Four days were circled on the calendar with a simple notation: “Moab Trip”; a planned getaway with 30 local teenagers along for the fun.
Nothing extraordinary, really: a scenic drive down to Moab, some hiking around that red rock wonderment; some fishing and general falderal in the surrounding hills; then a couple stops at places of interest on the way home—Nice; but nothing extra special. Just your basic, run-of-the-mill, garden-variety sojourn.
Except… it wasn’t.
Someone (who shall remain nameless) failed to secure his sleeping-bag in the back of the pickup truck, resulting in it blowing out along the way. Another driver from our group spotted this green sleep-sack in the middle of the freeway near Salina, but reasoned that this surely could not belong to any of our highly capable and responsible adventurers (to which our hapless, nameless, and bag-less friend has no reply).
After a quick lunch at a local park, our intrepid band headed up a dusty, red-dirt road to a trailhead, and proceeded to hike to a striking rock formation known as, Cable Arch, in 102-degree heat. (And did everyone bring their potable water along for this excruciatingly hot hike? Well, of course they didn’t!)
A climbing rope was fixed to help some of us get ourselves up to the very highest point, with a stunning view, and one which we had all certainly earned. (Did I mention the 102 degrees?)
Once back in the air-conditioned vehicles, kids had to be coaxed outside again to attempt the climb up an old Indian log-ladder (which some succeeded in scaling, while others of us did not).
After a stop at yet another public park to consume the 10 pizzas we’d ordered and dunk our heads under a recirculating, man-made waterfall, we headed up into the hills.
At 10,000 feet, our cabins were cool and cozy; and next morning, we were ready for some milder hiking conditions. (Just be careful what you wish for!)
Clad in shorts and t-shirts, we started up the side of a mountain, enjoying the cooler air and the fields of multi- colored alpine wildflowers. It seemed we’d found our own little Shangri-La… until we were all suddenly huddled and shivering under a massive pine tree near the summit, waiting for a thunderstorm to hurry up and pass.
This particular storm, however, had other ideas. Rain came down in torrents, forcing us out from under our leaky shelter, and we bashed back down the increasingly sloppy trail, as rain turned to hail, then back to rain, then back to hail, administering a particular punishment upon those of us without proper head-covering.
Back at the trucks, we piled into the beds for the open-air ride back to the cabins, hailstones now bouncing cruelly off the top of the cab, directly into our faces, as we mused wistfully about how excruciatingly hot we’d been only 24 hours earlier (and how nice that sounded in our current state of soaking-wet, bone-chilled misery).
Grateful for the eventual shelter of the cabins, the sensible among us changed into a set of dry clothes, while at least one of us stood as close as he dared to the roaring wood-stove, mists of steam rising visibly from his dripping clothes.
“Did you really only bring one set of clothes for a four-day trip?” inquired a prudent, 16-year-old lass, betraying more than a hint of incredulity.
“Well, of course,” I said, somewhat defensively. “Because I am a typical guy!”
Then, to bolster my defense, I pointed to a 14-year-old boy and asked, “How many shirts did you bring, Tommy?” confident his answer would be, one.
“Five,” he announced, to my ever-growing chagrin.
Before our trip was finished, we would be sweltering again, and freezing again, as we’d be sometimes ravenous, other times exhausted, and increasingly delirious from a cumulative lack of sleep. And during the most intense of these moments, I would repeat that popular Friedrich Nietzsche quote, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
Did everyone grow weary of hearing me say this? They did.
Did their obvious annoyance induce me to stop repeating it? It did not.
By the time we finally arrived home, back to hot showers and cozily familiar beds, we began to realize that it was exactly those difficult, uncomfortable, sometimes even miserable, situations, that had become the most memorable; and that these were the very things that had made our trip truly epic—an adventure we’d all remember for the rest of our lives.
Several days later, as we all sat in a darkened room, watch- ing a slideshow of our four days in Moab, we all laughed ex- ultingly at those pictures of ourselves trying to smile through the extreme trials we had endured together.
And, finally, as the last slide faded, one of my wizened young travel companions hollered out, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!”
Indeed, it does, my young friend. Indeed, it does.
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