Last Sunday, I slept in a tent at Fossil Creek. I find myself enjoying a more natural and less complicated life as time passes on, and an adventure here has been knocking on my door for quite some time. Don’t get me wrong—I appreciate the conveniences of city living indefinitely—but sometimes I just need to get back to the basics. I love waking up without a mirror in sight, letting my hair flow gently behind me, feeling the soft breeze slip over my skin. In those times—standing strong and quiet on the Earth—I feel completely free and content. Throw some water into the mix, and my smile couldn’t fall off my face for just about anything.
Last Minute Preparations
The day before my friend and I set off on our adventure, an old friend of mine set me up with a necessary piece of equipment that I’d been eyeing for quite some time: a lightweight, overnight pack with hip straps. It’s funny because, upon entering the store, my intention was to purchase only a sleeping bag, but after a quick demonstration of weight carried on my shoulders versus my hips, I ended up leaving the store with a bit longer of a receipt than originally planned. However, using this pack to transport my supplies in and out of Fossil Creek saved my shoulders from ripping off my body in the end, so I live with no regrets.
The Adventure Begins… Day 1
After parking the car, we began our hike down to the waterfall. I’m not positive on the length of the trail, I just know it was the long one, which usually takes two hours to hike down and close to three hours to hike back out. But, because we’re a couple of bosses, it took us just an hour and 45 minutes to get down to the campground. The hike was mostly downhill, acting as a soft prelude does to a heavy metal song—meaning there was no transition between the hike in and the hike out whatsoever. But the trail had its fair share of obstacles: Loose rocks were scattered across our path, which called for constant concentration to find even footing.
Once we reached the campground, we wasted no time setting up shop. I helped pitch the tent, but left the muscle work—digging the stakes into the ground—to my friend, Bill. I watched while I sat on a log, eating the sandwich I put together earlier in the morning. It was a simple sandwich—plain tofu, chopped green pepper, lettuce, and almond butter—but in that moment, it was a heavenly gift sent directly to me by the gods. I savored every last bite, for the rest of my adventure, my “meals” were protein bars—very exciting, I know.
After our home base was secured, we walked another ten minutes to the waterfall. Although short, this little hike tapped into our inner ninjas. Closely lined bushes on either side of the path mimicked the feeling of being enclosed in a tight hallway, one that was adorned in thorns, and we had to be quick to dodge all the outstretched vegetation intending to stop us. However, once out of the bushes, it was a straight shot to the waterfall.
The waterfall is not directly across from the path; we had to climb down to get to it. Before doing so, however, we stopped to stare, admiring the massive beauty of the waterfall. Water poured over the cliff and dropped down into the continuously moving creek below. We absorbed the moment with all of our senses, and then climbed down to hop in: The water was cold and clear, flowing at a steady pace. It was hard for me to swim anywhere in the main pool, though. The waterfall was pushing gallons of water in one direction, which created a constant current, too strong for my small and tired body. After a while, we adventured to a calmer pool that had a large cave, which—regretfully—remains unexplored by me.
We spent a significant chunk of our time in that pool, swimming, laughing, and attempting to capture a decent underwater photograph. After a while though, the cold water lowered our body temperatures permanently, and we were both shivering. To warm up, I bear-hugged a large boulder and Bill sat out in the sun. I eventually joined him and we became very tired; it wasn’t even noon, but our day started well before the sun. We walked back to our humble abode and slept for a solid two hours. I woke up naturally and, well, Bill woke up because—after I caught him stirring—I just started talking. That’s the kind of person I am.
With my kind encouragement, Bill and I headed back to the waterfall for another swim. Before venturing further down the creek, Bill decided to jump off the famous Fossil Creek cliff and into the clear waters below. He tried to reason with me to do so as well, but I’m not about that life, so I met him at the bottom and we walked on to a new hang out. At this new spot, we swam in silence and admired the beauty of nature. I sat near a small fall to watch the water pour effortlessly over the rocks. As I sat, watching the water, I pondered something insightful: Everything in nature is continuously moving and always changing, just like ourselves. Nothing ever stops. Our minds may be able to provide the illusion that time has stopped, but everything around us—including the natural and universal world—is always moving. Time is an idea, created by us to organize our lives, while everything else in this world keeps flowing on. Learning to “go with the flow” is just one of many lessons Mother Nature has to give us, as long as we listen.
“No man ever steps into the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” ― Heraclitus
Eventually, I noticed heavy clouds rolling in. After catching Bill’s attention, I pointed up towards them and he gave me an affirming nod. After a few more moments, we swam together so we could hear each other’s voices again. We agreed to return to our tent to avoid the chill the rain would bring. Out of the water, we dried off and balanced on some rocks. Bill’s a bit better at it than me, but that’s okay.
We got back to our tent sometime after four and stayed put for the rest of the night. Around five, the storm rolled directly overhead. At first there was a soft rain, but the downpour quickly followed. The drops of water hit our tent, sounding like someone just spilled tacs all over a tile floor. Thunder soon followed, and it made one hell of an entrance. Each time it roared, the sound was abysmal, penetrating the air surrounding our tent. After a while—I’m not sure when—we drifted to sleep and, other than a short fuss in the middle of the night, we slept soundly.
Ending of the Adventure… Day 2
In the morning, after our minds deciphered dreams from realities, we fed our stomachs: three protein bars for me and freeze-dried granola and milk for Bill, without a spoon, might I add—very talented. We walked back down to the waterfall to give a formal goodbye. Bill jumped off the cliff again and I watched the water again. It was flowing just as steady as it was the night before. Once we both felt ready, we walked back to our old territory, put on our packs, and hiked back to the car.
Just as expected, the hike out took much more effort than the hike in. Bill walked in front and kept us at a steady pace, taking only a few breaks. We managed to climb that baby in just under two hours. That’s an accomplishment, for sure. Our muscles spoke loudly, but our mouths remained shut, leaving me with plenty of space to turn thoughts over in my mind. One thought that passed brought me back to a moment in 2010, after I was discharged from the hospital and working on rebuilding my muscles…
I stood outside in Ashley’s backyard. The air was cool and her window was open. She was on her bed, just on the other side of the window. I paced back and forth across a small patch of grass. Suddenly, for no conscious reason, I stopped walking and stood steady. After a pause, I bent my knees and pushed up through my legs, using all the power I had. I sprung up from the ground, only a few inches. A smile swept across my face. It was the first time I had jumped since I was sick. I called out, “Ashley! I just jumped!” And then I jumped a few more times. She cheered with me from the other side of the window, as she knew as much as me how huge of an accomplishment this tiny hop was.
Silly, right? In 2010, an accomplishment was hopping just inches off the ground, but five years later, an accomplishment is hiking several miles uphill, without much shade, and under two hours. It just goes to show: It’s all in our minds.
Our minds are our biggest limitations, but when we free ourselves from these self-imposed rules we can accomplish just about anything. In 2010, I refused to live the rest of my life confined to a wheelchair, so I walked again. In 2015, I decided I wanted to experience Fossil Creek, so I walked there. What I’m trying to say is, do not doubt yourself. A challenge is merely a test of your mind’s own strength. Challenges are usually paired with feelings of fear and frustration, and sometimes they appear unattainable. However, challenges that are overcome leave the warrior feeling confident, strong, and grateful.
I’d like to end this post with a moment of gratitude. Please take a moment today to close your eyes and appreciate something you admire about yourself, something that you often take for granted. When I was young(er), I took my physical strength for granted. Now, after working hard to get it back, I appreciate every moment I get to use my legs as a means of transportation. You might be grateful for your legs too, but it may also be your smile that lights up any room, your quick-thinking mind that pulls you out of disorganized situations, or your strength that enables you to bounce back from dark situations… Whatever it may be, take a moment to appreciate all that you are.
Thank you for reading.
* This photo was taken by Bill. He does serious photography too. You can look at it here.