Aug 25, 2011

Lessons Learned...The Hard Way

"Be Prepared."  I've heard this motto about a zillion times in my life.  My brother is an Eagle Scout and my Mom was a girl scout leader for many years.  The motto whenever going out on a hike, a campout, an adventure, or really anything in life was "Be Prepared." 

My Mom is ALWAYS prepared for anything and everything.  Mom always had the bandaid, the bugspray, the sunscreen, the chains for the car tires in snow, a shovel, a first aid kit, jumper cables, matches, enough water, extra snacks, a jacket and blankets if we were driving in the winter, Benedryl, Asprin, Ibuprofen, ice packs.  You name it, she had it.  Just. In. Case. 

Because you NEVER know what life is going to throw at you, especially when dealing with things in nature.  It's better to be prepared than to be naive.  And we were very naive yesterday.  We overestimated our abilities and underestimated nature's power.

The plan for the day was a hike to Concord Falls.  Ten of us SO's piled into two cars and took the drive up the island to Tempe. We arrived at our destination with lots of energy and enthusiasm, ready to take on the world.  We were offered a guide, but we didn't take it.

Lesson #1 of the day: If you have the option of a guide, take it.

The hike up to the waterfall was perfect.  A little muddy, a little buggy, and a little hot, but we weren't afraid to get down and dirty.

Remember this river crossing.

Overall, the hike up was beautiful.  And I loved adventuring through the Grenadian jungle with so many of my close friends.

After about 45 minutes of traipsing through the muck and the mud, we made it to our destination,  Fountainbleau Falls.  And boy were we ready to cool off in some refreshing water.
Just as we all jumped into the water, it began to rain.  And rain here in Grenada isn't normal rain, it's a downpour.  As the minutes passed and the rain continued, I remember looking to my friends Kelsey and Cat and saying "Are we in danger of a flash flood?"  It rained hard for at least 15-20 minutes and unfortunately we didn't leave the falls for at least 30-40 minutes.

Lesson #2 of the day: When the weather changes, turn around and head back.  Immediately.

The trail back had become less of a trail, and more of a stream of water.  Our legs were ankle deep in water and mud and it was extremely slippery.  We had crossed over the river on the hike up at least 5-6 times and the first time we came to a crossing on the way back, it was obvious that the water level had risen and the rapids had increased.  We made the first two crossings with only moderate difficulty, but by the time we got to the third crossing, the one pictured at the top, we were in for a big surprise.  Where the water had been only shin deep the first time, it was now waist deep and it had widened.  The rocks initially used as stepping stones were completely covered, and the water was now coming down full of rapids and full of force. 

The girls at the front began to try and wade across by linking arms and creating a chain and a couple made it across successfully, but the current was just too strong.  Our friend Cat's feet were swept out from under her and in an instant, she was being carried down the river.  Luckily, Kelsey reacted on instinct and made a grab at her backpack.  She was able to pull Cat up, with the help of a couple of other girls.  Cat is thankfully okay, but her fall was enough to make us all realize that we just couldn't safely get anyone else across without some help.  We were in trouble.

Lesson #3 of the day:  Never underestimate the forcefullness of a raging river.

The girls that had made it across were sent to try and find help, while the rest of us contemplated other alternative ways to get across.  Thankfully, God sent us some guardian angels in the form of the Grenadian men that had offered themselves as guides initially.  They had gotten worried about us as the rain started to come down and decided to come looking for us. 

These men were able to help us across the raging water, but the trouble wasn't over.  There were still two more spots where we were supposed to cross.  The men decided it wasn't worth the risk and took us on a machete carved trail through the jungle.  It wasn't easy, and it was still scary since we were on an edge with the rushing river below us, clinging to trees, vines, and roots.  But we all made it back with only minor cuts and scrapes. 

I am so thankful that no one was seriously injured and that Cat is okay.  It was scary for all of us, but most of all for her.  But Cat was such a trooper through it all.

When we started the hike, we didn't know how the day would end up playing out, but we definitely could have been more prepared for it.  We were offered a guide and we didn't take it.  My intuition told me when it started raining that we should head back, and yet I didn't act on it.  The river was much higher and much faster than we thought it was when the girls first entered the water and in hindsight, we shouldn't have entered it so blindly.

Consider these lessons learned for the future. 


  1. Stephanie,

    I know which part you get from me. Sounds like something I might do. I'm glad you're all ok and that you lived to tell the tale. You just never know. I'm glad God was taking care of you. Dad

  2. Are there poisonous snakes in Grenada? Maybe you had better add a "snake bite kit" to your list of essentials, just in case! So glad everyone is physically okay and hoping the emotional scars heal quickly.

    Keep taking care of each other.


  3. Thanks for this Stephanie - This was a really great, informative post and I think you captured what happened really well. Your intuition was definitely spot on, and we're all very lucky. I think naive is a also a much better word - I was frustrated when I wrote my post and told everyone not to be stupid, which really isn't really a nice word to use - so I have now changed it to naive --- because that's exactly what we were. I think all of us are smart, educated women who were really caught off guard and weren't trained to deal with the situation. I also should have listened to my intuition. As soon as I got in that crossing, I was looking at yall saying - No way, no way, no way but I saw people who I now realize were much stronger than I am do it and so I tried it anyway and shouldn't have. All in all, many lessons learned which you captured well in this post. Thanks girl.