Another reason to be annoyed by the time change.
I just looked at my camera. As much as I would like to blame the time change for the discrepancy, I can't. My camera was off by two hours and fifteen minutes. Not really sure about how that happened, but it made me feel better about the hike we had made. I was pretty certain we had left right at noon. To think it had taken us four hours was a little embarrassing. I'm not really sure why my Part-Timer did not correct me in the comment section. I know she's reading this. She keeps bugging me about my blogging schedule. You'd think she could leave a comment here and there to participate, but I guess not.
Making it to the top of the cliff side on our trail was a huge relief. For one, we had worked up a little sweat and there was a really nice breeze up there. Not to mention, traveling on a level trail for a bit was a relief to my legs. My muscles were on fire. We also were anticipating Fern Cave. Actually, I was expressing the fact that there better be some ferns growing there or else. Then, the whole hike took a different turn.
We bumped into two hikers headed in the opposite direction. A husband and wife hiking team, Damon and Irene. They stopped and started asking questions about the trail we had just covered. They were wondering if they could make the trip down that side. Did I mention they were a little older? We immediately advised against it and told them what we had just experienced. This is when Irene may have started having a melt-down.
What are we going to do?
We've been hiking since 10:00 am.
We got lost and lost the trail.
We are out of water and food.
We got them to a position that Irene could sit down, and dropped our packs to share water and snack bars. They were both grateful. Irene was concerned her blood sugar was getting low, and she was relieved for the snack bar. We told them not to worry, they were more than welcome to turn and we'd walk them out the other way. Irene was grateful and worried all at the same time. She had already been hiking for more than four hours and she did not want to go back the way she'd come. She started explaining the terrain they had covered, and my Part-Timer realized they had gotten off the trail after leaving Fern Cave. After further explanation, they had followed some college kids out of Fern Cave, and had ended up on a wild life trail coming out the back of that cave instead of the path on the map.
It was at this moment Irene shared something really special with us. They had been so worried and concerned about their predicament, they had stopped and prayed together. Just minutes later, they bumped into us. All of a sudden, there we were. We had food , water, and a plan to get them out.
Just let that sink in a moment.
God is Good.
Realizing there was no other way, we headed out. We took care helping Irene in difficult areas, and she was really sweet and grateful. We took a much slower pace at this point, and in the end it really helped us out as well. We made our way to the turn off for Fern Cave, and Irene and Damon decided to keep going on the trail ahead. We assured them we would just go down to the cave to take a few photos and we'd be right behind them. The trail they were on at this pint was wide and easy to follow, so they felt confident in going on ahead.
We made our turn, hiked down on a few boulders, and this is what we found.
Life can be full of surprises if you only take a little time to find them.
We spent a little time in this area, then turned to head back out. We needed to find Irene and Damon, and make sure they were okay.
I will give them credit, once they were on the correct trail back to their car, they made tracks. It took a bit of time to catch up with them, but once we did, we traveled on getting to know each other a bit. They're from the Houston area and had just stopped at the park for a day hike. They were actually in route to another park to hike the next day. Damon walked with my girl, and I could hear bits and pieces of their conversation. He was sharing all the places they had traveled and the hikes and camping adventures they'd been on. This was funny because I was walking with Irene, and she was telling quite different stories about the same trips. Most of them she felt were harrowing experiences, but nothing compared to this one.
Irene had been sure they were going to be stuck out in the canyon over night. She was certain no one knew where they were or would be able to find them. They were out of food and water, and they would be freezing all night long. Her knee was killing her and she was certain they were going to end up on the news. I did my best to reassure her, and to keep her mind on other things. She shared things about her life, like the fact her and her husband were training for a half-marathon in January.
Did I mention they were 60 & 64 years old?
She was concerned because she was supposed to run three miles on the treadmill the following Tuesday. After this adventure she didn't know if she'd be able to get it done. I couldn't believe it. Then I pointed out she might be able to use this hike towards her training schedule. She stopped and thought about it for a moment, then decided she would do just that.
Here are some photos from our hike back around.
It was a long hike for Irene, but she did well. We stopped a few times to get a drink of water and take a break. She refused to sit down though. She was certain if she did, she'd never be able to get back up. Along the way, they had shared how they had talked to two separate rangers on their hike earlier that day. I pointed out this meant they knew they were there, and no one would have left them out there alone. This did little to comfort Irene. She was certain they never would have been found because they had lost the trail. One ranger had met them that morning when they had parked, and the other had been on horse back and met them on the trail.
Well, we knew who the horseman was.
Calculating the distance, we knew we were getting close to getting them out. We had one ridge to hike over, and their parking area should be below. Imagine our surprise as we approached that ridge and Ranger Dawson popped over the top of it. I could tell he was in full-on Ranger Mode. His adrenaline was pumping, and he was excited to see Irene and Damon. He knew when and where he'd seen them, and he had made a point to ask how much water they had on them at the time. He had conversed with the other ranger, Ranger Jack, about what time he had seen them, and when they had started out on their hike. The fact that their car was still in the parking lot had sounded all the alarms.
Apparently...the Calvary had arrived.
Damon started explaining what they'd been through, and how they had found us. Then he went on about how nice we had been to share our provisions and see them back out. Ranger Dawson explained that he knew who we were, and he had bumped into us several times on his own. As we came over the ridge, we could see Ranger Jack below. He had a truck and trailer loaded down with ATV's. Then, around the corner, another ranger came hauling in at top speed, screeching to a halt in the parking lot. He had been off duty and got the call for the Search and Rescue mission they were launching.
It really was a happy ending to a long day. There were high-fives, shaking of hands, and relief. Irene did turn to me, and in a hushed tone said, "How embarrassing!" I laughed with her. Then told her she had nothing to be embarrassed about. She had made it. She did not have to be rescued. She did not have to sleep in the canyon, cold and hungry. She was not going to be all over the news, and she was leaving with quite a story to tell her friends.
Irene and Damon made it to their car. The rangers, relieved that all had ended well, started packing their gear back up. We had hiked over six miles, and we had another mile and a half to our camp. Ranger Dawson was able to save the day after all. He was more than happy to give us a ride to camp, which we eagerly agreed to.
My hat's off to the rangers. They really do know what's going on in the park. Who's there. Where they are? How long they've been there. When to start worrying about them. If you're in the area, please feel confident in going there and having your own adventure. They'll have your back!
What happened next may be a little embarrassing, but I'm going to share it anyway. We had been through a long day. It was close to 5:00 in the evening when we made it back to camp. We chit chatted with the ranger a bit, then loaded up in the car. I was hungry and I wanted some food. There is a little town about 15 minutes outside the canyon.
Two places available in Quitaqua to get food. An old diner that we were sure was closed, and an Allsup's convenience store. Some of you may be unfamiliar with Allsup's, but there are a ton of them out west. The rule in our house, if you travel west you have to stop at Allsup's for a fried beef and bean burrito. They're really good and really bad for you. Best served with taco sauce, and I used to enjoy them more before I learned they are over 600 calories each. Always one to follow the rules, I had already consumed two Allsup's burritos on my trip west Friday, but I wasn't going to let that stop me. We drove directly there. We parked right up front. We went in, and this is what I ate.
- Two beef and bean burritos - 1236 calories
- One order of wings - 330 calories
- Almond Snickers Bar - 230 calories
- 32 oz. Dr. Pepper - 450 calories
- Cheetos - big grab bag - 680 calories
- 2926 Calories total
- Not one bit of Guilt!