Late Saturday afternoon several of the families drove to Succor Creek Natural Area in Oregon. This is a large exploration area with huge rock formations and many caves. It is located 15 miles outside of civilization on a gravel road. After we arrived we were ready for a grand adventure. The whole group (including one of the pregnant ladies) hiked up a steep incline to check out a shallow cave. Everyone eventually made it. The views were gorgeous. Afterwards we hiked back down and had dinner.
The ladies then decided to go on a long walk on the flat ground. The guys and children decided to climb/hike up steep eroding rock to the top of a ridge. We were all having fun until I stepped right on top of a small rattle snake. It was in some rock crevices (so I didn’t hurt it and it didn’t hurt me). Needless to say, I jumped back. The rocks were loose and sharp. I had to grab some to keep from sliding down the mountain. They sliced up my left hand pretty good.
I decided to tough it out by wrapping my hand in David’s jacket. Winter and David were above me on the climb (this wasn’t exactly a trail). A few minutes later, someone above accidentally knocked a large rock loose and it began to hurtle mercilessly toward Winter. We yelled at her to get out of the way, but she had limited room to move because she was already against a large boulder. Thankfully, the rock just grazed her knee. She has some scrapes and a large bruise. One inch to the right – and we would have been carrying her down with a broken leg, or worse.
My “pilot in command” training took over at this point. I decided that too many “almost” catastrophes had occured and we need to “abort” the climb. We could come back and complete this climb at a better time of day, with proper safety equipment, and when we were injury free. Even though the others in our party completed the climb safely, I still feel good about my decision. When FAA investigators investigate fatal crashes, many times they discover that it was a series of small, seemingly unrelated events or errors that cause the disaster. Remebering this, I sucked up my pride and ego and I got myself and my children off the mountain. My prayer is that if I have a situation like this in the cockpit some day, my training will again take over and I will make the right decision. – Noel