that was only about
two and a half feet wide at the top, I decided to hop across it and explore the other side. Landing
safely on the other side, I looked about and saw even more amazing sculptured lines carved into the
tops of the rocks and wanted Jenny to see them also.

I walked back to the crevice and said, “Do you want to see what is over here?,” and without
hesitation she said, “Yes.”

While the crevice gap was a bit frightening to look at (being so deep and two and a half feet wide),
Jenny felt that she could make it and walked to the edge to prepare herself to jump. I stood there
and watched her and then just as she was about to make her jump, her left foot slipped on loose
gravel and she started to fall head first into the crevice.

In the blink of an eye, our hike went from a carefree, fun-filled hike to a horrific and deadly
consequence of a fall into the crevice that separated the two rock formations.

Without even thinking, the moment I detected her starting to fall, I leaped out across the crevice
with my left arm reaching for the left shoulder strap on the backpack I had given to her for
today’s hike. I grabbed it about the time she was half way to the crevice and then we both crashed
into the rocks with her facing head first and already about two feet down in the crevice with me on
the edge of the crevice holding on to her with all the strength I could muster to keep her from
falling further down into the crevice.

She was hurt and cried out in pain as her left knee had smashed hard against the crevice wall and
her left hand was smashed all up with the middle finger pointed way off to the left like it was
broken off at the middle knuckle.

I was screaming at her to hold on, that I was not going to let her go as by now I was pulling on her
with both hands on her shoulder straps. Even though I was preventing her from falling further
down into the crevice, I was not able to pull her back up due to the angle we were both at and I
just could not get repositioned enough to get more leverage to lift her.

Remembering that there were kids somewhere nearby rock climbing, I started hollering for help
because I knew I could not pull her up and she was starting to slip further down into the crevice.

All I could think about was praying to God to please let the back straps hold out a little longer
before breaking. I kept talking to her to try and keep her calm but the sounds of her anguished
murmurs of pain were tearing my heart out. After a minute or so, I guess hearing me trying to
reassure her that I was not going to let her fall helped her to calm down.

About three or four minutes later, I heard kids responding to my calls for help. At first, they
could not find us as we were up on top on the rock formation -- not down below as they were
probably assuming we were. I finally yelled out that we were up on top and a few minutes later, up
scrambled six kids (18-25 years old I guess) and within minutes, they helped me slowly lift Jenny
up out of the crevice she seemed destined to fall into.

Safely pulled back from the edge, I got Jenny seated on the ground and we all could see how
horribly her left hand had been mangled. One of the kids helping us was a nurse and she whipped
out some tape from somewhere and we gently bandaged the broken/dislocated finger next to her
left ring finger to give it some sort of support.

While we sat there letting her calm down and just letting the whole ordeal calm down inside of both
of us, I kept looking over at the crevice next to me and thinking about what would have happened if
I had not seen her start to fall and had not jumped across the crevice to grab her backpack strap
and pull her back towards me as she fell head first into the crevice. Even though she was only about
two feet down into the crevice when I stopped her fall, my mind was racing with all sorts of images
of what could have been.

To be honest, if I had missed grabbing her, I do now know how far she would have fallen into the
30-foot deep crevice. However, I do know (and did then) the outcome would have been a whole
lot worst.

After resting up and making sure neither one of us had no other serious injuries, I helped her get
to her feet and we slowly made our way back down off the rock formation we were exploring and
45 minutes later, we had walked out of the wilderness area and found the safety and comfort of my
Suburban. I had landed on my right hip when we both fell and it was hurting like hell but
considering what all she was going though, I made like nothing was wrong with me. In my mind, I was
praying please don’t let my new hip replacement implant (done last year) be injured.

Anyway, after I got her all settled in and buckled up, I gave her one of my heavy duty pain pills I
carry with me and we headed down the mountain and went straight for La Fayette. I knew that the
longer we went without medical care, the more pain she was going to endure and I just prayed that
my pain pill would help her get pass the excruciating pain she was so bravely enduring. I knew that
she was probably going to get nauseous as that happens a lot when pain gets real bad. Keeping that
in mind, I eased down the mountain and tried to make the winding, twisting road trip not seem too
bad to her.

I turned on the Places of Interest Icon setting for my GPS unit in the car and saw that there were
at least 10 places that were marked for medical use in the area around La Fayette. Not knowing
where any real hospital was, I stopped at a gas station on the edge of town and asked a man where
was the closest Emergency Center. He told me there was one on the other side of town and within
minutes, we were on our way there.

With his directions and my GPS unit showing a Medical place in the area he described, we were
there within minutes. It was a 7 day a week Family Services Medical Clinic and they immediately
took us in and straight on back to the medical areas in back.

A nurse took down all the info about the injury and within minutes, a wonderful elderly doctor came
in and took charge. Long story short and lots of x-rays later, Jenny had totally dislocated her
middle finger from the middle joint which after having her finger totally numbed up, the doctor
snapped it back into place. X-rays also showed the bone running through the palm of her hand for
that finger was also broken in several places as well as the upper ligament for that finger detached
from the upper finger just past the knuckle where the dislocation occurred.

I stayed with her the entire time and was amazed at how well she was dealing with everything -- a
born “trooper” if ever I had seen one. The overall calmness and caring attitudes of all those at the
clinic contributed to her ability to be at ease and to deal with her injuries in a safe manner.

All this plus ample bruising and strains on her left wrist and bruises on her left knee all contributed
for a very long but happy two hour drive back home.

I say happy because in the great scheme of things, the outcome of this seemingly innocence day
hike could have been a whole lot worst if I had not instinctively leaped at her and grabbed her
backpack strap and kept her from falling into that deep crevice.

For that good fortune and all the other blessings that we seemed to have had dropped on us that
day, I am forever thankful for the special angels watching over us that day.

As I sit here now four days later and write about all this, I am truly thankful for our good fortunes
and am pleased to report that Jenny is doing well with her new pink hard cast on her left arm from
just below her elbow and extending out to midway on her fingers. Her doctor reports that
depending on what x-rays look like in a few weeks, she might have to have surgery to repair the
broken bone in her hand.

While I know that all that happened was an unfortunate accident, I just can’t help but feel guilty
somehow as all this happened on my watch and it was my job to make sure that she would never be
harmed while hiking with me.

I look forwards to and pray for the day when all of this stress and drama is behind us and she
wants to walk with me again on another hike.
. . . The End