Big Bend Hike Day One by Mark Martinez

This true story is told from the feeble memory of Mark Martinez.  I stole it off Facebook for your enjoyment…
Back when I could hike more than a mile without getting winded, a group of friends and I decided to take a trip to Big Bend. Our expedition consisted of Archie, Jeff, Greg, and myself. It was my first adventure to Big Bend, and we are all excited to head out for a week of primitive camping and man time.

We arrived late and set up camp before nightfall. Since we were truly camping primitively, we set up a campfire to eat dinner. That night I don't remember much, except for the anticipation of spending the next day hiking. If I only knew the adventure that actually awaited us.

That morning, the temperature was cool. Not too cold, but the brisk morning typical in the Texas desert. It was cool enough that we decided to put on light jackets/long sleeve shirts, knowing we would need to peel off layers as the day progressed. Archie suggested we start off with a easy morning hike, following an easy trail. It sounded like a good plan, so we gathered some things we might need, mostly consisting of lunch and snacks (we're guys….food plays a big role in our lives).

So we started on our hike, full of energy and ready for an exciting day. If we only knew what we were in store for. The trail we were on was a slightly worn trail, marked clearly by stacks of stones to show us the way. It vaguely reminded me of the Hebrews wandering the desert marking places where God showed up with stacks of stones. We hiked for awhile, deciding to stop to eat lunch. Archie veered off the marked path and called us to come sit with him. He ended up showing us a beautiful scenic view of a valley. The scene really reminded us of God's majesty and genius as our creator. It was a very serene time, eating a good sandwich with great friends under God's canopy of life. After eating, we decided to finish up our morning hike so we could get on with more challenging hikes, preferably on the more steep mountain slopes. So we gathered our stuff and headed back to the path. Then the questions started to come…"Guys….where are the markers?". And then the declarations of wisdom started to be uttered also " Uh Oh!". As we walked all the hills and plants looked more and more alike. The more we drudged on, the more we realized we were seriously lost.

Greg started to panic, screaming "WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!!". I quickly acted and started slapping each side of his face until he calmed down. Not really, we all remained calm….coolly staring death in the face. Since we didn't except to be gone long, and it was suppose to be a quick hike, we didn't pack very much. Only the essentials, like lunch. Unfortunately, none of us thought essentials would include a map or compass. And for you youngins, this was before cell phones were common. I don't think any of us had one actually. Since this was going to be a four or five day trip, and we were lost on day one, we still had days before anyone would come looking for us. We were on our own.

As we continued to walk, we came upon a shallow dried creek bed. We decided that if we followed the creek bed south, we would eventually come to the Rio Grande. From there we could surely find the way back to civilization, right? So using the blazing sun as our compass, we headed south. By this time, temperatures soared to the average day time temperatures in the Texas desert. It was hot. So, like planned, we took off the long sleeve shirts/jackets and went to t-shirt mode. Our moods were good, hope lingering in the air. We knew which direction to go and had a plan. As the day proceeded, the shallow creek bed became deeper, with the banks gaining in elevation….3 feet….6 feet…..10 feet. Eventually we had to start climbing down different drops as the creek bed showed evidence of the potential river that could develop under heavy rains. These more challenging rock climbing drops were becoming quite fun, trying to find the just right foothold or hand hold to prevent a tumbling dive down 6 to 8 foot declines. So what if we had no idea how long till we got the Rio. This was guy time at its best. Then it happened. The pivot point of our expedition (well other than getting lost).

We came to a sheer decline. No footholds or hand hold could get us down. Decision time. Turn back and hope and pray for survival, knowing that some of those fun climbs down did not make the likelihood of going back up probable . Or find a way down and continue with our plan. It was getting late in the day, clouds coming in on the horizon. We had to get out of the creek bed in case a torrential downpour was on the way. We were running out of time. Greg started to panic and screamed, "WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!" This time Jeff did the honors and slapped the boy. Still kidding. We decided to put our heads together and keep going. Or actually, we put our extra clothing together. We tied all our extra shirts and jackets and tied it to a long walking stick we had found earlier. Using our McGiver like skills, we lodged the stick between two rocks at the top and lowered our make shift rope down. Even though it was a genius plan, we were still 10 to 15 feet short. We thought about taking off our jeans and shirts to extend our "rope", but eventually decided against it. Four guys in the desert in only skivvies didn't seem like the best idea. So we carefully started to head down, knowing that a wrong landing or a walking stick break could lead to disaster. A broken ankle out in the desert could lead to death.

I think I went down first, being the lightest and smallest of the bunch. My descent went down without incident. But as Greg and Jeff took turns, the strain on the walking stick became audibly apparent. As Archie prepared to come down, the tension was palpable. Sure enough, half way down the stick broke and shifted out of place. Clothes came tumbling down, with Archie leading the way. Thank God Archie didn't get seriously hurt. But the die had been cast…no going back. We kept going… except now our moods were apprehensive, not knowing how much longer we needed to go. Plus our last meal was early in the day, and as evening approached our bodies were worn down. In addition, we didn't know what laid ahead. We didn't know if another sheer drop waited for us. If it did, we were out of optional clothes and more importantly a usable stick as an anchor. If we came to a sheer drop, we were stuck. With rain coming the anxiety was just as ominous as the clouds drifting in. We kept going, with faith in our God as our fuel.

We eventually made it to the Rio Grande without further incident, barely beating the rain and the fall of night. However, when we made it the the river, some of our hopes were dashed. Instead of finding an easy path around the river, we were faced with a delta leading directly to the water, with 100 foot walls surrounding each side of the river. Our adventure for the day had come to an end. With night coming, and no where to go we decided to make camp. God willing, the next day would bring salvation, at least that was our prayer that night.

Stay tuned to day 2……

For more GodSpots – 37stories Enjoy!

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It is the desire of my heart that God be Lord of my life. Life’s experiences have killed the old man and God is building a new creation in me. I look forward to experiencing the new man God creates in the old vessel known as Archie via "God Spots".

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