On a dry, hot Utah summer dessert day. Jacob, Hillis, and I were hiking through Bryce Canyon, Utah eating melted and smooshed poptarts for breakfast, which we grabbed from the commissary vehicle.
After three hours of hiking in a 100+ degree weather, we stopped to pee off the side of a cliff–a hoodoo, really–within Bryce Canyon, just before crossing the natural footbridge connecting the natural rock formations.
A bird’s eye view of a vast sea of orange.
But Hillis stumbled over a rock and suddenly the earth crumbled from beneath him. He grabbed onto my arm and I was able to rescue him from plummeting to his death. Hillis was fine, but the narrow path that lead back to our campsite vanished–now only dust.
The three of us were now trapped on a hoodoo, 200 feet up in the air. The drop was deep and filled with thick sea of cacti. Terrified, I blew my emergency whistle repeatedly. The echo was the only response. Within an hour, we were running low on water, and we were getting dehydrated. Hillis soon fainted. Jacob and I looked at each other in panic. We started running around the plateau frantically when I tripped over a tree stump, getting up from my fall I noticed some Spanish moss on the tree, “Nature’s toilet paper” as some hikers like to call it. This moss’s unique quality is that it packs and sticks together.
Jacob and I scrambled to take all of the moss off of the tree. Although they were thin we were able to organize the moss into three long strands that were about 15 feet long. Since (in order to pay for the trip) Jacob and I had worked in a bakery braiding challah, we thought we could make a sturdy braided tightrope to get us across. Jacob and I switched off braiding and two hours later we were finished. Jacob and I looked at each other, then back at the bag, then back at each other. We knew this was our only option.
“Bro, this is cute but how are we going to get this rope set up?” Jacob said
I looked around the hoodoo for answers, looking at my watch we had 30 minutes to make the last bus to basecamp. But the hoodoo had only a 10 foot radius, an area of 79 feet squared, an answer was not appearing.
I blew my whistle again.
Jacob started to carve a death note with a pocket knife into a bullhorn that he had picked up on a Colorado hike. I ripped it from his hands, and looked at it in glory. I carved a hole in the side and attached the tightrope. The skull was now a harpoon.
We devised a plan in order to get the unconscious Hillis across with us: Jacob held his feet, and I held his hands as I walked backwards across the rope.
I stepped back, positioning my right foot on the moss, a cloud of fear came upon me. As Hillis’ weight pulled me forward, adrenaline shot through me. I focused. for a moment I looked directly beneath me at the cacti and quickly snapped back to the rope. After 5 minutes, we made it to the center where the rope had the most slack.
As we swung through the air, a lightning bolt struck down from the clouds. The sound was roaring. Hillis’ hands and feet started to squirm. Then: “AHHHHH!” we heard. “Everything is ok!” we hushed back. Hillis kept fidgeting around, “Stay still or we are all going to die!” I screamed.
He became still. “What the heck is going on?”
Neither Jacob or I replied. I don’t remember anything else until we were all on the other side which we found a stream and hydrated ourselves. We made it. In the desert, nothing in conjunction with imagination is the best tool one can have for survival. Walking back to the visitors center of Bryce Canyon we were now at a new crossroads: Where was our bus?