When I was about 10 years old, I hiked Angel’s Landing for the first time with my dad and brother Andrew (2 years older than me). If you’re not familiar with this hike in Zions National Park, there is quite a ways where you are hiking on a path as narrow as a few feet wide with sheer drop off cliffs on either side. There are chains provided for you to hold on to, and things can get sketchy, especially if there are lots of people. Tragically, from time to time, someone falls to their death while hiking Angels Landing. The first time I did this hike, I remember my dad sitting my brother and I down right before we reached the dangerous section and telling us a story about when he was a young kid on a scouting trip. Their group was on a hike to some waterfalls, and one of the scouts in their group fell down one of the waterfalls and died. He told us this not to scare us out of our wits, but to make us understand that we needed to be so careful. Terrible accidents really do happen, even if you think they will never happen to you.
So why am I telling you this story? Because I almost watched a little girl fall to her death on Saturday while hiking the Y. And it was scary.
I woke up Saturday morning without any plans and Tanner was working at the hospital until 3. I decided to break my no exercise streak and take Camryn for a short hike up to the Y.
This is the only picture I got, I kind of forgot about my camera.
That hike is short but it is steep and hiking it alone is a whole different story than hiking it with 25 pounds of toddler on my back. I kept thinking “man, I’m out of shape” and then I’d remember, “No. Wait, I’m not out of shape. I’m actually in the best shape of my entire life. I biked 160 miles 2 weeks ago, why is this killing me?” You’d be (and I continually am) so surprised how little biking “in shape” translates to other things. A month ago I ran about 3 miles (while we were on vacation without our bikes) and was sore for almost a week–longer and more sore than I was after even the day of Lotoja.
Anyway, I made it to the Y and there were tons of people there, it being a beautiful September Saturday morning. The Y painted on the mountain is a steep concrete slab 380 feet high (I googled it) and Camryn and I were at about the midpoint, standing not on the Y (where a lot of people were sitting), but off to the side, where Camryn was throwing rocks (her #1 favorite pastime) I’m not really sure why I was looking up the Y, but there was a big group at the very top and this girl about 10 years old started walking away from it straight down the Y. Her walking quickly turned into running. She was gaining momentum fast and obviously unable to stop herself. I could tell she was going to crash into the back of someone and tried to yell to warn them, but she hit them anyway and tumbled. There were a few people about 5 feet down from there (right about the midpoint where I was) and then no one and nothing but concrete for 200 more very steep feet. She was going so fast that I was sure I was about to watch her tumble all the way down that Y and I was too far away to do anything about it. I screamed and she landed on her head hard and right about then a man grabbed her and was able to stop her. She had a cut on her head that was bleeding pretty bad and some scrapped up legs, but she was okay. Thank Heavens! I was so confused as I watched her dad slowly (seriously, zero urgency!) walk down to where she was. I’m sure he hadn’t seen what I saw because that girl honestly could have died if she hadn’t been caught. With how fast she was falling and so far to go with nothing to slow her down, she’d have. . . . well. It gets gory in my head. I’ll stop there.
The dad carried her piggyback back down the mountain, certainly on their way to an emergency room. There was a doctor there (an eye doctor, but still, they know things) who said she’d probably need some staples in her head and she was screaming “I don’t want to get staples again!”
I was really shaken up and I’m fairly certain it has something to do with my motherhood status. I’m not a particularly emotional person, but when you are a mother, the thought of any mother losing a child just hits something in your heart. It awakens your absolute worst fears, starts your imagination rolling, and taps into a reservoir of grief that you hope will never be your cross to bear. It’s in the voice of every mother yelling “be careful!”
As I walked down the mountain, my mind flashed forward to the many years I hope to take my many children hiking, camping, biking, skiing. It’s one of the things I look forward to most about motherhood: teaching my children to love, appreciate, and experience the outdoors. But I pray to God that I will never lose a child in such an accident. I’m sure I will get many a grey hair watching my children navigate mountains and warning “BE CAREFUL!”