Spring Retreat 2018 Havasupai Falls Hike Part 6

Even when led by the still small voice of our perfect God, real life messes are unavoidable; we are imperfect people living in an imperfect world.

Unlike a casual stroll in a local park, or an endorphin induced trail run, backpacking comes with a list of its own set of rules, especially in the extraordinary depths of an unsparing gorge and dry climate.  While most may come prepared by a set of rules, our rules were set after this adventure began, by the lessons learned through our experiences.

We were off to a great start as we descended the switchbacks of the canyon. We had already learned our first lesson, that the terrain was unpredictable, and our second lesson was vastly approaching.  Approximately two hours into the hike, we experienced a thunderous sound approaching that vibrated the ground we were standing on.  It sounded as if a dam had breached and we were about the get smothered by a rush of water.  We hurriedly stepped aside to the right against the mountain wall to make room for whatever extreme force was rapidly approaching.  A few seconds after stepping out of the way, to our astonishment, a sting of pack mules hastily swept by us literally leaving behind a cloud of dust in its path.  The sound of this force was urgently etched in our souls.  While the sound was incomparable, the sight was equally astonishing.  The lesson learned was to not hesitate in moving to the side after hearing this sound because the stampede, would not and could not, stop for anything in its path.

Lesson three was learned after about four hours into the descent of the ravine.  A couple of the girls continued stopping along the way for pictures and repositioning their packs, while me and the other member of our team continued the trail, causing our group to separate from one another.  My body was physically beginning to feel the stress from the intense path and by my steady gate I had picked up a pace that therapeutically encompassed my mind.  Before I knew it, my entire self (body, soul and spirit) were fully engaged and I began hearing from the Lord.  He said, “You need to lead this hike, you are not on a walk in the park.  I taught you how to backpack when you were hiking the Appalachian Train in the Smoky Mountains.”

The memory of that experience was brought to my conscious mind and I instantly knew what to do to lead my team.  This revelation from the Lord stopped me in my tracks.  I immediately knew that we were in danger by splitting up.  I was almost in a panic but stayed calm and found a boulder to hang out on while we waited for the other two team members to catch up to us.

We waited for twenty to thirty minutes before we were able to see Lisa and Maria approaching in the distance.  When we were all four together again, I relayed the message that was revealed to me.  I informed the group that we were not on a walk in the park, but that we were on a treacherous journey.  The unforeseen, hidden hazards and the dangerous, deceptive conditions called for our immediate attention with earnest intent. Our plan was to stay together and to pick up a stride that resembled one of an army.  We would keep a slow and steady pace, picking up our feet as if we were marching so that we did not waste energy tripping or stumbling.  I knew from experience that this type of stride would naturally engage our minds and our spirits which was necessary for our brains to function healthily.  If we were going to successfully complete the hike out and endure the adventure that lied ahead, we needed our entire beings engaged:  Our spirit hearing from the Holy Spirit, our soul thinking thoughts of truth, and our brain (body) firing off chemicals as the supply source to our bodily functions.

The looks on the faces of those we passed who were on their way out, spoke to me in a way that repeatedly caught my attention.  The ten miles that we hiked into the canyon were tough, but I could not imagine what it was going to be like the following day as we attempted to climb out of the gigantic, magnificent hole.

I knew that the Lord was the leader of this mission because He taught me to lead the group before reaching the state of exhaustion; He was paving our path.

Spring Retreat 2018 Havasupai Falls Hike Part 5

Even when led by the still small voice of our perfect God, real life messes are unavoidable; we are imperfect people living in an imperfect world.

We knew we were getting close to the location that marks the start of the hike because there was a line of cars parked for miles along the side of the road. Some hikers spend the night in their vehicles, to get an early start without having to drive all morning at the crack of dawn. We hoped to find a parking spot in the lot, so we continued to drive closer to the rim of the canyon. We were successful.

2The sun was beginning to rise at this point; it felt surreal that the time had arrived. We unloaded our backpacks, got out our trekking poles, buttoned up our gear, and we headed to the starting point. There was no one around except for a native who was handing out maps. We approached him, and he assured us that if we follow the main path, we could not get lost.  He handed us a map and sincerely instructed us to be careful and to drink plenty of water. He and I made eye contact and I saw concern in his eyes. His words struck me. I thought, was he concerned because we were four women hiking alone? Could he tell we’d never backpacked before? Was it our age? Or, did he have this concern for everyone? It seemed like a non-event in the natural but in the spirit, he caught my attention. Once again, for a split second, the notion came over me wondering if we had properly prepared for what we were about to do. I shrugged it off, did not say anything out loud to the group, and marched excitedly to the rim for a peak into the canyon we were about to dive into.1

After one last bathroom break, we started down the switchbacks. The first mile of this hike is a 1000-foot descent. The terrain consisted of loose chalky gravel with large boulder rocks mixed in. On the right side of us was the canyon wall and on the left side was the hole. We had plenty of room to avoid getting too close to the edge of the canyon, so that was not a threat. Watching our footing was the most crucial part of the first mile since it was so steep, and the terrain was rough.

The four of us were in our glory. We were laughing, chatty, giddy, and unafraid as if we were hiking in a local park at home. After about fifteen minutes into the descent, I slid on the gravel. My backpack cushioned my fall which was a blessing, but my hand smashed a pile of mule manure. Luckily, I had on a glove but nonetheless, that creepy thought came over me again. Where are we headed?

Spring Retreat 2018 Havasupai Falls Hike Part 4

Even when led by the still small voice of our perfect God, real life messes are unavoidable; we are imperfect people living in an imperfect world.

The hike was sold out for the entire year in just two hours. Last year it took two weeks. Obviously, the world is becoming aware of this unadvertised secret wonder of God’s creation.

Sedona-Shuttles

By the end of the day, I had finally heard back from everyone on the team that the dates I reserved worked with their schedules. I reserved a cabin in Sedona where we would stay for the first 4 nights of our retreat. I also booked a hotel closer to the rim, three hours from Sedona, where we would stay for one night prior and one night after our hike.

The retreat in Sedona was amazing. Our schedule was to wake up in the morning and study the book of James together then head out to view the sights between 12 and 2pm each day. After a nice afternoon enjoying Sedona, we cooked dinner then made memories through enjoyable conversation and laughter. The night before checking out, we practiced putting up our tents and packed our backpacks eliminating any extra weight so we were prepared for the hike.

The hotel that we stayed in near the rim was on an Indian Reservation. I had never been in such a remote area. We had no cell service and the only thing that was around was a small general store and a gas station. The restaurant in the hotel was the only restaurant on the entire reservation. Land, more land, then more land was all there was as far as the naked eye could see.  

It was still dark when we began to the drive to the rim. There was no sign of life for 90 miles as we drove for an hour and a half farther into desolation. How could there be so much land with no life on it? Words are hard to find to express the feelings I was experiencing; it felt frightening, thrilling, and uncertain all at the same time, as if I had gone to bed and awoken in the middle of the Land of the Lost.

Following were the thoughts that were going through my mind:  

My family has no idea where I am.

What if we get a flat tire?

How do we call for help if we are in need?

Did we plan well enough for this?

We hadn’t even started the hike but we had started the adventure and I could tell from the drive that we were headed for an exploration that was going to be life changing.

Spring Retreat 2018 Havasupai Falls Hike Part 3

Even when led by the still small voice of our perfect God, real life messes are unavoidable; we are imperfect people living in an imperfect world.

Our team was set, there would be four of us going on our Spring Retreat.  We were thrilled for the adventure that lied ahead. It was like the unmovable, merciless, accessible crater was calling our name.  Like an invitation to come enter at our own risk to explore, scope, gaze, and wonder. It felt almost like a dare.

havasu-falls-havasupai-3

I knew this trip was going to be one of the most extreme things I’d ever done.  But first, we needed to get registered. I didn’t want to get my hopes up too high until we had the space reserved for our stay in the Canyon.

By reading the posts on Facebook, I quickly found out that registration for 2018 opened on February 1st at 8:00am.  The posts were adamant about not waiting because 2017 sold for the entire year in only two weeks.  Our group had decided on a week in April for our trip. We were waiting until we were registered for the hike before purchasing our airline tickets and finding a place to stay in Sedona prior to the hike.  Waiting to plan for trip depending on the registration for the hike was one of the only well thought out decisions we’d make. How can you know what you don’t know, right?

On January 31st, the evening before registration day, I went to the website for a practice run.  I had to be sure the website address was accurate since I would be logging on first thing in the morning with no time to spare for trying to figure things out.  I woke up at 7:30am and turned on my computer and went directly to the Facebook feed to participate in the excitement with the others who were also waiting for registration to open.  I sat on the couch with my laptop, my cell phone, and my credit card. At 7:59am, I had my finger on the enter key as the last minute counted down per second because I was concerned that the week were had planned for may get taken.    

My phone read 8:00am – I pushed enter – I’m logged on.  On the cover page of the registration it read to ‘click here’ for a live calendar.  I ‘clicked here’ and I got an error response.  WHAT? Panicked, I fought with the tab for 10 minutes.  Then it dawned on me to check the Facebook page to see if anyone else was dealing with the same problem.  Everyone was experiencing the same problem. People were furious, they were using curse words and having fits. I was instantly on an intense mission to book this reservation.  I read some of the replies and found someone who gave a different link for the live calendar! I copy the link and pasted it in the URL and it worked! I got the live calendar!  

As I was scrolling through the calendar, I could not find any squares that were colored showing availability, everything appeared sold out!  How could this be? It was only 8:15am! I looked through April, Sold Out.  I looked through May, Sold Out, I looked through June, Sold Out.  I thought July and August would be too hot, so I back tracked to March.  There were a two-day hikes available in March, so I selected one of the dates.  A registration sheep populated on the screen where I saw a timer at the top counting down from 99 seconds, 98, 97, 96…Oh my word, I was going to be timed out in one minute and I didn’t even know if these dates were going to work for our team.  I frantically texted the group and before I got a response, I was timed out. Ughhh, back to the drawing board.

I was still on the March calendar and I started clicking the pair of dates that were showing available.  As I made my selection, I got the response, “no longer available”, this was seriously crazy! Finally, after several near misses, the registration screen populated again, and the one-minute count down began. It was like a race to the finish as I quickly filled out the information and added my credit card.  Then, without even checking with the team, I clicked submit and I got an ERROR response!  Are you kidding me?  So, I clicked submit again, and again , and again, and again, thinking I might be getting charged for each entry, and all of a sudden, the screen read, CONGRATUATIONS!  YOUR DATES ARE CONFIRMED!  Just like that, I all caps with exclaimation points.  The font was an indication to me that who ever constructed this site was aware of the mayhem that was going to be had.  Instantly I thought, what have I done? I wonder if everyone can go?

I ran upstairs to check my own calendar and noticed that the dates I had booked were on Easter weekend!  We would be hiking down on Thursday before Easter and hiking out on Good Friday. Oh my, could my team even go on Easter weekend?

To be continued…