• Lexi Brocoum

A One Year Post-Broken Neck Reflection of Why I Started Hiking and Celebration Hike of Mt. Waumbek

On September 15, 2017 I was in a freak accident that fractured my C7 transverse process. In more common terms, on this day exactly one year ago I broke my neck. It was a combination of events involving my unbelievable clumsiness, a trampoline park, and being hit at hockey game that led to my diagnosis, but I was lucky seeing as it could have been much worse. Ultimately, recovery has been a journey to say the least but I've learned a lot about myself in the process.

The first thing I did after my orthopedic surgeon cleared me to return to light activity four weeks after my diagnosed injury was take my dog for a hike. I know a month sounds like a short recovery time for a broken neck, but I didn't ask any questions because I was so glad to be able to take the C-collar off. Up until then I had not been able to drive, work, or even walk my dog and any physical activity was completely out of the question. Being a pretty active person, this felt like a terrible punishment that I resented wholeheartedly. I felt imprisoned in my house, unable to do anything but go to school and sit around. The worst part was that I had just adopted my dog, Lucy, a few months before, and her being so overwhelmed with new experiences made it hard for me to rely on others to help me take care of her. I was lucky to have the support of friends and family during this time to help me with virtually everything. After all of this, hiking felt like the best thing I could do to celebrate taking off the cervical collar.

I grew up hiking with my dad and uncle as a kid, but it had been years since I stepped on a trail. I had been more into running at the time, training for the BAA Half Marathon at the time when the accident happened. My doctor said no running for another month, so I decided to take Lucy to Blue Hills Reservation in Milton, MA for a light hike. It was a gorgeous October day outside with the leaves changing. As I walked with Lucy exploring the trails, I realized how calm and relaxed I felt, a feeling that had eluded me long before my injury. I didn't know it at the time, but this short hike would eventually lead to long backpacking trips and completing the most difficult one-day traverse on the east coast.

As it got colder and I was cleared to go back to all of my previous activities, I put hiking on the backburner for a few months. I focused on getting back to where I was with my half marathon training, but to my dismay it was never the same. I couldn't run more that four or five miles without shooting pain from my neck down to my right pointer finger. I kept working at the half marathon goal for a few months and still aspire to reach it, but after a while I came to terms to the fact that it just wasn't going to happen at the time. Maybe it will in the future, but I needed a different outdoor activity that wasn't as harsh as the pounding on the asphalt.

By then it was winter, and being new at hiking as an adult I didn't want to jump in too deep at the beginning. I started with a quick hike to Lonesome Lake with my dog which went pretty well. Looking across the lake to Franconia Ridge, I thought about how cool it would be to look out at the landscape from all the way up there.

Fast forward to June 16th when I started my 48 with Zealand Mountain. I hadn't done any hiking since Lonesome Lake in February. This was an unexpectedly long hike with a wooded summit, but the views from Zeacliff were amazing and spending time with Lucy in the mountains was so much fun! It was such a nice departure from city life and made me realize how much I missed the mountains. A friend asked me a few days later to do the Pemi Loop, and when she said it would check a bunch of 4,000 footers off my list I agreed. At the time I didn't know what I was getting myself into, but it ended up being an amazing experience that really opened me up to the world of hiking.

Today I hiked Mt. Waumbek with Lucy and one of my friends for #38 on my list and a celebration of being one year post-injury. It seemed appropriate to celebrate with a hike similarly to how I did when I was cleared by my doctor last October. In the past year I've done things that I never could have imagined and achieved much more than I thought possible after I broke my neck. Some of the hikes I'm most proud of are completing a one-day Presidential Traverse, a three-day super extended Pemi Loop, and a solo two-day Owl's Head-Bond loop. I've also become a much more independent person and I've learned a lot about myself in the process.

A year ago today I had a seemingly life-altering injury that has changed my life in so many ways and will continue to do so probably for the rest of my life. It has helped me learn that I can overcome anything that I put my mind to, and I'm capable of much more than I ever imagined. Although there are some things I can no longer do and may never be able to do again, I've discovered a whole new realm of opportunities. I've always been a pretty optimistic person and even though at the beginning it was hard to see the positives, I look back on my experience as a turning point for the better. So it may seem weird but breaking my neck initiated and fostered my love of hiking that grows with every mountain!

#38 Mt. Waumbek (4,006 ft) via. Starr King Tr [7.2 mi, 2500 ft, 4:20]

Follow us on Instagram @lexi.brocoum and @little.miss.lucy.goose for more pictures!

About Us

Hi! I'm Lexi and this is my pup Lucy! We're making an effort to be outside more and really appreciate the world around us. Follow us on our fun adventures!!


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