Sometimes There's Nothing You Can Do
Have you ever wanted to go outside in the middle of a ferocious thunderstorm and just dance around and laugh at the thunder gods as bolts of lightning strike down around you?
Me neither. But sometimes a bad decision can give you that opportunity.
A few years ago on our summer vacation up at Sky Valley Georgia with the kids and the grandparents, we got to experience the power, fury and wetness of a thunderstorm and lived to tell about it.
It's become a family tradition to take hikes to several waterfalls in the area. One of our favorites is King Creek Falls in South Carolina by the Chattooga River. It's a moderate 30 minute hike through the forest to a beautiful secluded falls.
This particular year it didn't seem like everyone was really thrilled with making the hike again. It was a hot and muggy day and scattered thunderstorms were in the area. The drive to get there was about 45 minutes and when we arrived, we were all a little tired and cranky. But it's a family tradition so we forced ourselves to do it.
Just after we had started, there was a loud clap of thunder. I checked my radar app and it looked pretty clear. So we thought that maybe it was just some heat lightning or just random lightning not associated with an oncoming storm. We made it to the falls and enjoyed the scene for about 20 minutes.
Then out of the blue, the sky turned black and the wind began picking up. A big crack of thunder got our attention and everyone knew we had to get going back to the car as quickly as possible. I tried to keep an unworried tone in my voice saying that we shouldn't worry and we'd be able to get back without getting too wet.
But as we got going, I began thinking about survival training I had seen on TV. What would the guys on Dual Survivor do? There was no time to make a shelter. I had never seen any caves along the trail. Just huge trees that could get struck by lighting and transmit the current down to us. Damn, we were screwed.
About ten minutes into our fast hike back, the rain started. The first drops were the really big ones that make those big plopping noises. At first there are always just a few. But then plops begin to get faster and faster. You just know what's coming. It's kind of like going up the first hill of a roller coaster. You know in a few seconds that the bottom is ready to drop out. And sure enough, without any mercy, the bottom fell out.
The wind began blowing and the lightning flashed followed by a boom a second or two later. We were at ground zero of a really bad thunderstorm and there was nothing we could do. The closest shelter was a twenty minute hike back to the car. It was hopeless trying to even stay a little dry. The rain was coming down in torrents. With lightning flashing in every direction, there wasn't any reason to think one place was any safer than another place.
Do we hunker down in the middle of the trail and be miserable or trudge on as quickly as possible. I learned a lot about my kids in those last twenty minutes on the trail. While Lori and I and the grandparents were groaning and moaning and kicking ourselves for making such a bad decision, Rebecca and Benjamin looked up into the pouring down rain and laughed and mocked it.
The more it rained and drenched us, the more invigorated it seemed to get Rebecca. She began singing and getting us to march to a tune. Who was this girl? I had expected the "princess" to be the biggest whiner and be blaming me for all of the misery. But here she was seeming to be having the time of her life.
Those last 20 minutes were probably the most enjoyable 20 minutes of hiking I have ever had.
It was invigorating and thrilling. Rebecca showed us the way. She accepted our predicament and instead of whining, she embraced it and found joy in the situation.
How often does one have the opportunity to experience the power and fury of a storm and be one with the storm?
We weren't naked and afraid.
We were totally drenched and loving every minute of it.