Monday, September 18, 2006

The Long Walk

Please note that I am in no way trying to make light of what happened to the Navajo people in the early 1860's by the use of this title. I actually have more of an idea and feel much more compassion toward what the Navajo went through after my visit to the South Rim two days ago.

The Big Bend is an amazing place. Yes it’s a desert, but beautiful. The Chisos Mountains are almost in the center of the park. On the East side of the Chisos Mountains, the desert plant life is sparse. On the West side of the Chisos, though it is still a desert, the plant life is considerably more. Then as you ascend the mountains you get into a forest of pines and other trees. The scenery is breath taking. If you have never been there before I recommend that you go see it before you die.

Speaking of dying my friend and I decided to take a day hike to the South Rim of the Chisos Mountains. If you ever go, do not let the name "day hike” fool you. It should have been named “3 day hike” or the “are you a man or mouse hike?”

I was worried about this day hike before we left. I didn’t go over board and let my friend know that I was worried so I went and asked a ranger about this hike when my friend was not looking. The ranger that was working in the visitor center was a lady around 55 years or so. She convinced me that I could hike the trail in at least 10 hours. She said that when she walks it, it takes her between 6-8 hours. I looked at my watch and it was 10 a.m. and thought if this lady who is easily 17 years my senior can do this in 6-8 hours, a 38 year old MAN can do it in at least that amount of time Arrr.

Just in case it took longer than she suggested, I packed matches, an extra set of clothes, extra food and rain ponchos (there was a 50% chance of rain in the mountains) etc… I then asked her if they had Fat Boy Helicopter Rescue Units in the area and she just smiled and said “No, but we have donkeys”. That clinched my decision to go…donkeys to the rescue.

We started on our journey. We walked about 50 yards or so down hill and realized that I hadn’t packed a flash light. Around we turned and headed back up hill. My legs started screaming at me. I should have listened when my legs said, "Mike even though that lady is 17 years your senior and could concievably be your mother AND to top it off, a lady, you probably should not go.” Of course me worrying about my manhood it wouldn’t allow me to listen to my legs.
About an hour and a half into the hike I make my second mistake by not listening to my legs. Thinking that we had traveled some distance we stop so that I could look at the map (even thought the real objective was to catch my breath). When I looked at the map expecting to be somewhere close to the halfway point, it looked like we had hardly left camp.

OH MY GOSH! MIKE, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE? Just tell Mark that you aren’t a MAN after all. Tell the truth. Tell him that sitting behind a desk for the last 7 years coupled with a serious lack of exercise has turned you into a mouse. Tell him that it is in my best interest and possibly his, that we turn around and head back to camp hoping that Lady Ranger wouldn’t see us.

A mixture of pride and a lack of memory nearly called for an embarrassing day because I didn’t tell him those things. You see when I was younger, I was in excellent shape. Though I was thin (6”6” and 170-175 pounds), I was relatively strong. I was able to bench press 210 lbs. and could almost get my elbow on the rim. I could run the mile in a very easy 5-6 minutes. I possibly could have ran it in a low 5 or less if I had enjoyed running and strove for that goal. My memory failed to tell me that it was 20 years ago that I was able to do those things.

Two hours after checking the map, with the top of the mountain still looming overhead, I started thinking, “Im going to be in next months Readers Digest edition!”. About that time we meet 4 young men in their mid 20’s coming down the trail laughing and having a good time. I figure that the rest of the hike must not be that hard since they were not in any obvious pain or discomfort.
An hour or so later we come upon 2 men and 2 women who were retirement age who were bird watchers. They had been watching birds a little further up the path and were headed down.
They didn’t seem like they were in need of rescuing so I decided to trek ahead.

About a mile further up the mountain we ran into two more young men about 25 or so and they said that the mountain top (South Rim) was about 2 more miles.
Of course I said “Thank you” in a very polite manner and continued on toward the top wondering if i would not only have a story written about me in the Readers Digest but if my face would make the cover of next months edition. Deciding that I might grace the cover, I asked Mark to take my picture so that I could at least look like I was having a good time before tragedy struck. He did.

Right after he takes my picture it starts raining lightly and the temperature drops so that it feels like it is in the low 50’s. I start thinking, “I am going to be lucky if I grace the cover of Readers Digest. With the temperature drop and the rain, I’m going to die of hypothermia and will instead grace the cover of the National Parks Ranger Quarterly, titled stupid civilians.

Luckily I remembered that we had packed rain ponchos. I started feeling better.
When we got to the top of the mountain we visited briefly with a man and lady who were there enjoying the spectacular view with the lady’s two sons. But it was time to head down. The sun would set in 3 and a half hours and we needed to leave then if we would make it back to camp before sun set (we only brought one flashlight).

My calves, my GM, and my dogs were screaming at me. Mark asked if my knees were hurting two or three times. Each time I told him no. I have been incredibly fortunate throughout my life. I have NEVER had a single problem with my knees. Until literally 2-3 minutes after Mark asked about my knees, my right knee began to ache.

“Oh no! I am going to die” I thought. “My knee is going to swell to where I cant bend it and there fore have to find an over hang that would protect me from the rain that was steadily increasing and sit out the night waiting to be rescued by the Lady Ranger on a donkey (how embarrassing)... Hopefully she would be able to find me before the mountain lions or the black bear, if I didnt die from hypothermia first.

I decided that I would likely not only make the cover of the National Parks Ranger Quarterly but I would also enable The Lady Ranger to win some kind of promotion or reward for rescuing me from the clutches of death.

Not wanting to be humiliated, I proceeded down the mountain. An hour later the sun was close to setting and camp was in sight. YEA GOD!!!

By Gods grace we, or umm I, made it back with time to spare. Mark was just a little winded. Must be the African water. God was good to me. God is good to me. GOD IS GOOD! Praise God. I sure did a lot of praying.

What a great trip we had. We are already planning another when the Phillips family comes home on their next furlough.
Guess where?
That’s right. The Chisos Mountains…and then on to Copper Canyon. Hopefully I will be wiser and stay at the camp with our little girls if everybody decides to go on that day hike...hmm I sure hope the girls will not want to go...


Amber said...

LOL!! Sounds like you had a great time! ;)

Kim said...

Now why didn't anyone tell me my dear sweet brother was going to do this???

I would have rented one of those donkeys and ridden along side him with my video camera.

Andrew Moody said...

Hey, glad you survived ;-).

As a friend of mine says, a hike is a long way to go just to stare at the tops of your feet.