When Adventures Turn Scary

I like going on adventures—hiking, camping, kayaking, exploring new places in the beautiful wilderness. But the thing about adventures is that they can be very unpredictable. And sometimes they can be scary or dangerous.

A few weeks ago, I headed out for a two-day hike on the Ouachita trail in hopes of completing section 7. My mom and 10-year-old daughter came with me. The plan was to hike 8 miles the first day, camp on top of Ouachita Pinnacle (one of the highest points on the OT), hike 8 more miles the second day, then come home.

The first day was great. The terrain was a bit steep and challenging in places, but the views were beautiful and the creeks were flowing. We saw lots of gorgeous vistas and mini waterfalls. We had a snack and rested briefly at one of the trail shelters (interestingly, it was the same trail shelter I hiked to back in August from the other direction. I had stepped into a nest of seed ticks and ended up with over 200 tick bites on my body. I had to go straight to an urgent care clinic and start a round of antibiotics. So I was pleased to visit the shelter again under happier circumstances and enjoy the beauty of it this time instead of spending my time frantically washing ticks from my body in the creek.)

From there we hiked back to the top of Ouachita Pinnacle, where my mom’s truck was parked. She planned to sleep in the truck while Bri and I tent camped. After cooking dinner over a campfire, I checked my weather app one last time and saw there was a chance of drizzle in the early morning hours. No problem.

My weather app lied. We hadn’t been in the tent for long at all when it started storming. Hard. We were on top of a mountain, very exposed. Lightning was flashing all around us, and the wind was so strong that the top of our tent came down and touched us multiple times. I felt guilty for having my daughter up there with me in what was clearly an unsafe situation. But by this point we couldn’t leave—it was pitch black outside, and I didn’t have confidence we could navigate the steep winding dirt roads to get off the mountain. So we hunkered down, prayed for safety, and hoped that morning would come soon.

It stormed all night, which means we didn’t sleep all night. I kept worrying one of our tent poles would snap and our tent would collapse on top of us. And I worried that we could very easily get struck by lightning. The tent held up and kept us dry for several hours, but even the best tents can’t withstand that kind of onslaught forever. Water eventually started leaking in and pooling near our feet. I told Bri to hide inside her sleeping bag and try to stay dry. Being wet would pose another danger—the temperatures had dropped rapidly on top of the mountain and were hovering barely above freezing.

Clearly the situation wasn’t going to improve, so around 5:30 a.m. we made a run for the truck and climbed in. At least we could stay warm and dry in there until it was light enough to pack up. Packing up was an ordeal in itself. All of our stuff was soaking wet. I tried my best to be quick, but by the time I got to the second tent pole, my fingers were so numb that I couldn’t get them to work properly. I did finally get the tent and our supplies packed away, and we began a harrowing drive down the mountain. We were afraid the road would be washed away in places, or that the one water crossing we’d have to drive through would be too deep. Thankfully we made it off the mountain without incident. When we reached paved roads again, I breathed a sigh of relief.

And then the driver-side windshield wiper simply stopped working. The passenger one still worked, so it seemed to us that something had come disconnected on the inside. It was still raining hard, and now we could barely see. We stuck to back roads as much as possible so we could go slow, and we stopped at a few different car parts or car care places to see if we could get some help. No one knew what to do about it; they told us we’d have to take it to a dealership. (Fun side note: my husband later took a look at it and was able to fix it himself with no special tools or training.)

So we braved the roads and made our slow way home. Once we got onto I-440, a huge dump truck carrying too full of a load zoomed past us and debris started falling out of his truck. We could barely see due to the spray he splashed up, and a giant tube, probably around 3-4 feet in diameter, bounced off the side of our truck. It so easily could have caused an accident.

At this point I really started wondering if evil forces were at work trying to kill us. A few other things happened too that put us on edge: we saw a truck completely lose its trailer; we came across an accident; we hydroplaned while going slowly around a curve in the road when we were nearly home.

We felt such utter relief to finally make it home safely. We thanked God and decided our best course of action was to stay put for the rest of the day.

All of this to say: Adventures come with their ups and downs. I’ve had some great experiences, and I’ve had a couple terrible ones. I prepared as best as I could with the knowledge I had, but life can be unpredictable. I never want to intentionally put myself or others in harms way, but I also don’t want to avoid doing things I enjoy for fear of the things that could go wrong. There’s a good balance somewhere, but it can be hard to find.

I wondered how my daughter was feeling about the whole situation. We’ve camped together dozens of times in every kind of weather, so she knows it can either be a lot of fun or really miserable. And while she’s not too interested in camping in a thunderstorm again any time soon, she’s been begging to go with me the next time I head out on the trail to finally finish section 7. I’m glad one tough experience hasn’t dampened her spirit of adventure. For good or bad, she’s a lot like her mom.

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