The Hike of Doom

~The following story is from Abby's perspective. But I love her anyway. ~Matt~
Before the epic, amazing, and life-changing hike.  All smiles.

I came across this gem of a photo today, and oh boy, did it bring back memories. That was quite a day! It was spring break five years ago, and I had just given birth (via c-section) to our son Josh just barely six weeks earlier. Since the kids were home from school for the week we decided it would be fun to rent a little cabin in the woods for a few days.

My sweet husband (there is a bit of sarcasm dripping from my voice right now) thought it would be fun to go on a short hike together. Since I was still sore from surgery, he offered to carry both the little ones. Josh snug in his carrier on Matt’s chest and Faith on his back. He claims he asked the lady who ran the loop of cabins for a nice easy trail. I’m still not certain I believe him. We set off on the trail so bright eyed and bushy tailed. Ready for adventure. It started out great. The weather was nice and we just walked along the trail enjoying each other’s company. The farther we kept going the trail became less and less friendly. It was supposed to make a complete circle so we just kept going thinking at any moment we would find ourselves back at the cabins. We just kept walking and walking with time going by and no cabins in sight.

I was starting to feel tired and a bit frustrated. We had walked for a couple of hours, and I didn’t want to turn around and walk two hours back to where we started. I kept thinking surely this circle was almost to an end. About this point the kids were starting to fall apart (and so was I). That’s when Matt pulled out his phone to use his GPS to see where we were. With the confidence of a mighty general leading his troops into battle, he announced we should leave the trail and head the direction he was pointing. Now I have been taught from early childhood that you never leave the trail. Never! But my husband convinced me this was a faster way back to the cabins. And in my tired state, I believed him.

So we headed out into the unknown following behind Matt who had his phone pointing us in the right direction. I wish I had a picture to show you what we walked into. It was a dense forest with tall trees all around us. You couldn’t get your bearings at all. It looked the same in every direction, and the underbrush was so high. I was holding Justus in one hand and Mercy in the other and the brush was as tall as they were. Charity was walking next to me and she started saying, “Let’s just turn around now and go back.” I was trying to figure out how to explain to her there was no turning around. I didn’t even know which direction that would be. We had to just keep following Matt who I believed was leading us back to civilization.

That was when I started to think we were never leaving that forest. I could see the newspaper headline in my mind, “Large Family Found Dead in the Woods.” I was trying to stay positive for the kids but inside I was starting to lose it. It got even better when Mercy started trying to sit down. She was tired and wanted to just stop walking and sit down. Now if we were going to make it out alive, I knew we couldn’t just sit down. The only way out of that forest was to walk through it. No one was coming to find us. So I kept pulling her along and telling her we couldn’t sit down, we had to keep moving. She looked up at me and screamed at the top of her three year old lungs, “Mama you are crAAAAZZZZyyyy!” And in my head I was thinking, “It’s not me, it’s your FATHER!!” But instead I calmly said, “Okay, but we still need to keep going.”

The forest was so dense and the underbrush was so thick and tall, that the only direction I had was to follow Matt. I couldn’t see outside the forest and it looked the same in every direction. That’s when Justus needed to go to the bathroom. I yelled up ahead to Matt and then proceeded to help Justus. Fortunately he’s a little boy so peeing outside was not a problem, and there were plenty of trees around. He did need help buttoning his pants though. I bent over to help him, and when I stood back up there was no Matt. I turned around in a complete circle hoping to see him. He was gone.

I was worried before but as long as I was following him I felt safe. Now the panic was rising up into my throat, and for the first time that day I was truly terrified. I was standing there holding the hands of my toddlers and yelling as loud as I could for him to come back. The newspaper article in my mind was becoming more and more real. It only took a few minutes, but it felt like an eternity before I saw him again. He came sauntering back, and he wasn’t even worried. I just saw my demise play out in my mind like a Dateline episode and he was smiling at me. At that moment I was both relieved and furious.

Eventually we made it to a road, and every one of us was beat. We sat by the side of the road while Matt walked back to the cabin and got the van to pick us up. I have no idea how long we sat on the log by the side of the road. We were all too tired to care. But I can tell you I’ve never been so relieved to see the white beast driving my way. Thankfully, Matt brought peanut butter and jelly sandwich fixings. After four hours of walking through the woods, PB & J tasted so good. We drove back to our little cabin and everyone crashed in the living room in front of the TV. I was still residing somewhere in-between relief and furry.

Us after the hike.

It was while we were sitting on the couch that Matt showed me what he saw on the GPS on his phone. 
What Matt's phone looked like in the hike.  He really is amazing for navigating so well with only this to work with.

Let me just tell you I am so glad he didn’t show me this until we were safely back in our cabin. It was a blank screen with a blue dot. I was blindly following a blue dot. Did I mention it was a good idea he told me this after we were safely back in our cabin?

That trip was five years ago, and it is still one we talk about. I gotta say, I learned some very valuable things from that hike.

  1. I can be incredibly mad at my husband and still stay married to him.
  2. When you leave the trail the real adventure begins.
  3. Sometimes we’re braver when we don’t see the whole picture.
  4. Even when the road is rough you can’t turn back or sit down and quit.
  5. Every journey is less scary when you travel with someone you love.