by Carrie McMillen
I never knew beef could be such an important part of a trip. I don’t eat a lot of red meat, but I’ll eat pretty much anything on the trail. So, when I heard about how a few of the hike participants had eaten steak tips once on a previous backpacking trip, I was pretty excited. The steak tips ended up being a really important part of the trip – they became both the high and low points of the weekend.
Steak tips as a way to heal
About an hour into the hike, as you may have read about by now, Randy’s knee swelled up like a ping-pong ball within seconds after his fall. I knew having something cold on the injury would help, and Kara had to remind me that in the depths of someone’s pack were some tasty and frozen steak tips. After 20 minutes of freezing Randy’s knee, the swelling went way down and we were ready to move on. I really think that the icing minimized the extent of his injury dramatically.
Having an injury on the trail made this all very real. I’ve always carried first aid gear, but have opened it for only a Band-aid or some Neosporin. Maybe I’ve been lucky all of these years – but this hike made me a lot more alert to the fact that this may occur more than once as we summit these formidable 48 peaks. I learned a lot on this hike – about the resilience and determination of Randy, about the strength and support of our team, and about the inequities of the first aid kit. I bought a large survival/ first aid kit, but until you have an actual injury, it’s hard to know what you’re missing. Unfortunately, we probably won’t have frozen steak tips on every trip, but we instead should definitely have instant cold compresses. We should also have Q-tips for cleaning out cuts, butterfly bandages, and tweezers that don’t look like daggers (sorry, Randy!). Luckily, a few of the participants offered up some of their personal first aid items to supplement what was missing. (Tip: a squeeze water bottle is great for flushing out a wound!)
Steak tips as a way to bond
Once we were done freezing Randy’s knee with steak tips for a second time before dinner, we had the pleasure of eating them. I was gone for about 45 minutes getting water and by the time I got back, the boys had rigged up a fancy campfire – and those steak tips melted in my mouth as I finally relaxed from the day. Add to that a delicious lentil stew with fresh rosemary and we had ourselves a recipe for a great evening. We spent several hours reminiscing about past hiking experiences and got to know each other better through interesting and challenging questions. As the evening got later and darker, I’m sure we were smiling big with full bellies and great company.
Every hiking trip is different – some go smoothly, some don’t. The bumps of this trip were…literally, bumps. There were many things to think about as Randy hit his knee twice and sliced his hand, and trust me – my mind was going a mile a minute as I considered the ramifications of his injuries to himself and the group, while simultaneously thinking about how to treat the situation. I’ll be honest – it’s mentally tiring to balance all of those things as a leader.
But, I have to say that even with the ‘bumps’, this trip was smooth and sensational. I specifically am grateful for the way we cherished each summit as a group and for the many ways we took care of each other, whether it was cooking a meal, helping breakdown a tent or taking some weight from Randy’s pack. And, I was tickled when nature provided her own few magical moments like the old worldly mossy glen at a stream crossing and the gray jays that fearlessly landed on my outstretched hand. To paraphrase Randy from the weekend: ‘It’s moments like these that keep me going.’
And steak tips.