While walking the trails in life often brings many lessons to the surface. For Nathan it was finding the drive to go forward even though he wouldn’t make it. Try again! Always do your best! Leave nothing off the table! He spent weeks talking and processing loss of the summit. It was hard to not make it better for him. It would be a struggle to not find a way to give him a "participation trophy". Watching my son struggle was hard! I could have sat in the cheap seats throwing feel good one liners at him but instead I sat next him and said “me to." I talked about all the times I failed and his dad did the same thing and so did his uncle Jonah, we all sat next to him as in the speech that Teddy Roosevelt gave in 1910. In it, Roosevelt said:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
This was the trip he failed. Where he walked out the very things Teddy spoke about over 100 years ago that is apart of the human spirit that is the same over the span of time no matter what because humans are a part of the story and we really haven’t changed much, thank God.
Observation Rock was the final training mission. It was a 13 mile and 3500 of elevation gain. Intended to be harder then Camp Muir. It would be the hardest thing Nathan has ever done. However he was strong enough, it was safe enough and he was mentally ready to take on the challenge.
Abram and Nathan started up early in the morning. He and Abram had done everything right however sometimes things still go wrong.
At home, having no idea what was happening on the trail it turned out that almost half way into the hike the UV was high and Nathan had been drinking his water at least it looked like he had. Nathan was having a ball. He had his Dad all to him self. They were trekking a crossed all kinds of mountain man terrain. However one thing with kids is they often don’t pay as close attention to their body’s as adults do until it’s to late.
After an hour or two Nathan was starting to struggle more then normal. Abram opened Nathan’s pack to take some of his weight to find out Nathan hadn’t drank very much of his water at all, Abrams heart sank and he realized that if Nathan didn’t drink quickly this was going to become dangerous. In fact Nathan was already severely dehydrated and Abram had no idea. When you’re up in the mountains in the wind and with the UV high it literally sucks the moisture right out of your skin. So drinking lots of fluids is the best way to avoid heat exhaustion. The males in Abrams family are extremely susceptible to the heat and dehydrate quickly.
At one point a short text came through saying something like, “it’s hard but we are ok”. What I didn’t know was Nathan had gotten sick at 8000 feet. They were 300 feet from the top and turned around. Resting every 50 feet it took them 2 ½ hours to travel down. Abram had enough training to know the number one rule in an emergency situation in the mountains was to not make it worse. So he sat down to eat his lunch and Nathan collapsed next to a rock. It was then that out of no where his phone got coverage and his last text of “Nathan is not good, he’s in trouble” had come through on my phone even though he had tried to send it many times from hours earlier. It was as if God him self took Abrams shoulders and sat him down on that very rock on the side of the trail. When he stood up his coverage went away when he sat down he had full service. If he had kept walking the chance of not having help at all would have been very high. God’s kind reminder’s that surrender and be still is often when help arrives.
Once the text came through I tried to call and miraculously the call connected. I spoke with Abram for some time and I realized that he needed help him self. I have never in my life heard my husband say, “I don’t know what to do”. He is the mountain man, the trail guide; he knows what to do at all times. Except this time it was HIS son, he was a Dad first and a mountain man second. So we ran though a few scenarios. All of which included me calling people and sending help, through many transfers I got a hold of a lovely lady named Tabby in the Mount Rainer rangers office. She gave me a list of questions, almost all of which I was able to answer. And a rescue was set in motion.
I called Abrams brother Jonah. We spoke at length about what was happening all the while he is packing his pack and walking out the door. Abram and Jonah had been hiking partners for YEARS! And Jonah was the best person to go! He knows Abram with out either of them even really needing to speak. They can be in the woods and know what needs to happen next intuitively. With Jonah's wife in the drivers seat so he can hydrate and fuel up with food she drove him at high speeds up to the trail head they made it in record time and Jonah hit the trail. While he is on his way the ranger calls me back, she discovered that two rangers who just happened to be on the very same trail that day, after Tabby spoke with them it was then that Jim and Peggy turned around and headed back up the trail to see how they could help Abram and Nathan.
No sooner did Abram and Nathan set foot on the main trail did they walk right in to Peggy and Jim. A layer of relief had washed over Abram even though he had been doing what every parent does when there kid starts projectile vomit except this time he was 5 miles in on the side of a mountain! Turns out the solutions are the same, rest, small amounts of fluids and bland bready food. He was relived that he didn’t have to do this alone. Truth be told so was I.
A short time after Jonah showed up, a whopping 45 minutes from trail head to his brother yet again another layer of stress and worry fell off Abrams shoulders. Nathan also relaxed and was so happy to be walking with his uncle and his Dad. The rangers followed along as well after a very long walk everyone made it out safely.
After 14 hours on the trail Abram and Nathan were D O N E! Heat exhaustion subsided with tired and sore bodies one thing hung in the clouds above Nathan’s head, He didn’t make it! He was 300 feet short. It was his last training mission and he didn’t make it. He had finished on every other mission he set out to do. We have a saying in our house; Failure is a part of success based mainly off the quote at the beginning. When the kids trip on the trail or make a mistake or we as parents blow it big time we often talk about failing. Abram and I have taught our boys about failure and it is an important part of the journey through hiking and through life. Arguably one of the best baseball players of all time, Babe Ruth struck out twice as many times as he hit home runs. Surly if he had given up we would be deprived of watching an amazing player pave a path in history.
If we had insulated Nathan from the feeling of loosing he may not have wanted to try for the next goal. He may have given up. Because lets face it, when loosing happens it sucks! It hurts, it’s humbling and it can linger. Living where participation trophies are apart of our world we don’t talk about failure enough I think. As parents we isolate our selves in our homes not talking about the mistakes that happen when we screw it up with our kids or our spouses. Or the promotion someone deserves is over looked. Or the scale once again is back where we started and to talk about it hurts or we face the critical voices of our peers.
Learning how to fail is the key. Walking with people who are fighting in the same arenas are the only voices that count but instead the voice of the critic; the person with no kids, the CEO who has no more ladder to climb or the skinny supermodel on yet another magazine voices ring out loud and shaming.
For Nathan, the gift of failing was a good one. Supported by people in the same fight as him, we gave him the support to walk through the struggle, not get lost in the despair of failing. He learned the true meaning of something I heard a guy say once,
“Life is not always about getting to the top, it’s about being happy on the side of the mountain where you are.”
Not to say that striving for the top isn’t important because it is, but to know that sometimes we don’t always make it and that has to be ok. The time after we fail is where it counts the most.
What happened next was worth every recount of failure I have ever walked through. It was something that no parenting class or Internet article can ever describe. Watching Nathan put his boots back on and walk in the face of the very real chance he would fail again and yet he did it any way was something I was not prepared for. He knew he wasn't alone. He knew that fail or succeed he was a winner no matter what. Because winning some times is in the showing up as I heard in a parenting CD by Brene Brown.
Stay tuned for the Fourth and final chapter of the journey.