Monday, July 28, 2014

The Kindness of Strangers Saved Me

A few days ago, it was 115 degrees in Palm Springs, so Herman and I decided to pack a picnic lunch and take the tram up the mountain where it’s normally 40 degrees cooler. When we reached the top we found perfect weather for hiking, so we took a 5.5 mile trail that led up to Mount San Jacinto peak, the second tallest peak in Southern California. It was a hike I’ve wanted to make for years, and we had a marvelous, yet arduous hike, clicking off mile after mile.

Three miles up the mountain we stopped for lunch. That’s when we realized that we didn’t bring enough water for such an arduous hike. But by then, we were only a few miles from our goal, and my stubborn streak kicked into high gear. I convinced Herman that we could make it if we took frequent breaks and rationed our remaining water.

We continued to climb. 

Another mile and we met a hiker on his way down the mountain. He told us there was a cabin near the peak for hikers who get stranded in bad weather. The cabin had sleeping bags and food. I asked if he thought there would be water, and he said “Probably not, but you never know. This place was not maintained by the Forest Service, but by local hikers.” I was hoping he would offer us some of his water, but alas, no. 

We continued to climb, thinking we were still okay. 

About a half mile from the peak, we had become so dehydrated that we were both dizzy and began to stagger.  One minute we seemed fine, the next we were in serious trouble. We sat in the shade, trying to recover our balance and talked about our options. We could: 1) wait for other hikers to come by and beg for water. 2) Start back down the mountain and pray we could make the five-mile trek without fainting. 3)Continue climbing and pray there was indeed water at the cabin near the peak.

We continued to climb, with reservations on Herman’s part.  For my part, I didn’t believe we could make it down without more water, and I didn’t want to simply sit there praying someone would come by. 

We managed to totter to the cabin. It was a beautiful stone building with a wooden roof, about the size of a kid’s bedroom. I unbolted the wood door and lurched inside. There were two sets of bunk beds, a fireplace, and a storage box marked emergency supplies. I opened the box and there were two, lovely plastic bottles of purified water, unopened.

Between the two of us, we drank half of one bottle, saving the other half for the march down. The water revived us within minutes.  We left one water bottle untouched, and started our descent. 

Had it not been for the kindness of the people who left that water there, I’m not altogether sure what would have happened, as we passed nobody coming up as we descended. 

This week we are planning another climb to the peak. This time we will take plenty of water for ourselves in addition to an extra two bottles to leave at the cabin for others who may be as reckless as we were. From now on, each time I make that climb, I shall take one water bottle to leave at the cabin.

Whoever you are that left that water, you have my deepest gratitude. 

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