Our trek started a bit bumpy, when we missed the bus. Actually, as Mandy more rightly put it, “The bus missed us!” Being under the impression that Honduran time is always belated, we arrived at the bus stop 10 minutes early... only to find that the bus had arrived and left 15 minutes early!
After hitching a ride (with our friend Dave Kolmodin) to the base of our hike, we were more than ready to get started. Our group consisted of Heather (outdoorsy Canadian), Emily (active Alabaman), Mandy (bright-spirited Illinoisan), Jess (hike-experienced Californian), and myself (with the imagination of Robinson Crusoe and the usefulness of a small child).
The way was muddy, steep, narrow, and difficult, but we each felt equal to the task. We came upon the gorgeous waterfall (La Cascada) and took several moments to just stand in wonder at the glory of it all. At one point, I stood near the face next to the falls and saw water drip in singular droplets down the mossy rock.
We trudged on, following signs and consulting maps. In all we traveled about four hours when we came to a very literal fork in the road. The straight way lay ahead, and a steeper climb with a mysterious sign pointed upwards. We opted for the sign and the climb, but before long we were feeling the effects. Jess and I climbed on ahead, bolstered by adrenaline and a need to reach our destination. The other girls took it a bit slower and before long the separation was great.
As darkness fell on the mountain top (this mountain is known for its cloud forest), Jess and I found ourselves in a clearing. Lost. Without our group. Without a map. Without a flashlight. We thought to travel back down the trail to meet up with the other girls, but after 20 minutes could see nothing but the blanket of darkness ahead and behind.
We climbed back up the mountain, with only the electric light of my ipod lighting the next 10 inches in front of us. We made it back to the same clearing and I promptly began making plans for our camp. With the excitement of a novice adventurer, I set to the forest to find sticks and rocks to make a shelter from the poncho my mother had so industriously packed before my stateside departure.
After the initial shock of our situation, Jess collaborated and we diligently made what was to be our camp. I now wish I had taken pictures, but you can imagine how foolish that would seem as we were preparing to freeze together under a poncho. We diagonally crossed to solid sticks to rest on our packs and on a bench with the poncho secured underneath with hair ties and the string from Jess’s rainjacket cover. We spread Jess’s raincoat on the ground and pronounced our camp, “very good.”
All the while, we were doing one of these three things: laughing, praying, or singing. I can say our conversation almost completely consisted of those things. We were convinced God had ordained that very time for us to be in that very place and we were going to seek Him out in the midst of it. As we added every layer we could find in our packs, we prepared to shiver the night out together.
We climbed into our creation claiming the very ground in the name of the Lord. We prayed for protection, providence, and joy. We quoted scripture and sang nearly every praise song within our frozen grasp, including several from Sister Act. We huddled with a closeness that belied our mere two months of friendship. We were filled with a peace and fear did not dampen the doorstep of our humble mountain abode.
And then we heard voices.
We listened for a moment, then quickly decided the voices could only help (especially when one voice belonged to a woman). We rolled out with a welcoming, “Hola!” And we met an eager group (1 of 4) that had been sent out to find the two wandering gringas (white girls). We fell into conversation and laughed at our foolishness.
We followed them, hoping a bed or even a floor might be at the end of the trail. They, of course, had flashlights - and our conversation was a delight at 10 pm! We made it to our destination, where we not only found beds, but sheets and pillows! The bathroom was nothing to speak of, but BEDS and PILLOWS, how grateful we were!
We still shivered through the night, but the memory of the poncho camp was too close for complaining. In the morning, after several cups of hot coffee, we met up with the rest of our group who had their own story to tell.
We spoke with more of the rangers and found that we had not only escaped the cold, but also the prowling pumas (who number over 100) that appear between midnight and 1 am in the very place of our camp. I guess we won’t be camping out on the mountain again any time soon...
But, as frightful as this story may sound. We are filled with such joy, gratitude, and yes a decent dose of humility. We truly believe our hearts and minds were refined through our mountain rescue. Psalm 91 became our theme chapter for the trip and we left the mountain even more aware and in awe of God’s goodness, mercy, and sovereignty.