Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Falling Through Ice

The sky was dotted with puffs of white and the sun was beginning to dry the early morning dew on the leaves. The trees stood tall, their canopies letting in small triangles of light to brighten the path of the cocoa colored trail that wove before us. Twelve feet pounded the trail as we headed deeper into the morning and deeper in the forest. My brother had flown in from Texas for a weekend of hiking in the Wasatch Mountains, something he has deeply missed since moving from Utah. He knows his litter sister is always game for some outdoor, rough-and-tough adventure, so he called me, planned the hike and even packed a lunch for the six of us; my three teenage nephews, my brother, my 10 year old son and myself. The boys kept a steady pace in front of their nearly 40-year-old hiking companions, hopping over streams, kicking rocks and bolting up hills. The two older boys decided they were going to take a different route to Red Fish Lake so we made sure they were equipped with plenty of water and said we'd see them at the top. And so there were four on the trail to Red Fish Lake. We arrived at the lake and enjoyed the scenery and serenity of being the only hikers on the trail. We decided, or should I say, my brother decided we should climb beyond the lake and see where the trail ended. We followed it a little further up and found a mountain filled with boulders and snowpatches for as far as the eye could see."Let's keep going," my brother said. "I don't know if that is such a good idea," I said. But my mother's intuition lost out to the call for adventure and we headed up the mountain. My son was in the lead, followed by his cousin, Mitchell, my brother Kirk then myself. We were making good time and enjoying the scenery from high above the lake when all of a sudden my son disappeared from view, followed by a blood-curdling scream. The rest was in slow motion. My nephew Mitchell stood still in terror as he looked down into a gaping hole in the snow. I was sure it was a crevass that had swallowed my son and dragged him to the center of the earth by means of an underground river. In that same moment when I heard the screams of my son and saw the images of him floating down a dark river, I tried to imagine how I was going to explain this to his father and his sister. How was I going to explain how he had dissappeared during a day hike, under my watchful eye. The only thing I could do was to shove my big brother into the gaping hole and yell, "Go Get Him!" Kirk scrambled for something to hold onto but only came up with handfuls of snow as he slid, almost sideways into the hole. As I peered over the edge of the hole, fearful of what I might see, or worse what I wouldn't, I saw a hysterical ten year old boy screaming at the top of his lungs, standing in a foot of water and my brother, sitting next to him, still stunned at being shoved beyond his will to his impending doom. "Are you guys okay," I finally caught my breath and my words. My nephew was still standing in stunned silence. "Yeah, we're okay," my brother replied while my son continued to scream wild-eyed at the top of his lungs. They were about ten to twelve feet below where we stood. My brother lifted my son up and handed him to me. I yanked him out of there so quickly I didn't have time to realize I wasn't strong enough to do it. I set him on a boulder and looked over every inch of his body to see if he was bleeding or had any protruding bones bursting out of his skin. My nephew came out of his trance and skuttled over the rock beside Clayton. I left my brother in the hole. I was too buzy calming my hysterical son to figure out how I was going to hoist a 220-pound man out of a 12 foot hole. Somehow, my brother was able to scale the rock and snow and pull himself out of the hole to join us on the boulder. Clayton was still sobbing and inspecting the many scrapes that covered both of his legs. "I told you we shouldn't have gone up here," I said to my brother over and over again. "Yeah I know. We should have listened to you. I'm sorry," my brother said still panting from his climb. We eventually got our wits again and headed back to the safety of the trail. By the time we got to the parking lot and joined the other two boys, we could breathe normally again. As for my brother, he promised he would never question a mother's intuition and Clayton had a really good story to write when he went back to school about "What I Did This Summer." As for me, I learned that I should always carry a rope.

1 comment:

Tamster said...

Phew! I'm sure that was scary, but what a relief that it turned out okay and that you can laugh about it now. Yikes! Glad no one was really hurt! :-)