Lessons From an Epic Adventure

“Lets go hiking in Death Valley in the summer” they said. “It will be fun” they said.

New camper shell and build out on the truck ready for its maiden voyage.
I had an epic adventure this weekend. I do not mean the kind of “adventure” where you go on a pretty hike snaps some cute photos and post it on instagram with the hashtags #adventure. I mean a nitty gritty – there is a small chance we may not make it out of this with our lives/sanity – adventure. The kind of adventure that’s is not pretty or insta worthy or fun. Well now that I look back on it, it was a little fun.

I suppose I should start from the beginning.

My husband and I wanted to go for a nice mellow camping and hiking trip. We had recently purchased a camper shell and wanted to take it on its maiden voyage. We chose Telescope peak in Death Valley National Park. A remote hike about three hours away from civilization. We drove up friday afternoon and got to the trailhead in time to enjoy the sunset and set up camp in the back of our Tacoma, AKA  Blue Taco Sherrock.

Telescope peak is a 14 mile out and back hike with views of both the lowest and highest points in the lower 48 – Badwater basin and Mt. Whitney respectively. After a lovely hike we returned to the truck and were met by Jerome and Justine, from Pasadena by way of France, who asked us for a ride down to their car lower on the mountain.

POP HISSSSSSSSS. Not the sound you want to hear on a remote mountain road. We got a flat. An unpatchable flat courtesy of a very sharp rock. Not a problem, we carry a full sized spare, aren’t we prepared? No, no we are not. Despite having the full size spare we did not have the correct tools to remove the busted tire. Where panic could have set in instead we started to plan.

Plan A- Use all of our combined problem solving skills and Mcgiver know how to fix the tire and drive off into the sunset. Except that shit never works in real life. After trying combinations of fix a flat, gorilla tape, air compressor and even chewing gum we realized nothing was going to make that tire hold air.

Plan B- Dive out of the wilderness with Jerome and Justine till we get cell service and call a Ranger. Cell service is an illusive creature in the remoteness of Death Valley. Much like the mountain lion which is seldom found and vanishes swifty when encountered. Never count on technology to work.

Plan C- Call Ranger from the pay phone at the intersection of  Emigrant Canyon Road and California State Highway 190. It’s over 100 degrees, we only get a hold of voice recordings. Does this constitute as an emergency yet?

Plan D- Get a ride to Ridgecrest 2.5 hours away. Sleep in Motel 6 for the night. Pick up a rental car in the morning. Buy the necessary tools to fix Blue Taco Sherrock. Return to Death Valley National park. Save Blue. Stay hydrated.

Plan E- wrangle up some wild burros and ride on out of there.

Plan D ended up being the solution and after driving back to Blue Taco Sherrock we fixed the flat and had the truck ready to go in less than an hour.

Other than having a good story to tell I learned a few valuable lessons from this Adventure.

The kindness of strangers will save the world.  none of our plans would have been possible without the Jerome and Justine (except Plan E, unless the french are particularly good at wrangling wild burros). They thought we were helping them out with a ride to a car. Little did they know they would be spending the next 6 hours helping us. They were the most helpful and generous human beings, and did not hesitate to help us get out of our situation. It is easy to get bogged down with all the negative news in the world but I hold true to the notion that people are inherently good. The kindness of strangers will always win over any darkness in the world.

Always be prepared. If we would have had the right tools what became a 24 hours detour would have only taken us an hour. It makes for a funny story now but we should have known better. Always be fully prepared in a wilderness situation. If there would have been no one else on that trail we could have been in real trouble in an area with no cell coverage and temperatures that hover around 100 degrees.

Do not panic. It is easy to let your emotions get the better of you in a stressful situation. Stay calm and think things through. Lay out all your options and make a plan for the worst case scenario. For example, driving in we passed a spring about seven miles down from the parking area. If we had to, we could have hiked down the road when it cooled off and had a water source until someone came to help. Always remember to tell someone back home where you are going and when you expect to be back.

Stressful situations are an opportunity to strengthen your marriage/ relationship. It would have been easy to blame each other for this whole thing. I was driving and did not see the rock, Joe knew we did not have the right tools but had not gotten a chance to buy them. Getting upset with each other would have solved nothing. Instead we worked together to find a solution. When I could tell Joe was getting frustrated I soothed his mind with my words and when he saw I was getting stressed he pulled out that last beer in the cooler to share. We know each other well. We also agreed that after something like this child rearing would probably be a piece of cake.

In the end it was a combination of luck, kindness, and self reliance that got us out of this mess. True adventures are never straightforward. You come out dirty, tired, and sunburned. If you are lucky you will survive with newly acquired knowledge and a great story.

Setting the jack.

1 inch gash.

Any job is easy with the right tools.

Almost on our way.
I would have taken more photos of the mayhem but I was a little distracted. I did however document most of it on my Instagram story check it out here.

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