Friday, October 30, 2009

more than a physical journey

We watched some of the Ken Burns episodes about our National Parks. The show apparently had the producer's desired effect on Greg, because he told me he wanted to go on a photo safari. He loves to practice with his camera and our backyard is becoming too familiar for his photo explorations.

He did some research and decided where he wanted to go. Then he sat me down on the couch and told me that I was going to have to step out of my comfort zone to do a little hiking. He wanted to go to the Narrows and hike in the river. I'm certain at that point I turned a ghostly white. My armpits started burning and my heart was racing.

Eight years ago I was teaching 4th grade and one of my favorite students died in a flash flood in the same park were we were headed. He was swept away. His brother managed to hang onto a branch and save himself. Michael was so sweet and smart. This was the first and only time I had ever had to deal with death as a teacher.

I gulped a very big gulp, pulled up my big-girl panties and said ok to the hike.

We planned carefully what we would take for our one-night camping adventure. Then we packed our gear and silly selves into the car like sardines. I had about two inches that I could move my legs. When I was restless and needed to move them, I shifted them about two inches. Not a whole lot of traveling relief.

Fall is a lovely time to visit a National Park. The leaves were just starting their color changes.

We donned our brand new water hiking shoes. Being the end of the season, we were able to find my shoes and the kids' shoes on clearance.

There was a one-mile hike on a groomed trail before we came to the spot where you either turn back around and head down or get in the river bed. After a few deep breaths and some praying I was the last one to put my piggies in the water. The kids were quite excited about the water and wanted to be in it right away.

Those first few steps were f.r.e.e.z.i.n.g! Thankfully it was a warm day. We had coats on to keep our top halves plenty warm at the advice of the nice lady at the outfitters place.

When we go hiking (or walking anywhere for that matter) I am always slower than Greg. I am a slow hiker. Let's face it, I've got a lot of extra weight on me & it takes me a little longer to lumber along in life. Heather always hangs back with me. Although I try really hard not to let the kids know that I am freaked out about something like this (or the dang ocean!) she can usually figure it out. She fears for my safety.

Just before we reached the point where the water was just about up to my waist, we stopped and Greg went ahead a little bit to scope some things out. He came back and said that the deep part only last a tiny bit and that was the deepest part for quite a ways. He talked to some other hikers on their way back. He reported, however, that the rocks were pretty slick at some parts. I was again faced with another decision. I thought that making the decision to participate in the first place was the hard one. The decision to turn around or go on turned out to be harder.

One problem we had is that we didn't have walking sticks. Some stuff I read online lead me to believe we could get them either at point A or point B. When we passed point A before we entered the park we didn't worry because we could still get them at point B. Where was point B? We never found it. So no walking sticks for us.

The kids did not want to venture into the deeper water. They were going to go with Suzanne and Dustin. So, really it was just up to me whether Greg and I continued on. On one hand I was scared to death. On the other hand I was determined because I had already decided to do this, we bought the shoes, we drove all this way. How could we turn back now?

I looked at the sky as I pondered my decision. Not a cloud in the sky. Not even a little puff. It seemed at that point that there was no choice. My determination to see this through overtook my fear.

So the kids turned back with Suzanne and Dustin and we waded waist-deep. The canyon was beautiful before this point, but it was even more breathtaking after we turned the corner out of the deeper water.

The further we traveled in, the more we were in awe. I was in awe of the scenery and of myself. I had over come a huge fear and stepped into the water to let it go. I have a great fear of leaving my children parentless ~ as I'm sure all parents do. I trusted God to take care of us.

And I trusted Greg. I know he would never lead me into a situation I couldn't handle.

At some points the rocks were slippery. We just took extra care and used the sides of the canyon when we could. A word to the wise, green rocks are ultra slippery. Avoid.

Greg stopped frequently along the way to take pictures. It's a good thing we stopped as much as we did because I might have missed some of the beauty while staring at my feet and the rocks I was about to maneuver.

Like I said, it was a warm day. Maybe in the 80s. In the shade it was cooler. There were some sunny spots that were quite warm. I zipped and unzipped my jacket along the way.

After a while, the water didn't seem so cold either.

It was not all water-walking. There were some dry areas. You can just see the river right behind the boulder with the people on it.

We didn't go as far as we might have liked, but we needed to get back to the kids by a certain time. It's a good thing we turned back when we did because toward the end of the water part, our ankles were feeling a little like jello.

This wasn't a huffing and puffing kind of hike. The cardio was on the low meter for this one. But we worked out those leg muscles balancing, trekking over slippery rocks, and holding ourselves against the current at some points. When we reached the end of the water portion and climbed the stone steps to get to the groomed area, I could have sworn my legs had been replaced by noodles.

But then on a I-can't-believe-I-did-it high I booked it the last mile to get to the tram.

We saw a few of these friends along the way.

At the end of the evening we sat by the fire. Happy. Content. The kids had fun. We had fun. I did something I didn't think I would ever do. I will actually go back again ~ on a cloudless day ~ with a walking stick.

When I got to school on Monday I was telling my principal and some of the office ladies about my adventure. A teacher told me the Narrows scare her because a friend of her son's died in a flash flood in the Narrows. She looked at me and said maybe I knew him because they went to the school where I taught at the time. I told her I did know him, he was my student. I told her I knew how he died and where, but somehow never knew he was actually IN the Narrows. A shiver went down my spine.

I'll still go back.


Carpool Queen said...

I've been thinking a lot about walking through fear this past week. In so many instances, it's getting past that first step that hinders us in so many ways.

Loved this story, Andrea, and so stinkin' proud of you for making the journey. I know it had to have been healing in so many ways.

Hopefull said...

So glad you shared this! It is great to visit National Parks - they are preserved for us for a reason!