Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.
If only Sparkle and I held that wise sentiment before setting out on the most infamous journey of our lives.
Part I: Doppelgängers on the Mount
The day started like any other normal day—except, of course, for the fact it felt like waking up on Christmas morning. Sparkle and I are avid hikers. We love being outside among the aged bodies of earth and deep rivers of time. Whenever we were granted the open alignment in our schedules, we certainly took to the beloved hills.
So, with spirit in our eyes and excitement in our bellies, we grabbed the directions and packed a few snacks for our half-day hike. Rolling into the trail-head parking lot, we felt that sudden sigh of, “This is it. It’s a dangerous and beautiful world out there and alas we venture forth like so many before us.”
We packed the car, left the itinerary under the seat, and began hiking under the shady, dew-ridden boughs consistent with a crisp spring morning in the mountains.
The trail began leveling out within fifteen minutes. After about two hours, we realized the trail was relatively easy altogether, give or take rolling ascents and descents of ten feet.
Along the way, after discussing the various hopes and aspirations for our post-graduation lives, we decided we weren’t ready to quit on the mountain.
Fortunately, we bumped into two well-traveled, middle-aged women. They were very sweet and compliant when we asked for the nearest spur or trail to which we could further venture. Pulling out their map (we should have had one but lesson soon to be learned…), they spoke of how they’d done every trail, spur and otherwise along the mountain on which we all stood.
Something stood out to the two of us. We felt a sudden bond with these two women and decided they were our future selves.
Why, then, did we not listen?
Looking at the map, the ladies pointed out a 3-mile-round spur to a waterfall and an additional ten-mile connection back to our lot.
We had trekked about four, easy miles and felt invincible.
“I think we can do the long trail and the three mile trail,” says I.
“Yeah, me too!” replies Sparkle.
“No. I wouldn’t,” hastily encouraged the two woman, “You both look fit, but that trail is not like this one. It’s difficult. It has steep inclines and pairing it with the falls spur is not a good idea. We know. We tried.”
Naturally, being two younger girls with a temporary invincibility complex, we assumed based on their knee braces we were stronger than they comprehended. It never occurred to us the knee brace was a result of the attempt.
So, we both ate our first of two snacks (an apple) and set forth to the spur. Up and down we went for the three miles, eating a sandwich along the way. We still felt great after 7.5 miles of hiking.
“I think we should do the other.”
We ventured forth and the first few miles felt good. We figured the trail would maintain the same intermediate terrain and were therefore not too concerned with our condition. Here’s the thing about mountains—terrain is not consistent. It is not to be assumed. Had we a map, we could have seen where the elevation lines clustered and recognized our mistake before going too far.
So by about mile eleven, we hit the inclines.
With only a banana, no map, and a half cup of water each, we realized we had no choice but forward. Had we backtracked, it would have been 9 miles versus 6 to return. The sun had begun slowly declining. We had maybe three to four hours left of sunlight. 9 miles would have certainly put us on the trail in the dark.
Just when we thought everything was leveling out, we hit another mile of steep, 40–50ft inclines and declines. We had to climb ladders up the sides of sheer rock walls, boulder over rolling rock faces, and dig our heels down slippery, moss ridden roots.
We were dehydrated.
Without adrenaline, we would have collapsed. I remember brainstorming shelter plans and searching (quietly) for things we could use.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, I turn around and Sparkle is way behind.
She was having trouble breathing. Her asthma was acting up.
To be continued…