Getting Lost in Ladder Canyon...On Expectations vs. Reality & Proper Preparation

A few days ago I was scrolling instagram & saw some pictures of a friend who took her family on a hike through this amazing slot canyon in Southern California. I said to myself, "Hey! We're in Southern California. We should go!" 

So 2 days later, we went. I was stoked. I've never been hiking through a slot canyon before but have always wanted to.

We woke up, ate breakfast, got in the car & drove 2 hours to Ladder Canyon. What was supposed to be a 5.3 mile hike ended up being over a 8 mile hike where we got lost, turned around, turned around again, then made it back to the car right as it became pitch black. We were hiking for just over 6 hours & those with 8, 10 & 12 year old kids know is not always the most fun way for kids that age to spend their days.

We had cell service for a tiny bit and notified our friend who then notified the Park Rangers who we found out later in the evening were really close to sending out a search party for us. Note: Thanks to Apple's Find My Friends app, my buddy could track us whenever we had a tiny bit of roaming coverage. So he would screen shot our trek & pass it on to the park rangers.

I could go on and on about how worried I was, how tired the kids were, how I lost my patience & broke down into a screaming, crying rage because I know how cold it gets out in the desert in the evening. I could write about those things, because they're all true. But there were other important life lessons that jumped out and smacked me in the face.

1. Expectations vs. Reality: I wanted to see the slot canyons. I did a tiny bit of googling & found there were parts of the trail that were super difficult, so we wanted to avoid those. I also saw there was a pretty waterfall somewhere on the trail that the kids would enjoy. Slot canyons & waterfall. That was my expectation. Once I realized we were lost & hadn't found either the slots or the waterfall, I was pretty disappointed. The disappointment led to me losing my patience & yelling, both to the heavens & at my family. My expectations didn't meet my reality & I was not handling it well. After stomping around for a good 30 minutes (all in the wrong directions, I might add) I calmed down & apologized for my behavior & realized that my family's safety and finding the car was more important than me seeing some slot canyons and a waterfall. 

2. Proper Preparations: I should've done more research. I should've learned my lesson as we also got lost in the Redwoods a few years ago. (Maybe the lesson here is don't let me lead any hikes?) I should've downloaded the maps of the trail and the terrain to my phone so we could follow along with where we were hiking. Luckily, I lugged a TON of water and snacks in with me, so we were good on that part. 

3. How positive attitudes help in stressful situations: Max, our 12 year old, was especially negative. Lia, our 8 year old, was too for most of the first part of the hike. Once we got lost (and after my tantrum) she was the voice of reason saying things like, "Guys, if we all have positive attitudes this will be a lot better." Which I'm pretty sure she heard my wife say the same thing at least 279 times earlier in the hike. Either way, she was right. We were lost. We had to get to the car. Having a bad attitude didn't change that scenario or make anything better.

I feel life wanted to give me some reminders of lessons that I needed to hear right now. I needed the reminder to check my expectations at the door. I needed a reminder that right now I'm in a bit of a hold phase of life, and that I'm preparing for something major, even if I don't know what that is yet (Don't worry, Hello Happiness isn't going away). And finally, I needed to be reminded that staying positive is always a good thing.

This morning, we're already looking back on yesterday with a laugh (at least I am) & I can't wait until we go back on another adventure that won't turn out exactly the way we planned.  

Finally, here's a picture of our family near the end of the hike once we knew we were back on the right trail heading to the car. Look how happy & not tired we look!

Josh Solar

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