Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Pains, Rains and Automobiles

So, Yesterday Sarah and I decided to do a little hiking.  I live in an amazing area where there are so many hikes and wonderful things to see.  Yesterday we decided to hike Peekaboo Canyon and Spooky Gulch slot canyons.  You really should check them out.  They are amazing!

WHAT WE DID WRONG:  Well, we made the #1 mistake in hiking.  Do you know what that is?  Of course you do...everyone knows you should ALWAYS TELL SOMEONE WHERE YOU ARE GOING. I had called Ron earlier, because he left his cell phone in the car we were driving, and I was wondering if we needed to come to his work and bring his phone to him.  He said he didn't need it, so I told him we were going hiking, we just didn't tell him where. Oh well, no biggie, we're fine.  It's not like we are going off to a remote place where people won't be.

The day was beautiful, so we packed a nice lunch and took off. The drive is about 2 1/2 hours to Escalante from my house. In Escalante, the weather was a bit more chilly, Sarah and I were wearing shorts so we stopped and bought some sweats to wear and set off again. From Escalante there is a 30 mile long washboard dirt road you have to take to get to the trail to the slot canyons.  Once you get there, there is a parking lot where MOST people park, but people who have higher clearance vehicles can go an additional mile up the road to get even closer.  We had an SUV, so we went further up.  Then where everyone else stopped, we decided to go a bit further and park right at the trail head.  We ate lunch and had plenty of water, locked the doors and were ready to go.

It was a beautiful and challenging hike...especially for me. It was a perfect day to go hiking.  There had been a little bit of rain, and so there were hardly any people there.  We kind of had the whole canyon to ourselves and it was wonderful. It was so fun exploring.  Those slots can be challenging as some areas are narrow, and bending and climbing up high all at the same time.  At one point Sarah had to pull me through this super narrow bend that I had a hard time climbing up into.  I was lying on my side, wedged between two walls while she pulled me through, and I was wondering if this was where I would never stand up again.  We were honestly laughing hysterically at my predicament.  I eventually was able to worm my way out of that  and we climbed a little more until I decided I had had enough.

Here are some pictures of how cool it is:

Isn't it amazing?  We had a great time hiking and talking and laughing at each other.  At almost 6 PM (Arizona time) we were still hiking, but realized that we had a long ride home and also that we had no cell phone service and Ron would begin to worry.  So we hiked out and got to the car, only for me to realize I HAD LOST THE KEY TO THE SUV!!! This was really bad!  Suddenly thoughts began to go through my mind...NOBODY KNOWS WHERE WE ARE!  I HAVE RON'S CELL PHONE! THE SUV IS LOCKED AND THERE ARE NO PEOPLE HERE TODAY! IT IS GETTING DARK AND COLD, AND IT IS 30 MILES TO THE NEAREST TOWN.  ( and I am sure glad we stopped to buy sweat pants.)

Do you know what time it is when you are in that situation?  It is time to pray!  So we stopped and said a prayer.  We asked for help, we asked that Ron would know we were safe, we asked that we would come across people who would be nice and would help us.

Then we began walking back toward the nearest parking lot, only to find that ALL of the cars were gone.  Images of breaking a window of our truck and sleeping a long cold night, while Ron called the police and search parties began looking for us with the only information "they went hiking" to go on, flashed through  my mind.   Well we had driven a mile up the road past the first parking lot, so there was still hope that we could walk that mile and find some help.

So cold and exhausted, we continued walking.  Around a bend, we were relieved to see 2 cars left in the far away parking lot.  We picked up our pace and tried to hurry to them.  At one car we saw some shuffling around and I was afraid they would leave before we got there leaving us only one last hope of getting out of there.  Well, fortunately they didn't leave.  On the contrary, it appeared they were there to camp for the night.  I thought, I bet they would be just thrilled to drive an hour on a dirt road to take us into town and then an hour to get back to their camp spot.

As we approached, Sarah told them our predicament and asked if we could use a phone.  It appears T Mobile (which we have) doesn't work as well as Verizon in remote areas.  Fortunately they were extremely nice and willing to do anything to help,  and they also had Verizon.  Only who am I going to call???  Did I mention that I had Ron's cell phone in the car? And we are kind of new here and don't know many people.  Fortunately, I remembered that we have one of those rare and almost extinct things...a Land Line!  I called Ron and explained the situation.  By then it was 7 PM and I am sure he was thrilled to know that he now needed to drive 3 hours to bring us a spare key. (A key he had only made just the day before, by some stroke of inspiration).  While I was making arrangements with Ron, we noticed the owners of the other car that was in the parking lot were coming back.  I sent Sarah there to see if we could get a ride into town from them.  She came back and said we could go with the other couple.  The first people offered us some food and before we left they handed us $40 (remember all of our belongings are in the SUV) and a couple of Cliff bars.  As we protested, they insisted saying that people had done as much for them.  Amazing, super nice people!

We thanked them, and got into the couple's car and began our one hour journey back to Escalante.  I had told Ron and we would meet him at the Subway in the Phillips 66 gas station in Escalante.  The people we hitched the ride with were really nice.  They were from Yuma on a 9 day adventure of their own.  After about a long, dark and bumpy ride, we arrived at the Phillips 66 station.  We went in and explained our situation to the attendant in the store and asked if we could hang out until Ron came to save us.  She told me that the store closed in about an hour, but we were welcome to stay until then.

It would be about 2 hours before Ron arrived, and it was beginning to rain and snow outside.  So I imagined me and Sarah sitting outside, huddling inside the small blanket we had with us.  And we just kept laughing and hoping Ron would come quickly.

Well when the time came to close, the lady called a local lodge and told them about us and they said we could stay in their lounge and wait.  Whew!  The kind lady gave me paper to leave a note for Ron and then drove us up the road to the lodge where we waited and tried to plan our next move.  We figured once Ron got there, we would need to drive an hour on that dirt road to get back to the parking lot, then walk a mile in the rain and mud to get to the truck, and then drive about 3-4 hours to get back to our home in Fredonia.  It would be about 3 AM by the time we got home.

After waiting for a longish while, the manager of the lodge offered his LAST available room at a largely discounted rate if we wanted to stay in his hotel.  I explained that I had no purse, no money and no ID.  Regardless, he let us have a room and said he would settle up when Ron got there. What a relief to have a place to get warm and comfortable...even if we were in dusty, dirty clothes.

Ron finally arrived, but we were all so tired we decided it would be best to just start again in the morning.  I found someone to work at the library for me the next day and Ron called in a family emergency.

So, this morning, we got up and began our journey to get the SUV.  It had been raining which at first made the washboard road seem a little easier to take, but soon washboard road turned in to a muddy, mucky, slippery road.  Mud like we had never driven on, which is about as bad as ice to drive on.  We fishtailed and spun out and crashed into the bank a couple of scary times.  One time we thought we might flip on our side and one time we got stuck so Sarah and I got out in the thick muck and pushed the car as hard as we could to get unstuck.  (So grateful that worked) Finally we realized that it was unwise to attempt to get our vehicle under those conditions, so we carefully turned back; warning anyone who passed us to turn back as well.  We would just have to come back sometime when the road was drier.

So if that wasn't enough, on our way back on the dirt road we began to hear this WHAP-WHAP-WHAP-WHAP sound coming from the front tire. When got out to inspect we saw that the tire was coming apart and knew it was just a matter of time before the tire blew.  Fortunately we made it back to Escalante, and amazingly enough the small garage happened to have just the tire we needed.

While we waited for the new tire to be put on the car back at  the Subway we hung out at the night before, Sarah, tired from so many problems, asked why everything was going wrong.  I chuckled when I realized that everything was NOT going wrong, that in fact many things in this unfortunate situation had gone very right.

If there had not been people at the parking lot we would have had to break a window and spend a long cold night in the back of our SUV with Ron having no idea where we were and surely search parties beginning to look for us.  We would have waited out the night hoping, in vain, that people would arrive in the morning and rescue us.  Fortunately there were extremely nice and generous people there to help us.  Just before I called Ron, growing more concerned about us had prayed got a reassurance that we were OK. (We called him like 5 minutes later.)  While Ron was driving to get us a deer ran out in front of him and he barely missed hitting it.  We got a ride to our destination safely and the nice woman working there gave us a ride to a safe place to stay, where we were able to get the last room at a discount.  Also, that tire, the condition was scary and it is a blessing that Ron was able to get to us safely without it blowing out on the road. Even the fact that Ron made an extra key just the day before was a huge blessing.

This situation had the potential to go very badly for me and Sarah and even Ron, but it didn't. My Great Aunt Thelma used to say "The Lord had His finger on us" to explain how we might have been protected in one situation or another.  In reflecting on the circumstances of yesterday and today, while seeming like one bad thing after another...I realized that once again, The Lord did indeed have His finger on us.    We are home safe, and gratefully...we can laugh about it now. (We actually laughed most of the time.)

If the Army and the Navy Ever look on Heaven's scenes, They will find the streets are guarded By United States Marines.

I have dropped my kids off at many places.  Dropped them off for their first day of school.  Dropped them off for their first slumber party.  Dropped them off at their first dance, their first job.  Dropped them off at the Missionary Training Center.  But none of the places I have dropped them off have been as bitter sweet as dropping Jacob off at the Marine Recruiting Station in St. George, UT today.(I accidentally forgot to post this blog. I actually dropped him off on Monday, February 12, 2018)

Jacob Andrew Johnson, age 20...almost 21, is officially a Marine Recruit.  He is at MEPS in Salt Lake City tonight, but tomorrow morning, he will fly to San Diego where there will be buses waiting to pick him up and deliver him to Camp Pendleton the Marine Corps Base Camp. Where he will experience the hardest 3 months of his life.   Here is a video to give you an idea of what it will be like. Pretty intense huh?  Tomorrow night...between 10 PM and 3 AM, I will receive a phone call from him that will say something to the effect of...   “I have arrived safely at MCRD San Diego. Please do not send any food or bulky items. I will contact you in 3 to 5 days via postcard with my new mailing address. Thank you for your support. I love you. Goodbye for now.”
They are allowed to say this and nothing more, to provide you with the peace of mind that your son or daughter has arrived safely and their training has started.   I am so looking forward to that phone call. 

Jacob made the decision to join the Marines last year in October.  When he first talked about it, I objected.  When he told me he was going to go to the Recruitment Station to get information, I made him promise me he would not sign ANYTHING.  He took the ASVAB test while he was there and scored a 94..which meant he could practically pick just about any placement area he wanted and that his future with the Marines looked very good.  He didn't sign on the first time, but soon after, he signed, without saying a thing.  When I found out, I was not happy and tried to talk him out of it, but he wouldn't be swayed.  For a while I continued to try to convince him to re-think his decision, but to no avail.

I finally came to accept that this was his decision and even came to agree that it was a good one.  He has chosen Air Traffic Controller as his MOS...(Military Occupational Specialty).  It's a good career, with a good future. I am excited for him...and truly, after much reconsideration and much consternation and then reconsideration...I truly could not be more proud of him.  He wants to be a man, he wants to be independent and he wants to serve his country.  I truly could not be more proud of him.

We left early this morning from our home in Kanab.  We drove him to the Recruiting Station where we met his Recruiter. We took pictures and then, with a little time to spare, we got him a Jamba Juice for the road.  Then after a long hug and a teary good bye..he went inside and we left him there.  We drove away with a melancholy feeling; reflecting back on my little boy and on all our happy memories together, and realizing how really proud I am of the man he has become.  It is so hard to let him go, but it is so wonderful to realize that he is confident in doing exactly what our kids are supposed to be doing...moving on.  I am grateful for the years we have spent together and I am so grateful that he has been such a good son.  I tell people that I have had many hard things in my life...but  my kids weren't.  Jacob has always been a good boy, and now he has grown into a good man.   Boot Camp will be very hard, but its purpose is to jump start him on his journey into manhood.  It will be hard, but anything worth doing often is.