It all started out innocently enough that chilly October morning nearly ten years ago. Steve and I decided to field test our new backpacks and other hiking gear in preparation for our hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon that would occur the next month. We selected a hike in southwestern Virginia called Rock Castle Gorge. We also decided to take the dogs along for this adventure.
Things quickly went wrong. We overslept. We got an even later start for the four-hour drive to the hike. After arriving around noon, we decided to eat our lunch. Worst of all? We didn’t talk to each other about our unease. Even though we’d been married for just over four years at that point, the importance of communication somehow escaped us that fateful day. Steve didn’t tell me that he thought we’d not have enough time. I worried about upsetting him by saying that we shouldn’t go. The long and short of it? Neither of us communicated our very real concerns.
The hike progressed and got tougher than we anticipated. From where we started, Rock Castle Gorge is a reverse climb where you start at the top, hike down, and climb out. We’d reached the halfway point at the bottom when Steve voiced what I’d been feeling.
“We’re not going to make it out by dark.”
Bad news. Despite field testing our gear, we’d packed for weight only. We had no tent, no sleeping bags, only a couple of fleeces, Gatorade and water for drink, and a bag of M&Ms for food by that point.
We were in trouble, especially since we’d be traversing a boulder field in darkness and with the dogs if we continued.
Steve made the call. We found a fire road that would lead us out to the highway. Then we’d have a seven-mile hike in the dark along the highway back to our car. Fortunately, we saw some vacation cabins and threw ourselves at the mercy of a kind lady who drove two very weary and freaked out hikers back to their car. Their dogs too.
After we got home and got rested, we talked and realized one thing. Sure, we’d talked, but we’d not communicated. Big difference. We’d gotten lucky on our ill-fated test hike. But what if that had happened while on the Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon? We could have quickly gotten into trouble, maybe even died since the Grand Canyon doesn’t forgive foolish errors.
Even ten years later, I still think about our misadventure and how a lack of communication can do incredible damage. How?
Lack of deep, honest communication is deadly. It can kill a marriage, a friendship, a church, a relationship between parent and child.
Communication sometimes can be very difficult, but in the end, it can make a relationship stronger if both parties are willing to listen, not react, and talk it through.
I’m glad to say that Steve and I learned our lesson before we made that descent into the Grand Canyon on a cold, clear November morning. We decided to communicate any concerns and worries we had. Did we succeed in our venture? We certainly did. And one thing I learned?
Talk is cheap, but good communication is priceless.
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