– 9 year Canyon survival anniversary
Yesterday marks 9 years since I got lost in the Oak Creek Canyon. As it got too dark to keep trying to find my way out, I made the choice to stay put for the night.
9 years ago yesterday, I was dressed for a day hike with no provisions for what a winter night in a Canyon would bring.
9 years ago yesterday, I called out, yelling for help, but no one heard me. Or did someone?
9 years ago, lost inside the Oak Creek Canyon, I turned my cell phone off to conserve the battery in case I needed to write a message to my family to tell them I love them.
9 years ago I screamed out again, scared, knowing the night would get colder than I wanted to know and that the night would be long, … if I made it. And the thoughts cascaded through my mind, as I wished I had my warm fleece pants, warm socks, a blanket and gloves. My feet were wet from creek crossings and while my Baffin boots warmed the water like a wet suit, they were now making me colder. I called out again, panicked.
I tried putting my feet into my camera bag. But it’s insulation was already cold. I desperately laid down, thinking I’d try to sleep. Immediately the wind kicked up and I was pelted with what I thought was rain.
I began to pray, asking God to please spare me from the rain. Being wet, I would certainly meet my demise.
I sat up, and the wind stopped and so did the rain. Immediately, as if God was telling me I couldn’t sleep. Somewhere between asking God for the rain to stop and the rain stopping, my thoughts turned from panic to calm.
You see, I’d been slowly treading dangerously into secular world view ideas. Even when I first sat down on the icy ground, I tried to think of ways that I could make it out alive. But human beings are not the gods that secular gurus and books like the Secret proclaim us to be. I was scared. I was panicked. I screamed out, and no one heard me…. until I heard God and I knew that someone had indeed heard me.
He made the wind and the rain (which I saw in the morning was hail – so as to jolt me but not soak me) stop.
More important than being an anniversary of 9 years being lost and 9 years surviving, is in that 9 years ago, God gave me the most precious gift of Faith!
I had walked away from it, and He wanted me back. Now the story isn’t as neat and tidy as all that. I’ve written and talked at length about the details of that night and how He used my gifts to help me visualize getting out the next morning, how he helped me to survive from one second to the next and one step at a time, and how he helped me to let go of my thoughts of being unbearably cold so that I could focus on surviving instead.
But also untidy is the story of even, how after miracle after miracle, after I survived, I embraced the stories that the secular world told me about my survival. The newspapers and my initial talks gave no credit to God.
Yet, a year later I had an epiphany. The song, Amazing Grace had been playing in my head off and on throughout the following year. And on March 14, 2011, one year after I walked out of the canyon, I realized the meaning of that song in my life.
As I made my way out of the canyon on March 14, 2010, no one was there. The trail was ice covered (the temperature had dropped to 19° overnight) and I couldn’t feel my feet. I got to the last creek crossing before I’d meet the 1/2 mile trail that would lead me back to my Honda. There I heard the most joyous sound of a dog barking. I remember that sound as if a song to my soul, the sound of life! Then I saw the dog and the girl. On the other side was a woman, an older woman. I crossed and as I did, the older woman told me that the girl and her dog were going for a run and could I please help her back to the trailhead because she was legally blind.
The trail was too icy to run, but I was more interested in telling my story than to think about trail logistics.
So the first person that heard my story was a blind lady, being led out by another blind soul.
Two days later, the Red Rock newspaper interviewed me. At the end, the interviewer told me about a girl, about my age, who, a month earlier, had stopped to walk her dog on a trail near where I was. A blizzard came out of nowhere, and she became disoriented and from what they could tell, panicked. She burned her coat for heat and died. …
The Lord still gives me learning experiences, from the day He brought me to a point I should have died in order to save me. This year, I’ve read through a journal entry just days before March 13, 2010.
I was in California and called my parents. My Dad simply talked about what his faith meant to him and why it’s important. Perhaps that conversation reminded me to go to God that night in the canyon.
I am Blessed. So are you.