The first one to lend a helping hand was not the most capable-looking one of the group.
She was, however, the most cheerful. She pushed past the line leader and they both stood staring at the creek where my daughter, Karina, and I stood, taking a picture to commemorate our hike. We were about three miles up a trail in the Sequoia wilderness and while the waterfalls cascaded peace into our souls, it appeared, from faces of this group, that peace had left them long ago. They were coming down from the direction we were heading and as this group of four stood contemplating the log extending halfway across the snow run-off creek, I could see by the shaky ankles balancing on rocks that they’d been hiking awhile.
Miss Cheerful pushed ahead, balancing on a rock and a nervous smile she declared, “I’ll cross and then help you!” She awkwardly crossed her Nike aerobic shoe over the other and slid onto the log, lunging forward toward the rock on the opposite bank. Instead of continuing her forward move, she grabbed for a branch of a tree and tried to pull herself across, sending her weight backwards instead, as the tree bowed beneath her weight. Her plunge into the icy water was met with gasps and shrieks from her friends as they surged forward to help. Lady Two slid into the water as a futile gesture of help while the last two in line extended useless hands.
Teeth chattering, Miss Cheerful pulled herself up onto the rock before I could slide down toward her to help. Lady Two desperately scrambled behind her to leave that icy wetness.
“I’m okay, I’m okay,” chanted Miss Cheerful.
She immediately turned around and pulled Lady Two up the rock. Ladies Three and Four followed quickly with pleasant coaching from the coldest, wettest and most uncomfortable Miss Cheerful, who also explained to us the beauty of their hike and the amazing trees they had seen. As soon as everyone was on our side of the creek, another group rounded the bend.
I could see at a glance these ladies were with this first group.
All were dressed in Zumba class style leggings and tennis shoes that were more for fashion than hiking and all were adorable in cute hats and coordinating jackets. Toward the back of the group walked one woman wearing a white sweatshirt and flowered leggings and suddenly, as she turned to talk with the lady behind her, the reason for this odd group out in the wilderness hit me. BRIDE scrolled across her back – this was a bachelorette party.
Miss Cheerful muttered something about “cold water and bathroom” to her group and sprinted up the trail as the lemmings proceeded down the opposite trail toward our creek. Karina and I just held onto our puppy, who desperately wanted to play and jump. We watched with fascination as more and more women poured down the mountain and gathered around the creek crossing.
“Watch out for that log!”
“Be careful, that water’s cold.”
“Don’t step on that rock it is slippery!”
Advice poured from our side of the creek as the bridal party attempted different methods of crossing. Finally, a tall lady in hiking books and brilliant leggings bravely strode across the log and leaped gracefully up the rock. Immediately behind her vaulted another fairly fit lady dressed for the weather. Both giggled as they stationed themselves carefully on the rock and leaned back to extend a helping hand. One by one the ladies crossed the creek. Some grumbled that they couldn’t do it. Some muttered that the water was cold as their feet dipped in while sliding off rocks. Others shakily asserted that they were fine.
Interestingly, the ones who insisted they were fine were the ones sporting wet looking feet and shaking ankles, sweat-stained shirts and Zumba shoes. As each crossed, words of encouragement and cheer rang from the two hikers stationed to help on the slippery rock. The bride crossed without incident, and without a word.
The two hikers, waiting for the last of the party to descend the trail and cross the creek, grinned up at Karina and I. “I know they’re talking behind my back and they’re never going to forgive me for the worst bachelorette party of their life,” said Brilliant-leggings out the side of her mouth. She reached out a hand to the next creek-crosser.
Her voice switched to high cheer and encouragement, “You’ve got this! You are doing so amazingly well!”
Her hiking friend doubled over with laughter. They both turned to look at the bridal party huddled together, waiting for the last one to make it. Some didn’t look super happy.
“I forget that not everyone finds hiking to be enjoyable,” muted guffaws came from both hikers. Karina and I chuckled along.
“It’s beautiful up here,” I offered, “maybe someday they’ll look back on this and think it’s a great memory.”
“I’m not so sure,” responded Brilliant-leggings. She stretched out to help the last hiker, who immediately plunged her feet into the frigid water. Gasps and scrambles followed until finally all were safe on our side of the creek.
“I don’t suppose you want a group picture,” I offered with a giggle. I often offer this when hiking and watching groups try to take selfies to remember they’re conquering of tough trails and beautiful vistas.
Brilliant-leggings mock-glared at me and her companion chuckled, “I think we’ll pass on that for now, thanks!” They turned and without missing a beat, began encouraging their group upward and onward to the trail-head.
Karina and I hiked a bit further and then the rain turned us back. We enjoyed our hike but were happy to get in the car. We ate our lunch out of the chill air and talked about the beauty of the hike.
I suspect that this group of non-hiking ladies will remember their six mile hike for a long time.
They’ll remember the big trees and the freezing water washing over their feet. A couple will remember frigid water more places than their feet! They won’t forget the rugged trail and the huge boulders. I imagine they’ll remember the bride and the beautiful wedding that was probably yesterday. But I also hope they’ll remember what has stuck in my mind:
The ladies who extended a cheerful and helping hand.
The first lady to help was just as out-of-her-element as the rest, but chose a happy attitude that said, “We got this!” The next were maybe the ones others were not happy with, but who were trying to be supportive and positive and encouraging in spite of realizing they’d blundered in their planning. And others were those that were determined to be up-beat in spite of freezing toes and exhaustion. Those that remembered to say thank you to those hands reaching across the stream and those that hollered encouragement to the next one across.
It’s easy, in this life, to get bogged down by the waters pulled at your feet or the freezing temperatures of discouragement or despair. The journey, however, becomes so much easier when we lend a helping hand and aide others in their journey.It’s easy, in this life, to get bogged down by the waters pulled at your feet or the freezing… Click To Tweet
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