Everyone was either dashing around looking for shelter from the pelting hail that came over us like, well, a thunderous, lightening storm in the high sierras or they pushed forward despite the danger, trying to make it to Donahue Pass as fast as possible.
No one wanted to have a long conversation about my new found love of life. My frightened cousin certainly wasn’t in the mood to hear my story of survival as she drew herself into her green plastic poncho like a turtle avoiding trouble. My sister kept giving us instructions despite my uncontrollable giggles and her occassional laughter at my folly.
Actually, it wasn’t yet that funny, but knowing the details of my near death experience, I knew it would be, it was only a matter of time.
We started through Lyle Canyon that day in hopes of making camp on the other side of the Pass and we enjoyed the beauty surrounding us. Over a matter of minutes, our 37 mile hike was interrupted by huge drops of rain.
Being the only one of the five foolish enough to carry a full sized camera (and a second lens), I began to panic. I hadn’t placed my poncho in an easy access pocket in my backpack and now I needed help finding it.
I am always the last one in the group, not because I am necessarily slower than the ther Hiker Chicks, but because as a photographer, it takes longer when you are constantly stopping to take pictures. Now, the rain threatened my camera and I was not going to take it well.
I yelled to my sister for help and after removing my pack and emptying it completely, we found the poncho. You need to know that my sister has the proverbial gonads of a gorilla (…what? I didn’t make this up, her dad did) so her frustration with me was obvious as she helped me repack.
She instructed me to get the pack back on so that she could dress me in my poncho. You also need to know that she is a Nazi Kindergarten teacher and talks to you in the same tone she uses at work when she is herding 30 5-year-olds through a typical day at school. “They are baaaad ,” she says with the exaggeration of an amateur actor performing Shakespeare.
“But, I really need to peeee!” I whined.
Hiking rules dictate that you can only relieve yourself one hundred feet away from any trail or water. She looked around the steep switchback we were on and clearly, there was no way this rule could be followed.
“Then pee right there,” she snapped in her best commander voice, as she pointed down at the edge of the trail.
Being of a certain age, and finding the urge to “go” overwhelming, all I could say was, “but don’t look.” She said she wouldn’t look so I asked her to hold my camera for a minute.
As I handed her the camera, I hear the unmistakeable sound of a lens cap dropping onto the rocky path and as I yelled in slow motion, “No. No! NO!” it rolled down the hill coming to rest below us.
“Get it later,” she said. “Hurry up and pee.”
I dropped my pants and in my best Hiker Chick move, and positioned my feet so as not to wet my boots.
All was well until I went to pull up my pants.
I did the customary hop we of fuller hips do when we need to get pants over our buttocks when I felt my left foot slip. It was instant and irrevocable. I lost my footing and dropped onto my bare butt and began to slide down the slope.
I might remind you that falling is very much a part of hiking. We are carrying close to 40 pounds of supplies, and the pack itself alters your ability to balance as you traverse hill and dale. You learn early on that falling on your back is not a bad thing, as the pack protects you from rocks under your feet. But you also learn that getting back up is as difficult as an upside-down turtle righting itself.
As I slid, I couldn’t help but think that I was about to die … with my pants down.
For some wonderful reason which I attribute to my cat-like-ninja-quick reflexes I turned over onto my stomach and started grabbing what ever I could reach. Thankfully, I attached myself to a small manzanita bush branch which halted my descent.
Even more thankfully, the threat of rain slowed the hikers in the area sufficiently enough to prevent them from being mooned by my exposed and quite dusty butt.
My big derriere has made me the butt of everyone’s humor for years. “Why should this be any different?” I thought.
I looked up toward my sister and she was whiter than normal. “Give me your hand,” she yelled as she started to lean toward me carrying a full pack covered by her blue poncho.
I refused and said, “I’ve got it. I don’t want to pull you over.” I dug my knee into the earth and pulled myself up. I couldn’t wait to get my pants up. As I buttoned, I noticed my lens cap below and and I jogged back down the trail to fetch it.
My feet were light and nimble as I ran back up. With help, I re secured my pack, clipped on my camera and pulled on my yellow poncho. We began walking to rejoin my cousin who claims to have had a moment of reckoning when she saw one of the lighting strikes hit the granite wall on the opposite side of the valley. She “became one” with the granite wall adjacent to our trail, until she remembered that granite conducts electricity.
By the time we finally caught up to my cousin, I had already sworn my sister to secrecy. Yet, neither of us two could stop from laughing and smiling ear to ear despite the beating the hail was giving our hands and forearms.
I survived a terrifying fall and slide down a mountainside relatively unscathed, and she didn’t have to use Cathy’s satellite device to call for me to be airlifted to civilization (dead or alive.)
As the lightening and thunder continued directly over and around us, my cousin could not be convinced that we were not going to die. She didn’t know that my sister and I had already calculated the odds of two disasters occurring in one day and were confident that there was no way lightening would be our demise.
As I pulled out my phone in the water proof case to take pictures, my cousin glared at me and declared us crazy for purposefully causing a lightening strike to find us by using such dangerous electronic equipment. We clicked away…these pictures would be priceless.
Well, we did survive both the hail, the fall, and the trek through this high altitude wilderness coming out in four days; well ahead of schedule.
I have determined that this is now fair game to report to you my friends as I have sufficiently tended to my bruised ego.
To my sister… who in the truck on the way home looked at me sideways and whispered through an enormous smile, “it was a little funny” …its officially funny now. You can talk about it.
To my cousin, if God wanted me to die that day, it would of course, be with my pants down. Since that didn’t happen, the lightening and hail was just for kicks and giggles.
This is why we hike. For kicks and giggles.
Thanks for being my friends.