I was blessed to have a week of vacation with my family at the end of August. As a former coastline dweller, it is important to me to get some salt air in my lungs, feel some sand between my toes, a hear some sea life. It was a great trip to the beach! But then we were doubly blessed to spend some time over the mountains in the Bend area.
In case you are from some other place in the world, let this native Oregonian tell you a truth. There is something about this place. Trust me, it’s a beautiful and diverse place. Back in my Minnesota days, oh how I missed the mountains! Let me tell you, my heart got happier as soon as I saw Mt. Hood over the wing of the plane.
Anyway, it’s pretty great here. And there’s lots of things to do and see, especially if you like the great outdoors.
One such place is Smith Rock. Let me give you a link-do-hink so you can see how most excellent Smith Rock really is. That’s okay, I’ll grab another cup of coffee while you check out the photos. I’ve got time.
See? Amazing, right? So my whole life I’ve heard folks talk about Smith Rock and when they’d ask me about it, I’d hang my head a bit and admit I hadn’t been there. “But you like hiking, right?” Well, yeah. “And taking photos of gorgeous places! What do you mean, you’ve never been there?”
My head would hang a bit lower. So when we made plans to be in the Bend area, I asked Mister Soandso if we could make a stop. Of course he said yes. Because he’s no dummy.
It was a great day to visit the park – overcast so the heat wasn’t too crazy, and the crowds were heavy but not extreme. We started the climb.
First you climb down to the river and then, if you are feeling like it, you can climb up Misery Ridge or go for the full loop that takes you to Monkey Face and across Misery Ridge and back down. We just did Misery Ridge. Let me tell you, I’d like to go back and do the full loop, but that was enough for that day.
On our way back down, we stopped at an outcropping to watch a guy doing a high line between two spires above us. I would still be having a heart attack but he was tied to the line so I was able to watch him without too much anxiety on my part. There was also a young man climbing the face above us.
As he was maneuvering the face, he called down “Rocks!” and once we acknowledged, he let some small rocks fall. The rocks were about the size of the rocks folks use in landscaping – river rock size. Bigger than gravel but nothing too exciting. There must have been about 4 of these rocks that he let slide down the face. So when he called down, “Big rock!” well, I have to admit I was expecting something along the size of a grapefruit. Now, I realize that I had no real reason for that reasoning aside from the other rocks had been so small that I thought he was just a super safe and polite climber.
The rock that came down was not small.
It was about the size of a legal-sized piece of paper, but about 2.5 inches thick.
When a rock that size comes down 200 feet, it comes down fast.
One second I was realizing it was a large rock coming down that rock face, the next the rock bounced straight at me and my family.
We were standing on a wide spot of the trail.
There was no place to go and no time to get there.
I didn’t even duck, or push my kids behind me, or react except to close my eyes.
That rock happened to hit the sign post for the trail and shattered into pieces. If it hadn’t, it would have had one of two trajectories, either of which went through the space myself and my family was in.
In a flash, everything could have been bad. Very bad.
We got lucky and no one was hit by anything bigger than tiny rocks and lots of dirt. The closest chunk landed about 4 inches from my foot and became a souvenir of the hike. But the whole thing served as a reminder:
In a flash, everything can change.
I was thinking about this rock the other day when I was cleaning off Biggest’s dresser and came across it. Then, last Friday I was thinking about it again.
In a flash, everything can change.
I didn’t lose anyone in the attack on 9/11. But I know people who did and I’ve been experiencing the effects of that dreadful day on our nation ever since.
We live our lives dodging the tiny rocks that life throws at us. But sometimes it isn’t a tiny rock that comes at us. And then, in a flash, everything is different.
May each of you, wherever you are in this life’s journey, find shelter from the rocks that fly at you.