Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Canyon Doesn't exist!

I went through something a few weeks ago that I've been trying to figure out the words to explain to y'all. So here's the run-down: 

The last week of April, for our final G42U adventure trip, we went to Big Bend National Park. We got there Sunday right after lunch, set up camp, and then Nate, Tara, Devin, Anthony, and I went for a little hike. We followed a trail that went into a canyon a little bit. About half way down the half mile (ish) trail we stopped and Nate taught about forgiveness. 
   While we were on our hike, Kyle, Haley, Richelle, and Cameron were paddling up the Rio Grande, which runs through the canyon. They were doing this because the next day they rest of us were going to float the river, so they were testing it out. 
    At 12:30 Monday we set out on our adventure, and it was set up for the others to pick us up at 4. It was fun. Devin was sitting on the front of the boat and the rest of us were lounging in the back, making jokes, eating, and laughing. Every so often we had to get out and carry the boat because the water levels were low.
    It wasn't until around 3 when we realized we should all start paddling because we still clearly had awhile to go. There were several points when one of us would stay in the water and guide the boat, while the rest of us walked along the shore. There kept being things that looked like they would be the canyon, but it always ended up not being it. There was even a long stretch when we turned a corner and there was nothing in-sight that looked like it could be a canyon.
    Dusk was upon us. It was around 8:30 PM. The river narrowed and became shallow again, so we all went to the shore except for Anthony. About a half mile in front of us, there was something that looked as if it could be the mouth of the canyon. Because it was getting dark and we were getting desperate, Devin takes it upon himself to go running towards it to see if it was indeed the canyon. At this point it was almost dark and the wind became so strong that it nearly knocked me over. It was then that Tara decided we needed to pull the boat onto shore and leave it. The wind was too strong. We all got quite worried for a few moments because we couldn't see Devin anymore. All we were worried about at this point was to get Devin back with us. Thankfully he came back, and with good news. He found the mouth of the canyon. We decided to throw some rocks into the boat so it wouldn't fly away, grab our things and head for the canyon. It was always out intention to come back for the boat.
     As we walked along, I started to freak out internally. Tara noticed that I was very quiet and asked if I was ok. I simply responded by saying "I'm fine" quietly. She knew I was lying, but she left it alone until a few minutes later where she asked me a few times in a row before touching me and making me look at her where I started to fall apart. She told me "You need to talk to us, and tell us if you're not ok." Nate seconded that. I completely fell apart and started sobbing loudly. They all encircled me, laid hands on me, and prayed. Tara got me to pray too, so that I was speaking out against the devil. After a minute or so of being there, I stopped crying, and we carried on. Tara held my hand for comfort and support.
    When we entered the mouth of the canyon, all sunlight was gone, and we were traveling by simply the light of the moon. We were also all out of water at this point. We walked on the shore as much as we could, but often we had to cross the water to the other side, because the shore would end on the side which we were walking.
     After about a half hour/45  minutes, we came to these huge boulders. It was dark and there was no real way that we could see to climb up and around them, so we knew what we had to do. We had to get into the water and swim. I have no clue how deep the water actually was, but I do know that it was deep enough that none of us could touch. We skirted around the boulders and before long were able to get out. That's when the trouble really started though. Because it was windy, and now we were wet. Devin told us to cross our arms over our chests to keep our cores warm.
    At some point during this, I started humming/singing softly. When I'm scared, singing worship songs brings me peace. It didn't take long before we were all singing together. Nate also got us shouting. It gave us bursts of energy, brought us a bit of warmth, and kept our moral up.
   Along the way we had to swim three times. The third was the worst. We had just gotten dry, and it was also the longest time to swim. After that time, we had to make a deal with Nate that if the water went above our waists, then we would stop for the night. We were cold and wet. Hypothermia was a worry. We had been without water for hours. Tara and Devin were wearing flip-flops. There was often times when it would be muddy, and not just normal mud, but it was clay, that was mud, which made it sticky and thick. Every time we came to even a little mud they had to take off their shoes, and when it got thick (like at least knee to mid thigh deep), Nate and I (both wearing Keens) would sink and get stuck. We had take off our shoes at those points.
    There was a long while when we walked along a ledge to stay out of the water. We even walked along the side of the canyon, side stepping on the rock for a ways. Every so often, we would all huddle together as close as possible for half a minute. It was helpful for warmth and comfort. Devin wanted to stop early on, probably around midnight, but we kept pushing. Nate was our driving force. He was determined to get us out of there. I shared his determination until around 3:30 am. At that point I was so cold and so tired. We were all just zombies walking along. Our eyes were playing tricks on us. We'd be at a ledge and think it was a 20 ft drop when it was only a few feet. We couldn't tell the difference between land and water.
    Around 4:30 I started strongly agreeing with the others that it was time to stop. It was so dark, and we really needed to get out of the wind. The boys found a dirt ledge for us to all fit on and we began to huddle up and intertwine as much as possible. Our backs were to the canyon wall, all in a row, Anthony, Nate, Tara, me, and then Devin. We had noticed the stars before, but this was a time when we could truly look at them. They seemed absolutely unreal! I have never seen so many stars in my entire life.
    Dawn came around 6:30 and it was then that I asked Nate what the plan was. I knew that it would take a long while before the sun actually warmed us, but at least we would be able to see now. He decided that we would wait until 7 and then start moving again. Slowly we started to stand up and allow feeling back into our legs and feet. We climbed down and soon had to walk through ankle deep water. Oh my gosh.. I can't even explain how amazingly warm the water felt on my frozen feet. We trudged for about 15 minutes, some through water, some over land, when we turned the corner and saw the beach where the trail we had walked a few days before, ended.
    When our feet touched that beach... oh the celebration! We shouted and screamed. I almost burst into tears. It was *such* a joyful moment. The trail wasn't long and before we knew it, we came to the beach where we were supposed to meet our group. They had left water bottles for us, and so we drank a bit of water and then started walking up a walk way that lead to the parking lot. We were praying that our van would be there waiting. Before we could even seen the parking lot, I heard what I knew had to be the van. I knew that sound anywhere. The van came into sight and Richelle comes running with a sweatshirt in hand. She hugs me for a moment and tells me to get into the warm van. Before I can do so, Haley is infront of me with a blanket to wrap me in. I cling to her and try my best not to start crying.
   We loaded up in the van to drive back to the camp site. We told bits of the story and were so tired, but we would start to say things and we would just start laughing! We got back to the camp site, changed, cleaned up, ate chilli, drank lots of water, and loaded up to go back home. All five of us slept quite a bit on the 7 hr drive home. Even Nate and I, who can't sleep really in cars, couldn't keep our eyes open. When we got home around 5:30, I stayed up until 9, showered, had dinner and then slept for 12 hrs.

   We were on that rafting trip for 19 1/2 hrs, in the canyon for 12 hrs, and didn't have water for at least 12 hrs. We found out that the entire route was 17 miles and the canyon was only half way. Needless to say, we didn't go back to get the boat.
    It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do, but something happened to me in there. A strength and a determination that I didn't know existed, came to the surface. I asked God countless times while it was happening, " What is happening right now? Why is this happening? How is this even real?", but I powered through. God gave me strength, and He gave me four incredible people to help me make it through.
   I wouldn't trade it, and if I was given the chance to have a "do over", I wouldn't do anything different. I bonded with those four, so much, and came away with memories.. funny ones and hard ones.. for a life time. Now, that doesn't mean that I'll be going on any rafting trips anytime soon ;).
Right when we got back to the camp site. This is how we were in the canyon.


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