You see, my father was Andrew Jackson, and the rest of the family was the Choctaw Indians, and these death marches were his version of The Indian Removal Act of 1830. There's your history metaphor for the year.
What follows is what my father had told us:
We get to Zion National Park, and climb a small incline from the canyon floor to the top of the canyon. All vertical work is done by the first two hours, and the rest of the surrounding area is a forested plain, so it'll be smooth sailing from there. The destination is "Dripping Springs", a veritable fountain spewing forth water as if there was some overfull bladder underneath the surface that couldn't be held back. We'll only need to carry enough water to get us there, where we will refill our canteens, spend a night or two playing in the spring, and head back.It's actually kind of a beautiful plan when you think about it. But that's not exactly what happened.
Like I said, it was two in the afternoon, and probably about 95 degrees when we started our hike. The sun was permanently perched just above the other rim of the canyon, laughing at us with its grossly hot, sticky breath. There was no tree cover - as it was the side of a canyon in the desert, and the soil was as sandy as a beach. It could have been Omaha Beach for all I knew.
So the water that was supposed to last us for the entire day's trip to "Dripping Springs" lasted maybe thirty minutes before panic mode set in. And we may have been an hour into the hike when I began creating a list of family members in order of their nutritious value.
My brother started to legitimately get heat exhaustion, which bordered on heat stroke. You know when you have heat stroke when you stop sweating, even though it's 95 degrees. That was him. After throwing up a couple times, my dad finally ended up carrying him the majority of the way up the hill, grumbling something about being "wussy". I consider myself lucky that I was too young to be considered "able to carry weight" - and my backpack was full of mostly comic books.
We finally got to the rim of the canyon, but nightfall had come a lot sooner than we thought it would. We weren't half way to "Dripping Springs", and we needed to rest.
The only semi-suitable campsite was sloped downhill about 15 degrees. So as we set up our tents and lied down to sleep, we slid a few inches every half hour or so downhill. And as if God himself wanted to punish us for our stupidity and naivete, it poured. It was as if all the tears Jack from Lost had cried throughout the entire life of the series were bottled and poured on us all at once. I guess it was good that we were on a slope, cause otherwise, we would have woken up dead.
The next morning, we dried ourselves off and plodded on towards the holy land. I think I was too young to feel resentment towards my father for bringing us on a trip with the explicit intention of collecting life insurance benefits. Everything looked more upbeat in the morning, and we really only had about a three hour hike to get to "Dripping Springs", so we were excited to get moving. And it was a short walk - especially given we were out of water, and essentially running to where there would be gushing rivers of delicious spring water that we could bathe in to escape from the oppressive mid-day heat.
There is a reason they call "Dripping Springs" "Dripping Springs". When we got there after such a hellish journey, we realized why they called it that. There was a pipe stuck in the side of a rock, and from the end of that pipe, there were a few infrequent drips of water escaping into the desert sands. What didn't immediately evaporate formed a small puddle underneath the pipe where a few green weeds grew, laughing at us, as if to say, "psh, ridiculous idiots running around in the desert, what did you THINK?"
For the better part of the afternoon, my father sat with the water purifier, pumping ounce after ounce of water into our canteens. After the hallucinations subsided, we asked him if he was enjoying swimming. He looked up at us over the water purifier, and growled something I don't think I understood yet.
Growing up, this is pretty much all I ever knew camping could be. Physically exhausting death marches into the wilderness, carrying too little supplies, and finding out how close to death you could get yourself without actually blacking out.
I will go into details of some of the crazier adventures later, but for tomorrow's post - Camping, Part Deux: Russian Style.