Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Crazy Adventures....or Thank Goodness for Tender Mercies

Alright, most of ya'll know my habit for having adventures...pretty much everywhere I go. I guess it's a Higginbotham thing. Two weeks in a row playing basketball a month or so ago, I first sprained my thumb....twice (I kept playing after the initial injury and then proceeded to hurt it again which took me out until the next week, but not until I had a good couple of hours in of playing) and then the next week I'm playing under the basket trying to rebound against 6'4" guys when one of them caught me in the eye with his elbow and knocked my flat on my back. I was fine except for the black eye which developed over the next couple days (my first one) and a small cut on my lower lid on the outside. So what do I do? I stick a band-aid over the cut and keep playing. :D Here's a picture of how I looked, a bandaid directly under my right eye, my right hand wrapped up to protect my thumb and I wear an ankle brace while playing cuz I sprained my ankle about 1 1/2 years ago and I don't want to re-injure it. I'm running out of appendages on my right side to injure!! ;)

So that's a pre-cursor to this past weekend, which was Labor Day. And I don't sit around the house very well, so I was trying to plan some kind of activity but the problem was a lot of people were out of town for the holiday. After basketball last Tuesday night (injury free I might add) I was talking to a friend and we started talking about cliff jumping and how we both were wanting to go. So I suggest going to Jack's River Falls on the border of GA and Tennessee this weekend, either Sat or Mon. It's about 2-2 1/2 hours away and then you hike about an hour or two to the falls, but it's really pretty and fun to jump the cliffs there. I'd been there with another group a few years ago and have wanted to go back for a while. So, I start asking around to who might be interested. We decided to go Mon and it ended up being 4 of us. John, Matt, Jenna, and myself. We drove my car up there and made it to the trail without to many mishaps, just missed one turn, but we were only a few miles away, so not a big deal. It looked like it was going to be a fun adventure. Little did we know!!

We left Atlanta around 9:30ish, and stopped for a bathroom break at around 11:30 at a Hardee's. Matt got a burger, but none of the rest of us were hungry. Jenna had not eaten breakfast because she thought we were only going 10 minutes down the road to the Chattahoochee, not Jack's River. But she said she'd be fine as it was only a few hours before we'd be heading back. So we proceeded on.

We got up to the parking lot at the trail head about 12-12:30pm and started walking. It wasn't very long before I realized I'd forgotten my water, but decided it'd be ok as it was only a couple miles away. No one else had water either or any form of sustenance of the food variety. But then again, we were only going a couple miles down the trail (are you starting to see a pattern here?) So we start hiking and I'm getting teased about it being further than I said it was going to be, cuz I'm the only one that really knew where we were going, or thought I did. We come to a split in the trail and I proceed to turn to the right thinking that was the shorter path to the Falls.

About an hour later, I don't think we're going the right way anymore and am thinking we should have turned left instead of right, but I'm honestly not sure at all, and we have the option to keep going on or turn around and head back. We put it to a group vote and decide to keep going on. A couple hours later we finally see a sign that says Jack's River Trail one way and High Ridge Trail another way, so we think we're on the right path. (I'm a little discouraged at this point). We discuss which direction to take again and decide to say a prayer. And we're still thinking we're going to make it to the Falls.

Well, an hour or so later, we see another sign for the Penitentiary Branch going one way, but we keep following the main river thinking it'll lead us to the falls. We haven't passed any living soul before we made the wrong turn till now, though there were plenty of people starting out at the beginning of the trail with us and we passed a lot of people too. We finally passed a man hiking towards us and he informs us that the Falls are back the direction we came from but that if we kept going for about another hour (we're tired, but not too exhausted at this point, and I'm very frustrated with myself for pulling everyone into this, I'm seriously about to cry, and I'm praying....a lot!!!) we'll make it out to A parking lot, he's not and we're not sure if it's the parking lot where our car is, but we decide it can't be far away if it's not where we want to be. So we keep going.

About an hour later, (I really don't know exactly how far apart all these were spaced, none of us had watches and we'd left our phones in the car, it just felt like an hour later) we stop for a break. Remember we have no food or water, though we have been drinking water from the river which we've crossed and re-crossed about 20 plus times (no exaggeration). We're talking and all of a sudden John goes berzerk, swatting at something and runs further up the trail, followed closely by Jenna, someone yells "BEES" and I feel a sting and start running, just not as far, cuz Matt had run the opposite direction. So I wait where I can see him cuz I'm not sure if he's allergic or not to bee stings, but he was just trying to see what riled them up and where the nest was, but he gets stung and again runs the opposite direction. I get stung again and turn and run to where John and Jenna are waiting. We're sitting there waiting and finally Matt comes up. We decide they had to have been yellow jackets as there were no stingers left and we all had atleast 4 0r 5 stings, but thank goodness no one was allergic to them though!

At this point we're all agreed that we definitely have to keep going the way we're going cuz we do not want to go through those yellow jackets again. And it's getting later and later of course. We go for a while longer and stop to pray again, for help to make it out and make it home that night, cuz we were thinking it could be a very real possibility that we could spend the night there. We only had a couple of towels with us and a flashlight that I had thrown in my backpack meaning to put it in my car, though I didn't know how long the batteries would last.

We decide that we can either keep going or head back the way we came, cuz we know we can get out that way, but we don't know how much further we're heading into the woods if we keep going. We decide to keep going anyway and about a half mile from there we see the trail head!!!!! Can I tell you how excited and grateful we were not to be in the woods anymore??? Except it wasn't our parking lot. We look at the map on the sign, which sucks by the way, make sure you have a good map of the area if you ever do go, cuz I couldn't tell where we were or where we needed to be, even though I can usually read maps well.

Where we had parked our car that morning, the road continued up the mountain so I figured if we walked downhill from where we were, we could get there. The road did go the other direction uphill, though I still don't know if that would have gotten us there any better. So we start walking. There were a truck and a silver car parked at the trailhead where we came out, but no one was around. It's getting near dusk at this point. And we're walking and walking and not getting anywhere. There's one T-intersection we come to where we can go straight or turn right, we turn right for a little while, but it doesn't look it was very heavily trafficked, so we turned around and went the other direction.

Everyone's exhausted, hungry, thirsty, and hurting at this point (or I was atleast, I'm assuming everyone else was too) and we just want to get to the car, praying that we'll come to something that we'll recognize so we know where we're going. I'm crying cuz I'm frustrated and angry at myself for bringing everyone down there and getting us lost and walking all over creation, but I keep walking cuz I know we have to. The sun's now down, and I've been in my hiking sandals without socks all day. And they work very well for short distance hiking and walking through water and what not, but they're not made for 8 hours of hiking, so they were rubbing and I could feel a blister forming, luckily I had specifically thrown socks in my backpack cuz last time I went I completely forgot them and I had to hike the trail barefoot cuz my tennis shoes gave me a blister on my heel. So we stopped so I could put on my socks and started walking again.

A couple minutes after this we see headlights!!! I can't tell you how exciting that was. The truck that had been parked at the trail head was being driven by a couple of men who had been hunting. They stopped and we told them we were lost and where we had parked. They looked a bit shocked and said "We know exactly where that is, you're about 17 miles exactly from your car." I about broke down at that point. They look somewhat resigned though and tell us to hop in the back of the truck, they'll give us a ride.. They were cousins who had been hunting and Lynn was driving Jason home. They ended up taking us to Jason's house cuz Lynn had to work at 4:30am and it was an hour and a half driving time to our car. They told us we had been better off turning around and walking back down the trail to our car rather than walking on the road, we were on the other side of the mountain! As soon as we hopped in the bed of the truck and started going, we immediately said a prayer of thanks for them stopping to get us. The clock on the truck said it was 8:40pm.

So we get to Jason's house and he must have called ahead to his wife, because as soon as we pull up she comes out with glasses of water (Bless Her!!!) for us and they invite us in asking if we want anything to eat. Allison, Jason's wife then proceeds to heat up some chicken alfredo for us and garlic bread and brings over cheese croissants and keeps asking us if we want diet coke or mtn dew or debbie cakes or anything. Jason does the same thing after he changes. Lynn talks to us for a little while before he leaves and tells us that he almost didn't take that way home tonight. Everyone once in a while he'll take the other way home and they had come up the way where they picked us up and were going to go home the other way, but decided to come back the same way instead. I know that was the Spirit guiding them to us!! Thank goodness for the tender mercies!

So we finish drinking and eating and drinking and drinking. And then we load up in Jason's car and head to ours. It was probably around 9:40 at this point (it took a little while to get to Jason's house too). We drive and talk to Jason and he stops and gets gas first and Matt said that it's too bad we don't have our wallets cuz we could have paid for his gas, and Jason immediately, almost offended, says there's no way he would have let us, but then he did thank us for the offer. After he gets back in the car he asks if we're still hungry, he'd buy us a hamburger and Jenna (who remember hadn't eaten all day till we got to Jason's house) starts laughing cuz her and John were just saying how they were still hungry. So, Jason pulls around to Hardee's and buys Jenna an apple turnover and a coke. John doesn't want to take advantage of their generosity anymore so he keeps quiet, but Jason would have bought hima thick burger in an instant. They were our angels!!

We then keep driving to where our car is and finally get there, after spotting a raccoon and a copper head snake on the way! I have never been so excited to see my pretty Green Explorer, even though she was all muddy! We pile into the car and say another prayer of thanks and for safety to travel the rest of the way home and take off. I didn't trust myself to stay awake cuz night driving is not my strong suit anyway so John offered to drive. I knew I could stay awake enough to keep talking to him and keep him awake so I rode shotgun. So we get out of the park and on a regular road heading towards the highway that takes us to I-75 and John notices a car behind us seems to be getting on his tail so he speeds up and then the blue lights come on. It was a cop! :( Definitely the last thing we needed at this point. It was around 12:20am.

The officer comes up and gets John's license and said he had pulled us over because John was swerving and wanted to see make sure he wasn't drunk. We told him the short version of our story and how we had just started heading home to Atlanta. He was very nice, but then asked for the rest of our licenses, but Jenna didn't have hers cuz she'd forgotten her wallet. He then informed us that in the state of Tennessee (where we were), you're supposed to always have your license on you, even as a passenger, which in Georgia, you don't. But he got her name and birthdate and had to run a check to make sure we weren't wanted. That was kinda exciting. :) But of course we all cleared and he let us go. He did tell us that there were some good maps of the trails on Chattahoocheebicycling.com or something like that, and we could get them next time we came up.

After that there wasn't really much adventure, we just stop at the gas station to fill up and Taco Bell to get John some sustenance, but we made it home safely, though tired at 2am.

I tell you what though. We were definitely watched over yesterday. We're lucky that the worst thing that happened was some bee stings. We could easily have twisted an ankle crossing that river those 27 something times. We could have gotten cramps in our legs from dehydration and not been able to walk anymore. Poisonous snakes were around the area and we could have been bitten. Some crazy people could have found us instead of the awesome, amazing people who did. We could have ended up sleeping on the road or in the woods that night. And I can't think of what else could have happened. But I do know that I was never scared that we wouldn't make it out more or less in one piece. I knew the Lord was watching over us and I knew there was nothing to fear. We had the priesthood with us too and though we might not have made the best decisions that whole day we were trying our best to live the life the Lord wanted us to live and be the people He wanted us to be. Even when Lynn and Jason first pulled up, I had some thought that it could be someone with not so good intentions, but the Spirit was there saying it was ok. I thank God that He did watch over us yesterday and He sent those men to us to pick us up and take us into their home and feed us and take care of us as if we were their kin, though they'd hadn't known us but five minutes.

Oh, and by the way, I was thinking of going hiking this Sat at Jack's River Falls, anyone want to come? ;)