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FRONT-PORCH GOSPEL: Lost in Yellowstone (Chapter 4)


”An unexpected turn.”


It is hard to believe that as beautiful as the Monday morning was, the day would be the worst of all, in many ways.

One of us would be injured, and two of us would be lost.

Because we were so tired, Todd and I decided to share the two-man tent that first night (which, as it turned out, we did every night of the trip). Roy had a small tent right next to us, and Randy slept in a hammock tied to two trees right beside us on the other side.

We weren’t in the tent long before Todd had severe leg cramps; and I had to jump up and rub his legs as best I could to get the cramps out. Comradery-ship knows no limits, and would not looking ahead. It took a while, but they seemed to settle down, and we tried to sleep.

He was in pretty bad pain, and it took a good while for it to subside. Even Todd’s legs, as strong as they were, took a toll that first evening’s hike. I suppose rubbing out those cramps is about the only thing I did for Todd on the whole journey, in my book – but Todd would tell me something out of the blue one day that I gave to him that I won’t forget.

At one point I heard something outside my tent in the darkness – that would not be the last time, either – and I said with no little alarm in my voice – “Is that you, Roy?” Thankfully, it was. Roy did not sleep at all that night, I learned later.

On that Monday morning – day two – I arose before the sun came up from behind the mountains, no idea that the trip was about to take a disappointing turn.

Arising early became the norm for me, for a number of reasons, starting this first day. I got up and made my way to the edge of the lake, singing a little gospel song, something I tend to do as I go about. The amazin’ blonde always tells folks that I sing gospel in my sleep. I vaguely remember some of that. She hears it all.

The singing of the song that morning reminded me that I felt I had recovered fairly well from the hard Sunday-evening hike. I still wonder about that, wondering even if it wasn’t the Lord’s way of encouraging me to go on, as if the Lord had some training in mind He wanted.

I hadn’t sung along very far until I saw Roy sitting on the beach looking out over the lake. Walking up to the lake that morning was one of the most beautiful, peaceful scenes of the trip. I was surprised to see Roy sitting there, but was glad to sit down beside him and enjoy this picturesque moment, this spiritual moment.

Roy, wrapped in his sleeping bag, and I sat and talked a while as I put my shoes and socks on. After a moment, with disappointment written in his voice, Roy said, abruptly, “I can’t go on.” He had turned his ankle within the first two miles of the hike the evening before; and he was having a hard time walking. It appeared his trip, or our trip, was over before it started.

It was really an unexpected turn, for sure.

We spent a good bit of the morning tending to Roy and deciding what to do. Randy made a brace for his ankle by taping two wooden sticks on each side; but Roy had trouble walking with that. So, Randy agreed it would be good if I re-taped it in a sports fashion. So, I took off the makeshift brace and re-used the tape to do a figure-eight tape-job the way we would do on our basketball players. It seemed to help some, but there was no way he was going to be able to go on. Randy contacted the Rangers, and we determined that probably that afternoon they could send someone out to help Roy out of the park.

Randy made a quick decision on what he was going to do. He said he would not leave Roy under any conditions, so he planned to stay with him and help him out of the park. Somebody would have to do that. Todd and I talked about what we should do and decided that we both wanted to go on. Randy showed Todd the path we were to follow from the GPS on Todd’s phone and gave us some of his supplies we might need for the journey. We hugged Roy and Randy and, through some watery eyes, set off on the eastward trail, without them. I could not help but feel for Roy. This was his dream, the trip he planned, and it was over.

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