Saturday, August 22, 2009

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

When does one acquire judgment and foresight? I mean, developmentally speaking. Is it 5 years old? 10th grade? If I had paid more attention in my developmental psychology class perhaps I would remember. Oh well. That is neither here nor there. The point is Peter and I appear to lack those things! Years of school do not buy common sense, apparently.

Every Friday night we have been trying to go rock climbing. Peter has this guidebook for rock climbing the Wasatch range. It does a good job of describing the climbing routes and a decent job of describing how to get to the climbs (usually you have to hike a bit) but it does an abominably poor job of giving you any actual distances between the parking lot and the climbing wall.

So last night we parked at about 7 pm. We thought we'd probably have at least an hour of climbing which is enough for us to each do one or two routes. The problem is that we didn't factor in the 40 minute hike- one way! We also didn't account for the fact that it's been getting darker earlier. We embarked on the trail to get to the wall following all the landmarks listed in the book. It wasn't that the hike was that long, but the final part was spent scrambling up a small talus mountain. It can really be slow going to navigate loose rocks. The trouble with not knowing how far you have to go is that you're always too willing to think "I'm sure we're almost there!" Lesson #1: You are not almost there. If you don't know the distance of your hike, save yourself the trouble. Turn around, get in the car and go to Starbucks. You'll have a much more pleasant Friday night.

We finally made it to the wall and it wasn't actually that dark. The cliff behind us was lit up, glowing with the last rays of the day. Providentially, we had also found that Peter happened to have a headlamp in his bag, if we were to need it. So, I wasn't too nervous at that point.

It's amazing how quickly night can fall. Right after Peter started his climb I began to hear the evening chorus of crickets. Soon bats began fluttering above me. "It's nighttime," I was thinking as a panic began to well up inside of me. Lesson #2: Days get shorter at the end of the summer! Plan accordingly.

Peter finished his climb and the mountain behind me is no longer glowing, it's shrouded in smoky darkness. How did we end up in the mountains, in the dark, with a 30 minute hike ahead- a hike down a perilous mound of loose rock, no less- and only one headlamp?? We should know better! Lesson # 3: For crying out loud, if you are going to go up into the mountains anywhere near the proximity of dusk, bring a jacket and as many flashlights as there are people!

So, we began our descent climbing down the jagged rock mountain of broken bones and dreams (that's not actually what it's called that's just what it felt like at the time). At the base of the gully we entered into the black forest of doom. Did you know that you cannot see anything underneath the trees at night? You probably already knew that! And so did we, but that was not impetus enough for us to pack another lamp, or you know, to get out before dark! So we struggled through the forest with only a narrow globe of light to guide our way. We found the creek where we had to cross and walk downstream to pick up the trail on the other side. At least the creek was slightly lit because it didn't have a canopy of trees above it choking out all rays of light like a black hole. So we crossed but we could not find the trail on the other side. These were perhaps the most harrowing moments of this ordeal. We began to fight our way through dense foliage, limbs clawing at us, looking for the trail. At one point Peter said "where the heck are we?" NOT THE WORDS THAT YOU WANT TO HEAR.

Finally, thankfully, the trail opened before us. From that point on we had a little more light and the terrain was smoother so we soon made it back to the car. And, wow, am I thankful that it wasn't worse. Can you imagine if we had not had that lamp or if one of us had fallen and had not been able to continue?! We did pass a homeless man on the way up the trail so maybe he could've been of assistance. It's probably best that it didn't come to that though. Don't ya think?

That headlamp was our godsend, literally. God was watching out for us even in the midst of our foolishness. We seem to keep making little mistakes like this. Usually they don't result in such scary scenarios. Think then hike! I'm going to try to adopt that slogan from now on. (Lesson #4: The word order of slogan is critical! Do not interchange verbs!)


Terry said...

That is a very scarey story, you guys. Glad you made it back okay though so you can go on another rock climbing excursion (albeit in better light)!

Vanessa Rogers said...

do you remember the time we went running in McAllister park and got lost. Your story sounded a bit scarier than that time, but I remember being plenty frightened in the dark of the night with animals and rotten smells.

johnrgriffin said...

Love it! Wonderful story! I think my favorite part was when you were climbing down the "jagged rock mountain of broken bones and dreams." How delightfully descriptive- I almost feel as if those are MY bones and MY dreams that are about to be dashed!

Glad you guys had made it back okay and the "where the heck are we" feeling passed uneventfully.