Hi Friends and Family, We hope all is well in your worlds! It’s been some time since our last post. To get caught up, we have summarized our journeys. June 30 was a particularly memorable day for Ken and I.
Went to Tupelo to visit Kenny’s old army buddie, Artie and his girlfriend, Betty. Great time seeing them. Next, Carlsbad Caverns and Flight of the Bats in the amphitheater. In our opinion, Cathedral Caverns was more decorative and colorful but amazed at the rock formations and size of the rooms. Flight of the Bats a must see – a tornado of bats swooping out of the mouth of the Caverns, then spinning out of the tornado off to capture their dinner. Much more spectacular than those we saw in AL. In Carlsbad we also visited Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park. Gorgeous zoo and large, beautifully landscaped enclosures, botanical gardens, 1.3 mile self guided walking tour. Loved the baby prairie dogs. Tuscan – Visited cousins, the Nelsons and Astons, so great reconnecting and seeing that the kiddies have grown up to be amazing adults! Hiked Sabino Canyon. Lake Havasu – rented 24′ pontoon boat. So much fun. Explored the lake, Uma swam around, played in the water, went under the London Bridge, enjoyed the crazy energy. Can’t imagine what spring break would be like there. Refrigerator broke – unplanned trip to Las Vegas to get fixed. Won money, lost money, saw Cirque du Soleil, Beatles LOVE – strongly recommend, music brought back great memories mixed with the crazy Cirque du Soleil performers. Cedar City, Utah, Hiked the Kolob/Zion National Park trail.
Thursday, June 30, Kenny and I hiked an easy, family friendly trail in Kolob/Zion National Park. Taylor Creek hike is protrayed as an easy to moderate hike of ~5 miles round trip to the Kolob Double Arch Alcove. Research through normal googling, this hike appeared to be perfect for us. Not too long, not too difficult. Temperatures were high but much lower than our recent visit to Las Vegas. We packed up some water and trail bars and headed off early pm to the Taylor Creek Trail. The day was perfect, less than 90 degrees, the trail was shady in many areas and meandered pleasantly across the “creek”, easily crossed without getting your shoes wet, and, in some cases completely dry.
It was hot, there were few people on the trail, and there were no warnings of impending rain. We checked in with the Ranger and told him which trail we were hiking. Surprisingly, we didn’t have to give him our names or sign in on a board at the trailhead. What a beautiful hike, clearly marked with steps and slopes running up and down along the sides of the creek with plenty of picturesque views of imposing canyon walls. To the Double Arch Alcove, it was 2.5 miles of criss-crossing the Taylor Creek at least 20 times (I don’t think I am exaggerating about this I but don’t know for sure). A great hike by all standards.
Ken and I arrived at the Double Arch and were taking our pictures when lightening and thunder started. We had just appreciated the wonder of the canyons’ rock formations that were shaped thousands of years before our time. How insignificant are we in this world? A true lesson of humility. With the rain started, we knew we had to move swiftly. We joked that if we had more lightening we would need to put away our walking sticks or Dan and Nikki would have the most extravagant wedding they could ever want. We laughed that we may have to be crossing the creek with water up to our waists. We laughed without knowing of what was coming next. More lightening, we secured our walking sticks, and we were moving quickly back to the trailhead.
We ran into Martin seeking shelter under a rock cliff. He had been waiting out the storm. We told him that the creek was rising and that we felt that we needed to keep moving.
Although we watched the creek swelling more with each crossing, we weren’t really aware of the danger. As the mountain walls began weeping crystal waterfalls, I made Kenny stop to take some pictures. It was truly a wonderous sight. As he was snapping, a few hundred feet ahead of us on the opposite shore of the ever-increasing creek, a mudslide occurred with a roar, slid down from high above the canyon wall and dumped mounds of red mud into the creek. Now we were racing the mud. As long as we could stay ahead of the muddy, red water, we would be able to see how to safely cross.
We were scurrying now but didn’t win that race. We were about 1.5 miles away from the trailhead. Kenny and I were seeking higher ground when Martin caught up with us and joined us recognizing that the storm wasn’t ending and the creek was now a river. When I saw a tree being dragged down the river rather swiftly, I was really concerned. Both Ken and Martin remained calm. Kenny headed up the bank of the river to see if he could find a path that would lead us to a crossing that was safe. When he found a “critter path”, Martin and I pulled aside the bramble brushes and moved up higher. I was slipping on the mud and not getting good hand holds to pull myself up. Ken and Martin were encouraging, Ken from above and Martin from below. With all of us safely on higher ground, we kept moving looking for a location where we might be able to safely cross.
Then, we saw a young couple below us and they had crossed the river safely! Ken yelled down to them. They had crossed side-stepping facing the current – holding hands. Kenny asked if they’d wait for us to join them and they quickly agreed. Safety in numbers!
For the rest of our 1.5 mile journey of crossing the creek/river now raging with strong currents, we chain-linked arms/hands and successfully crossed the water 5-6 times over stones we couldn’t see, depths we didn’t know, and currents that varied as we crossed, all working together to ensure that each of us safely reached the other shore. Joe, as first in our chain, let us know where there were dips, larger stones and how strong the current was even though he was shivering from the cold. Joe and Andraya examined the course we would take at each crossing, the water flow, where to go in and where to get out. Then, we’d lock our arms and side-step the waters, facing the current.
We crossed, Joe, Andraya, Martin, me and Kenny, arms braced on arm. Between the creek crossings, there was hiking that allowed some small talk and we found out some small details of the lives that we were depending on. We reached the parking lot safely, quietly, extremely cold, muddy, and so, so thankful. We clicked selfies, lined up the way we crossed, to commemorate our survival. Shook hands, hugged, exchanged e-mails and headed home with the car heater on and fingers that were numb.
Thank you God for our safe arrival at the trail head. Thank you for sending our new friends to ensure safe crossing.
Thursday night, I sent a quick email to our “survivors” attaching the selfies we had taken. The following morning, we received messages from Martin and Joe and Andrayas. Both were so meaningful to us and eloquently written, that I asked for and received permission from them to include their notes to us which are below:
From Joe and Andrayas – Yesterday was quite an adventure. As we reflected yesterday evening, we found ourselves in awe of the power of this place, sore from clenched legs and jaws, and grateful to have found comrades to share in our bull-headed quest to get out. What began as an ordinary hike, which Andrayas was not interested in going on in the first place, turned into an unforgettable experience. As we began to make our way back toward the parking lot from the alcove, the rain was falling and we walked quickly.
When we came across the first crossing, we stopped to take stock of the situation. While yesterday was certainly the first time either of us had been in such a situation, I recalled lots of survival learning that I have done over the years regarding hypothermia, floods, etc. We waited for a while and decided to go forward, but before we did we spent some time looking up at the canyon walls and marveling at the waterfalls that appeared where there was only hot dry rock a few minutes earlier. I remember early on during the storm shouting with joy at the energy that the storm seemed to send through us. Things got more frightening as we came to more and more stream crossings and saw more and more washes emptying into the creek and swelling it higher and higher, sometimes obscuring the trail. At some point where two branches of the creek, about equal in size, we became fearful that our successful crossings were at an end. We sat and waited for the storm for about 20 minutes. Growing up in the west, I’m used to short, powerful storms. However, yesterday my expectations were wrong. After shivering under the tree with no sign of the rain abating, the wind began to kick up and my fears of hypothermia became more real than I could have ever expected. We decided to press on, soon coming across the three of you. Strength in numbers is not to be questioned. Suddenly, we were certain that we would all make it out okay. Crossing the creek in the deepest and fastest moving water we saw yesterday suddenly seemed natural and simple.
While the moments of life and death fear were minimal, they were certainly enough to remind us what true fear feels like. We found ourselves in a beautiful and powerful place, and while Andraya and I were reflecting last night, we tried to remember the beauty that we saw in the canyon. Beauty that could not be captured in a picture, and that could have been easily overlooked and suppressed due to the feeling of fear that came with it. We talked about the waterfalls and the surges of water, we talked about the thousands of pounds of silt that were brought past us, silt and sediment which were probably on rocks thousands of feet above our heads just moments before and only visible in the dark red color of the water. It was truly an incredible moment we experienced and we’re glad to have shared it with you.
I would like to think that yesterday was, for me, both a lesson of humility and a reminder that we are in the world to team up, and to help each other.
The lesson in humility comes from many angles, but particularly two. First, it was a very vivid reminder that those beautiful formations in front of us came from the power of the little creek, later turned into what we saw, and if it had the power to transform mountains, it certainly could have the power to transform my plans, and possibly my life at that moment. Second, it was also a lesson in humility reminding me that there is so much to learn and that comfort is sometimes taken for granted. Naively, I had waited for a long time under a rock before Deb and Ken came along, avoiding the rain thinking because I did not want to get wet. Well, it became obvious at some point that getting wet was going to be the least of my concerns.
The second lesson showed me again that, despite the fact that we often believe that we are independent and thinking that we construct our path, the reality is that all of us, in one way or another, help each other, and it could not be more evident than when we were under distress yesterday. At the end, it left me feeling to have worked together with you, without any other interest than helping each other. It renewed my hope that we all can work together in society, if we just realize how much we need each other.
Until next time, we raise our wine glasses and toast to you: Be strong, you never know who you may be inspiring. Anonymous