Monday, March 3, 2014

One time...

I have often thought about renaming this blog, "One Time..." because most of my stories could start with those two words.  In fact, one time, a friend and I took a road trip to Arizona to check out a Navajo Mission to see if it was needing the support of our youth group.  We had three days to get there, check out the place, and then come back to reality.  What that meant was two full days of driving sixteen hours each way.  I think I assaulted poor Mark with approximately 18,000 stories about things that I had experienced...all of them started with "one time..."

Having said that, One youth group traveled up to Bear Valley to go on a snow trip.  That's what we always called it.  A snow trip.  We were fairly certain that there would be snow the places that we went.  We would load up about thirty kids into a bunch of vehicles and travel the five hours it would take to get to the cabin.  (It may not have actually been five hours but it sure felt like that when we were cramped into ancient sedans that we affectionately called boats.)

I am reminded of these trips because our kids have traveled up to a place this weekend that they are calling the "winter" trip.  It will be cold.  It has the elevation required for snow...but, alas, this weekend is promising to be bereft of snow and the accompanying giant drifts to push people into.  Since this is the first time in years that the youth group has gone and I haven't been a leader I have to say I am a little relieved that there will be safe roads to travel on.  Most of the danger in the weekend will revolve around the mechanical bull in the chalet and the manufactured hill of snow they use to slide down riding sleds made of cardboard and duct tape.

The places I used to go, when I was in high school, were a little more snowy.  In fact, the cabin that we usually rented had to be accessed by snowmobile in the winter.  My dad built a large sled with old skis attached to the bottom to get all of our gear up the mountain.  People had to be ferried up on the backs of these loud hot machines, in the freezing cold, in the dark...before we could start our weekend trip.  It was fun.  It was cold.  It was terrifying.

Allow me to explain.  After we had all gotten up to the cabin and settled into our rooms...that consisted of laying your sleeping bag onto approximately six square feet of floor...we had dinner, singing, a message, and then we goofed around talking about silly things until we fell asleep.

Saturday atop the mountain was always a fun time.  We would have a gigantic breakfast, after figuring out that the "high altitude modifications" on the sides of the hash browns packaging merely meant that they were never going to cook...ever, and then we would play.  Some of the adults would drive people around on the snowmobiles that were rented for the weekend.  Everyone else would attempt to slide down the impossibly steep hills in front of the cabin on little disks of plastic.  I'm going to go ahead and say that it was fun...for others...but it wasn't my thing.  I'm particular about my sledding activities.

It is my thinking that the hill should be climbed...first...and then slide back down to where you rest.  It takes away from the fun of the ride if you have twenty people at the top yelling that you should climb faster so that someone else can have a turn having fun. It's a minor point but an important one in my book.  Additionally, the hill that they had chosen to slide down was dangerously close to several large trees and two even larger cabins.

Given that the hill was fraught with peril, I decided to hop around on the snowbank at the crest of the hill. This at least seemed to be fraught with safety...or so I thought.  As I walked around atop this crunchy pile of snow I started hopping into the powder.  I would go in up to my knees, then I could sit on the seat I had just formed for myself.  I had done it a few times and thought it was fun.  I looked a little like Tim Conway from when he did his Dorf character.  I could lean forward and back and my legs, from the knees down, were held fast in the snow.

I did this a few places before I did the final hop.  I failed to realize that that little twig that I was about to hop on was maybe attached to something else.   I also didn't figure into my trajectory that I had to climb a seven foot snow drift to get to the other side of the downhill sledding.  Additionally, I didn't think that the tiniest sprig of evergreen poking out of the snow was actually the top of a very large tree.  I hopped, and disappeared.  Apparently when you hop onto the loose snow that surrounds the top of a tree it just gives way and you slide down quite a way.  I went from standing on the top of a snowbank to staring out of the bottom of a pine scented snow tunnel in about a second and a half.  Luckily someone saw me go in because, the way the snow was pressing against me, I wasn't going to be able to take a deep breath to yell for help.  In an instant I had a lot of empathy for people who were caught in avalanches.  I knew, firsthand, why people don't just "push their way out."  I was at the mercy of the snow and every wiggle sent me a little further down into a little tighter space.

Right about now, if I were telling the story to my kids, one of them would sarcastically ask, "Did you die?"  I was 'stuck' in this hole for a short time.  It felt like an hour and was probably more like a couple of minutes.  I remember thinking that I had to fight off the panic.  It would have been really easy to start wriggling and crying and trying to claw my way to the top...but none of that would have helped me.  Besides, I had my image of being the overweight socially awkward teen to protect.  I wasn't ready to add a new level of "panicker" to the mix.   I held it together for the duration of the event and never succumbed to freaking out.  Nobody even mentioned the incident after that.  The rest of the weekend went without a hitch and I think no one ever knew how close I was to completely losing it.  I never did.

But there was one time...