The Day We Almost Died

The following is based on actual events…

I’ve always had a strong relationship with nature. Once a year if I’m lucky enough to travel, I try to go to a place where I can spend a day or two in the great outdoors. If I’m really lucky, nothing goes wrong and everyone makes it back in one piece. This story is about how everything went wrong and almost cost me my life and my friends Steven and Suren.

Our story begins at Sequoia National Park, 404,064 acres of remote forests and mountains. They’re also known as “A Land of Giants”, because as you may have already guessed they have some BIG ASS sequoia trees.

The following takes place between 12:00 pm and 12:30 pm.

We drove about 5 hours in our white, Chrysler sedan from Los Angeles to the secluded trailhead. The parking lot was an empty plot of dirt with no distinct signs of human life except for an aged wooden fence. Insects would whiz by your head in the smoky, saturated air. As annoying as it was to constantly be swatting them away, there was no place I’d rather be.

The following takes place between 12:30 pm and 1:30 pm.

We were about an hour into the hike when we stopped to take a water break. There were a pile of thick, long branches that people left behind for others to use as hiking sticks. We each grabbed our own and gave it a name. I called mine “Gandalf”, it was as tall as me and enveloped in a smooth, white husk. The trail was pretty intermediate, about 5 miles long and we had already trekked 2 miles in. With 5–6 hours of sunlight, it was time to venture off the trail to do some real exploring.

The following takes place between 1:30 pm and 4:00 pm.

Dear reader, here’s some advice. If you’re not familiar with the park or the trail you’re hiking on, avoid going off trail. In fact, NEVER go off trail in a 404,064 acre national park unless you or someone you’re with knows what they’re doing. We were so lost we literally went around in a circle 3 times like those kids in the blair witch project. But, it wasn’t all bad, in fact here were some pros and cons in our situation.

Pros

  • Supplies to last for a while
  • A compass and flashlights
  • Fresh mountain air and a real wilderness adventure

Cons

  • No trail markers
  • We were getting attacked by killer bees
  • There was no one around for miles
The following takes place between 4:00 pm and 4:30 pm.

We wandered around for hours searching for the trail until we eventually came across a huge clearing of burnt down forest. It was a surreal moment to be seeing huge mounds of grey ash and dead trees. As we were wading through the debris we wondered if it was a deliberate controlled burning or an unruly California forest fire. It was an unsettling feeling walking through the dying forest looking death in the face. Then we came across a clearing, a single sequoia tree stood majestically among the rubble. It was a beautifully haunting figure, maybe it was a sign from a divine entity. And it must have been because moments after I took this photograph, I unwittingly stepped into a rotten pile of shit.

The following takes place between 4:30 pm and 6:00 pm.

We determined it was horse shit, so we started looking for signs of a horse trail. We followed what looked like to be a trail to an outlook of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The only thing missing from this picturesque moment would’ve been a bald eagle flying through the sky.

The following takes place between 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm.

We found our trail and started making our way back to the parking lot we encountered a gnarly looking rock formation and I immediately saw an amazing photo opportunity, I Steve stand on the rocks, here are the results.

The following takes place between 7:00 pm and 7:30 pm.

We were back in the parking lot as the sun was setting. The sky had turned pink and blue like cotton candy while everything else just had a weird glow to it. We were tired, hungry, and ready to leave this place, but we didn’t. We sat in silence on some boulders, taking in that one last breath of fresh air. Then something amazing happened as a beam of sunlight broke through a cluster of trees, a beam so bright it might as well have been another sign from the universe. It’s moments like these that inspire me to take photographs. I love the great outdoors but I can’t take them home with me to New York City. So I capture a fleeting moment to bring me back to a time and place when everything was as perfect as nature intended.


This story is brought to you by National Park Week, April 16–24! Celebrate Earth Week with free entrance to all national parks!
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