FINALLY, I'm able to sit down and spin my tale about my wedding band that went AWOL in Colorado.
So Sonlight runs two different programs: the weekly residence camps, and a High Adventure program, which runs weekly backpacking trips concurrently with the residents camps. The backpacking program is for high school and up, but there is an outdoor wilderness program for Junior High kids called Wilderness Week for Boys, and there's a Wilderness Week for Girls. During those weeks, the kids don't do a full-on backpack trip. Typically a handful of available staff (or just Winston) will pack in most of the supplies a few days ahead of time and set up a campsite in the Wilderness. Then, the kids will pack in their own stuff as well as their food, and use that as their camp for the week. Each day that they're there involves day hikes, team-building activities, devotionals and quiet time, and of course the work that is inherent when you're tenting-it in the woods.
So on Thursday Winston planned on heading into the Weminuche Wilderness to pack in supplies for Wilderness Week for Girls. I asked if Matt and I could come along and help him out - I LOVED packing in supplies for Wilderness Weeks when I worked at Sonlight!!! It's never a terribly long hike, but it's just neat to get a little snatch of the untouched outdoors. And I'm an idiot when it comes to setting up an actual campsite, so I like to learn.
So that is exactly what we did. On Thursdays the kids go to Durango to go white-water rafting ("white water" being a very loose term by the end of the summer). I went rafting once and am over it. Anyway, Winston packed up the stuff and we toot-tooted our way up the gravel road several miles to the trailhead that leads to Four Mile Falls.
I've been on this trail many times before. It's not complicated by any stretch of the imagination, and it's beautiful. Our plan was to head about a mile in, then cut off the trail, cross a stream, and set up the camp in a meadow that could not be seen from the main trail.
Benji, Winston and Mary's dog (who loves Winston and tolerates everyone else), on the way up to the trailhead. Never, EVER try to sit in his seat in the car. I made that mistake.
On the way down the trail...
So we set up camp in this sweet little meadow, right? Pitched tents, hung up a dining fly, dug a poop pit (actually, the picture above is the scene you are graced with as you straddle the poop pit...did I choose well or what?). Below is the pitched tents. Just so you can see the meadow it was in. It's good for a visual as the story progresses.
Finally, Winston asked if I would help him dig the fire pit and line it with rocks. This was the moment of the grave mistake: I said sure, and then proceed to REMOVE MY WEDDING RINGS and put them in my pocket, so they wouldn't get caked with dirt. My shorts pockets were pretty deep, and as I put the rings in (they aren't soldered together), I thought, 'Make SURE you put those back on right away...' and proceeded to help put together the fire pit.
After we built the fire pit, I committed another grave mistake: forgetting to put my rings right back on. I shoved my camera in my pocket - the same pocket as the rings - and walked around the site taking some pictures.
Having completed our task, and thankful that the rain had not yet come, we hiked back out, taking a shortcut back across the stream and through another field. We sat back down once we got to the main trail to change out of our Chacos and back into our shoes.
It was then, when I stood up to put my pack back on, that I realized I hadn't put my rings back on. Gripped with momentary panic, I reached in my pocket and pulled out my engagement ring. *whew!* BUT - my wedding band was NOT in there. I was like, OH. NO. A million thoughts were going through my head, thinking I should say something and head back to the site to look for it. But no, I couldn't do that and hold us all up, because Winston was on a tight schedule and had to drive the bus to another trailhead to pick up the backpackers. Okay. Hm. Well, how many people do I know who lost their wedding ring or the diamond on it at some point? Many. Well, I guess I'm joining their ranks. At least it's resting in a beautiful place. But WAIT!! That's my WEDDING BAND!!! There's only one ring that my sweet husband slipped on my hand at our wedding, and I want it BACK!! He might buy me another one someday, but it's not THAT one!! Then I started to feel like crying. So I 'fessed up to Matt as we resumed our walk. Of course, he wanted to let Winston know and head back right away to look for it. I'm like, there is NO way we're going to find it. It's okay. Sometimes you lose things. Just the way it is. At least - dang, at LEAST - I had the engagement ring, with the diamond on it. My engagement ring has a princess-cut solitaire with channel-set diamonds on either side, and the wedding band matches it with the channel-set diamonds.
So we headed back to Sonlight. I felt awful. Matt felt that we really needed to go back and at least TRY to find it. I'm like, riiiiiggghhht. I mean, you saw the pictures of where we were!! Thick grass, stream crossing, trees...talk about the proverbial needle in a haystack. Now it's a wedding band in the wilderness. You've GOT to be kidding me.
But, heading back in WAS the right thing to do to look for it. So we ate lunch at Sonlight, and hopped back in the car to drive up to the trailhead.
So we get to the trailhead, and of course, the afternoon storm was heading it. All week long we had been having UGLY storms. Terrible thunder and lightning, torrential rain, and even hail. Along with the storms came some dang cold air that lingered for a bit after the storm ended. Mountain storms are FABULOUS...when witnessed from inside. Not when they're swirling around the mountains, and you're heading IN to the wilderness, when everyone else is booking it OUT. What a spooky feeling that is, to hear those rumbles of thunder, and you're heading into where there is, well, nobody. But we thought, hey, we'll boogie in, hopefully the rain will hold off while we look, and if it gets terrible, at LEAST there are tents set up and we can stay fairly warm and dry while we wait the storm out.
And so we boogied in. We BOOKED. Fortunately, the way in is mostly downhill, so the booking at 9,000 feet was easy. We cross the first stream. Rumble. Up and over the first meadow. Rumble - rumble. Hang a sharp right after the clump of trees. Rumbling's getting louder and more insistent. Cross the next stream, scoot around the trees and bushes, and there's the site!
We crawled. We looked. We replayed where we had been. Oh my WORD - HOW do you find a little ring in the middle of THICK GRASS, when it could be ANYWHERE? Is it by the log? Under one of the stones by the firepit? This is a JOKE! I'm in the middle of East Moses Nowhere, looking for my ring...you have GOT to be kidding me.
Well, then the rain came. I don't want us to get too wet and cold, so I call off the search until the rain lets up. We perched under the dining fly. Dear Matt keeps telling me he only wants to find the ring because he knows how badly I'll feel if we don't. He's not mad at me at all. Yes, we are just as married whether I have it or not. At least my pretty engagement ring is still on my finger! I say we should just head back when the rain lets up. We could look all day in this meadow. Here's a pack of cards in my backpack...Cool! It's Phase 10 (one of our fave games). Let's just play until the rain lets up and head back.
BTW - this whole experience was a huge test for me as far as my struggle with anxiety is concerned. It pops up every once in a while, I haven't had a panic attack in a few years. But sitting there in the middle of nowhere, away from cell connectivity, with a storm approaching...kind of creepy. It took a LOT for me to keep my cool and not lose it. That was VERY scary for me. I had to keep reminding myself that God made the beauty around us AND He created the storm too. I could praise Him and his majesty whether the sun was shining or that storm was raging, because He's in charge of it all. What a great metaphor for life!!
Anyway, the rain let up a bit. Matt said, "Why don't we just walk up the middle of the meadow, slowly, step by step, and look for a few more minutes. Then we can leave." We did just that. Bent over, moving like an old couple doing Tai Chi in slow motion (Tai Chi in slow motion would be REEEEALLLLY slow), we inspected every blade of grass, stick, and wildflower. I'm like, riiiighhht. But I played along. The rain was starting up again. I reached out and grabbed Matt's hand. This next part, I'm not joking. I grabbed Matt's hand, and there was actually a quick flash of lightning, and suddenly Matt says, "Wait...what is THIS?" picks at the ground, and holds up.........MY RIIIIINNNNNGGGG!!!!!!!!
We whooped, we hollered, we jumped.
Not unlike the parable of the lost sheep, huh? Or the lost coin? Interesting, no?
Well then the rain really started and the thunder was louder, and there was lightning...and it was getting cold. So we hopped in one of the tents, pulled out Phase Ten, and played a few more hands. Not without a few victory pics, first.
And that was that. The rain let up, we emerged, hiked back up the trail, and happily made our way back to camp.
And THAT is the tale of the missing ring. It's that much more special to me that it perched alone in a mountain-flanked meadow before coming back to me. :)