Thursday, March 15, 2012

Never say never

Let me tell you a story of why it can be dangerous to be in pretty good shape.  This is a recounting of something that I experienced about two and a half years ago.  Back then I had been working pretty darn hard at getting into better physical shape.  I was spending every lunch hour at the gym.  I was on the treadmill and doing weight training.  I was eating salads.  I was focused on getting healthier and stronger.  Even though I was in my early 50's, I was beginning to think I could do some pretty physical things.  I was thinking I was pretty strong.  I thought I could GO FOR IT.  So, what did I do?

I thought I wanted to do the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.  I'll wait for you all to stop laughing....  You done?  I'll give you another minute....

Of course I knew I wouldn't be able to start out hiking with Machu Picchu.  I'm not that naive of my physicality.  I had a plan.  I thought I would start out with hikes around my area.  I thought I would go hiking while on vacations.  I planned to hike the Grand Canyon.  I thought I would be ready for the big hike after that.  There's that thing I've heard said about the best laid plans.  What was it?  Give me a few minutes to remember what that is....

Oh yeah.  We make plans, God laughs.  It's good to bring laughter to the world.  I hope God enjoyed this one.  I think he did.

You may remember how much I enjoy going to Reno, NV for the Tailhook convention.  I've posted about it before, here.  This event is held the weekend after Labor Day.  It's still pretty hot in Nevada and Reno, NV is at 4500 feet altitude.  I spent some time in the hotel's fitness room on the treadmill and you can, no kidding, feel the altitude in your breathing.  I could handle it.  In fact, I had heard that training at high altitude increased your cardio endurance.  I was feeling pretty strong.  I looked on the internet for some hikes to take in the Reno area.  I thought it would be great training for my husband and me to take a hike in the morning before all the tailhook events began on Thursday.  I made a plan to take a nice 5 mile hike up a small mountain, go around the summit and come down the other side.  I even found a map.  I figured if we began our hike at 8:00 a.m. we would be finished and back at the hotel by lunchtime.  I made a plan.  I chose the hike called Hidden Valley.  It sounded lovely.

Wednesday evening my husband and I had dinner with our friends at the hotel.  It's great to spend this first evening together.  We chat, catch up with what we've been doing since we last were together and look forward to a fun weekend together.  This time the dinner conversation turned to one of the guys reminiscing about his and his wife's trip to the Grand Canyon.  He recollected about a helicopter sightseeing adventure they took there.  It sounded lovely.  I mentioned we were planning a trip to the Grand Canyon, but instead of taking a helicopter trip (I said there was no way you'd get me in a helicopter) we were going to hike in and out of the canyon.  There were some chuckles, but I didn't mind.  We told them about our plan to go hiking in the morning.  We told them about where we were going and, laughingly, said if we were not back by dinner to send out a search party.

In the morning we packed a backpack with eight bottles of water, slathered on the sunscreen, grabbed the map and cell phones and off we went.  It was a gorgeous day.  We got to the base of the trail at 8:00 a.m. (doncha just love it when a plan comes together?)  The trail was wide and looked well traveled by ATVs.  There were horses all around and the grade was moderate.  We made it to the summit in two and a half hours.  I was a little tired, but ok.  My husband had surprised me by bringing the hotel chocolates from our pillows in the backpack.  They were a melty, messy treat.  Life was good.  When we began to look for the trail to go around the summit and descend back to our car we noticed the ATV tracks went everywhere.  We pulled out the map and made our choice.  As we were making our descent we notice the "trail" seemed more like a flash flood runoff.  The trail was very rocky and steep and I needed to hang on to my husband's shoulder to walk down.  I didn't want to twist an ankle up here on the mountain.  I wasn't going to be THAT damsel in distress.  We made it down the trail.  We started walking along, what we thought was, the trail to the base and where we had left our car.  Unfortunately, we had made a wrong turn.  We weren't too worried.  The valet who parked our car told us as long as a trail was heading downhill, we would end up back in Reno.  Our trail was heading downhill.  We walked for two more hours.  It was 100 degrees.  We were in the desert.  There was no shade.  I wasn't in as good of shape as I had believed myself to be.  I was starting to get scared.

It is now about 12:30 p.m. and we are in the desert.  There is NOBODY around.  My husband has figured out where we went wrong and we are now walking in the right direction.  I'm not having the easiest time anymore.  We walk for another hour.  I'm having a more difficult time in the hike.  I don't want to drink water anymore.  It's making me sick.  But, I keep going.  It's amazing all the crazy things people do in the desert.  I must have seen every size of shell casing for every weapon legally available for purchase laying on the ground.  I saw every type of trash item that could be used as target practice.  I saw so many shot up tvs and monitors, I couldn't believe it.  Just thinking about all the people that come out into the desert gave me a little hope, but we didn't see anybody.  My husband started to walk ahead of me to encourage me and tell me we are almost there.  I'm starting to have to sit down a lot.  There aren't any mountains anymore, but every rise in the trail is sucking the life out of me.  We walk another hour.  We come to a pile of rocks in the desert and I tell my husband I don't think I can make it.  I'm throwing up every sip of water I take.

Then, surprisingly, we see a guy driving a motorcycle in the distance.  We are screaming and waving our hands.  I am so desperate, I take off my pink shirt and wave it in the air.  He doesn't see us.  And we watch him drive away.  It's a moment of great despair, for me.  I tell my husband, we have to call 911.  I can't make it and he can't carry me.

This isn't something my husband wants to do, but he sees, I'm toast.  I pull out my Motorola Razor flip phone.  The battery is dead from searching for a signal.  (do you think this is when God starts laughing?)  My husband scrambles up the rock pile and pulls out his Motorola Razor.  He has one bar of both battery and signal.  He dials 911.  They answer the phone.  Hallelujah!  They ask for landmarks.  My husband starts describing what we can see.  I remind him to tell them we are on the Hidden Valley trail I found on the internet on the Reno hiking trails site.  His phone battery dies.  Silence.  We don't know if they heard him or not.  My husband reminds me that we are going to be ok.  Even if they don't find us, we can rest and it will get cooler as it get later in the day.  We can walk out then.  This gives me a little more hope.

Suddenly, we see a helicopter flying above us.  My husband attempts to use his watch to reflect the sun light to help them find us.  I, again, take off my shirt.  (I have obviously lost my mind, at this point)  The helicopter sees us and searches for a place to land near us.  It lands.  I, amazingly, find enough energy in myself to hurry toward the aircraft.  The co-pilot gets out to help me aboard.  I hug him so hard.  Where was all this energy when I needed it?  I literally JUMP onto the helicopter.  I'm going to live.  My husband climbs aboard and we lift off.  I look out the window and soon I see green grass, houses and a park.  They land the helicopter in the park.  Then I see a firetruck, ambulance, mountain rescue vehicle and two police cars.  All for us.  Well, me, really.  I get off the aircraft and they sit me under a tree and bring me a sports drink.  They remind me to drink it slowly.  They check my vitals and ask me if I want to go to the hospital.  I'm so embarrassed.  They remind me how much happier they are to rescue living people from the desert instead of searching for the dead.  It helps me feel better about the whole thing.  The police drive us to our car and tell us to have a lovely evening.

So I've gone from saying I'd never get on a helicopter to JUMPING on to a helicopter in less than 24 hours.  All because I thought I was in pretty good shape.  Thank goodness, I've gained most of the weight back and I haven't been on a treadmill in months.  I'm in horrible shape.  I think being this out of shape is going to save my life.  At least, that's what I'm telling myself.

42.  My husband
43.  Search and rescue people
44.  Good friends
45.  Wonderful memories
46.  Bottled water
47.  The knowledge that my husband wouldn't leave me in the desert, alone
48.  Health
49.  Cell phones
50.  A memory of a scary, but wonderful adventure

It's really not that good of a map


  1. omg...i am glad we can have a good snigger at this now...but in taht moment i imagine it was scary...and i am glad you overcame that fear...desperation will certainly help with that...smiles....

  2. This is a fantastic story. I was on the edge of my seat.

  3. Oh My Goodness Girl!  I was holding my breath...(I'm not sure why, because here it is several years later and I'm reading your post...probably because I'm on muscle relaxants and my brain isn't functioning properly.)  So, I just turned 49 and feel like it is time to actually get my bum into action...are you telling me to not bother at all??!!  LOL!!  Thanks once again for the gasp and the chuckle!  I think I'll choose my words wisely...wouldn't want to give God any thing to work with!!

  4. That is quite a story.  Wow - you got to fly in a heliocopter!  I need to get back in shape.  Too much going on to give exercise much thought - plus cataract surgery yesterday - I need to get over that.  And then I'm hitting the walking trails.  :)

  5. What an amazing travel story - this should be published.

  6.  I hope you recover from your cataract surgery quickly and have your vision restored.  All the best to you.

  7.  I hope you feel better soon.  Thanks so much for reading.

  8. I appreciate your writing so much.  Thank you.

  9. Oh. My. Word. My husband has taken me hiking in a lot of desolate places, and there have been times when I've wondered if the kids or I would be able to make it, but your story tops any of mine.

    Of course, I'm going hiking in the Alps this summer. I'm sure I'll have some good stories. Assuming I make it back.  :)

  10. i love you so much for this, but my favorite bit is your caption: it's really not that good of a map. oh, hg, you are awesome.

  11. my goodness woman! what a trip, so glad you lived to tell about it. really. 

  12.  I can't wait to hear all about this trip.  :)

  13. How terrifying!  Thankfully, I'm out of shape enough not to take any such risks!

  14. this is a darn good story friend. darn good.

  15. I shouldn't be laughing at your horrible hike, but since you're writing the story I know you're ok.  Oh my, this sounds like something I would get my husband into, only he. would. never. let. me. forget. it. :)

  16. Happygirl! I was so stressed out reading your post! I'm glad you are safe and alive! OK, note to self, don't get into shape! Thanks for the lesson! I haven't gone for my daily walk for a couple of weeks now, I should continue like this. I don't want to put myself in any kind of danger.


Comments from my readers bring sunshine to my day. They make me so happy.