Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Wild, Wild West!!

Saturday morning was our last full day in the West; Sunday we would start our journey to Missouri to visit my parents, siblings, and cousins for a week of Nanny Camp.

I have personally always preferred God’s creations that involved green forests and water- not the dessert.
Our dear friends and their families in Las Vegas and in St. George, UT opened my eyes to some of the greatest of God’s creations… even in the dessert!

We drove past beautiful Red Rock and hiked between giant rocks.  Jordan mounted one rock exclaiming that he had now stood on the biggest rock of his life.  Slightly farther up the trail, he mounted a different rock, corrected himself, and shouted, “NOW, I’m standing on the biggest rock of my life.”  Then he rushed ahead of the rest of us and gave me a heart attack as he scaled the tallest tree around in a matter of seconds.

 I felt overjoyed that these boys were fulfilling their deep yearnings to be one with nature.  Like a pack of wolves, they hiked with their buddies as high as they could.  Both my friend and I agreed that conquering and exploring nature was a much better way to fulfill those innate needs for adventure rather seeking the things of the world.

This was a part of Las Vegas that so many others don’t get an opportunity to ever experience…   my heart filled with gratitude for the beautiful way we had started off our morning with our dear friends.  What great company!

After our beautiful hike in the dessert and the red rock mountains, we drove 2 hours to St.George, UT to visit some other long- time friends of ours and their children.  Last time we visited them, our friend took us on his mules for a moonlight ride.  It sounds romantic, right?  It was more adventurous than romantic, but we LOVED it!  It was EXCITING!  He assured us the mules were great mountain climbers as we walked along edges of cliffs to reach the ridge above the city of St. George.  Talk about trust!

We told the kids they might ride the mules and horses for a little bit when we arrived at our friend’s house.  I guess they didn’t realize exactly whose house we were going to until we drove into the driveway…

They all screamed in unison as if they were about to explode.  “We know this house!!  We’re going here? Hooray!!”  They walked right into the front door, through the house, and straight out the back door to the animals.  THEY- WERE- IN- HEAVEN!! 

Our great friend then suggested that all the kids (except for baby Jayden) ride the horses/mules up on the ridge overlooking St.George.  We readily and excitedly agreed thinking surely this ride would be more mild since our children were going along.  Hehe… Not quite!

These were not horses and mules that are trained to walk in a boring straight line through a pre-determined trail.  This experience promised to be the real deal.   A couple of them had even been born in the wild!

Five year old Mariah had never ridden a horse or a mule besides those that walk in circles at the fair, so we planned on putting her on a mule with either me or Abe.  While we waited for the other mules and horses to be ready, one of our friends gave brief instructions on how to turn and stop a mule, and then she hoisted Mariah up onto Mini Pearl. 

Mariah did everything she was told and rode off like a champ.  That mule knew Mariah was in charge and did everything Mariah told her to do!  We quickly realized that Mariah was going on her own mule; she rode with more confidence than any of us.  Mini Pearl knew that little Mariah had dominated her.

After all the animals were saddled up and ready to go, we commenced on our journey!!

 Jackson said, “Wow!  It’s not every day we get to ride horses and mules in the mountains!”  What an understatement!  Jordan had been begging for the past 3 years to ride a horse.  That’s all he wanted to do for his birthday, but I could never find a place where we could all ride, afford, and truly have an experience like this one.  What a blessing on MANY levels.

Jordan’s giant mule began to trot ahead of the rest.  Fear rushed through me wondering if he was going to know how to handle his mule at this faster pace on a more rugged terrain.  As his giggle echoed through the air, my concern was quickly resolved.  ALL the children were in complete bliss. 

We rode amidst the most beautiful scenery

Every direction we turned, colorful mountains painted the horizon.   I breathed deeply taking in the miracle of this entire experience.   I couldn’t believe that this was actually happening to us… our children rode these beautiful creatures of God with the greatest confidence as if they had been riding for years.   They couldn’t stop talking about how happy they were. 

I spoke to the boys about all that they had seen in Vegas- which was a lot- the men walking in wings and adult diapers gave us a good laugh.  We all LOVED our time in the city of Las Vegas.

The Blue Man Group was definitely a highlight, but no words could adequately describe the energy, joy, and peace that permeated their souls and shone from their eyes as they lived this beautiful day with God’s creations.  I prayed that they would always recognize these things of a spiritual nature.

Our friend/ guide explained that any truly great experience required 3 things:

Good company:  We were with loyal, wonderful friends and forever family- it doesn’t get much better than that!
Good scenery:  Whether riding as a mule-skinner, cowboy, or cowgirl, this scenery couldn’t have been more ideal.
Good Adventure:  Well… we thought we had already experienced good adventure, but our friend had more in store for us!!

He gathered all of us together and explained that we would need to ride in a single file line, stay very calm, lean back, and trust our mule/horse as we went through a very special area that he called the “shoot.”

The “shoot” was an area of slippery rocks that led us back down the ridge that was only wide enough for one horse… that means it was a very narrow passageway leading to a very steep drop.  I immediately began to pray as we approached this area. 

My horse had been kicking anyone else that even came close to her, and Abe’s horse had  been prancing around and hopping between rocks making it very difficult for Abe to hold on to Juliana.  I felt very nervous about the “Shoot.”  Just as we entered the passageway with steep cliff-like edges, Mariah’s mule pulled ahead of our friend’s mule and led the way!! 

I was REALLY not comfortable with my 5 year old leading all of us scaredy cats down the mountain!  Our friend allowed it because he knew the ability of the mule and could see the confidence in Mariah.  I prayed so hard and had to put all my trust in our guide/friend.  My horse was extra cautious in the descent- her hoof stuttered around for a moment and made several, slippery, nerve-racking tries before each step. (Needless to say I couldn't take pictures of the shoot or any other descent... I was too busy trusting my horse!! :-) )

After we successfully descended, Abe’s mule decided to do an extra wild dance.  Juliana flopped up and down in one arm while he calmed his horse with his other hand.  I knew how strong Abe’s arms were, but I still prayed with all that I had as I watched the dancing horse!

I knew Abe would have sacrificed his own body before he would drop Juliana, but the relief in my soul was tremendous when Abe handed our little Juliana off to our friend to hold her on his mule for the rest of the way.  Juliana didn’t even know him very well, but she gladly reached for his arms.  Meanwhile, Abe did some serious heart-to-heart talking to his mule. 

“What now?  What you got?  Oh I got you now.  I know your game.  I got this!”

I giggled the rest of the way home listening to Abe talk smack to his mule… what was even more shocking is that his mule listened and calmed down!! 

The children continued to ride even longer once we arrived home.  They ran their horses and mules late into the night.  These were memories and experiences that couldn’t be matched by anything the world creates. 

Our hearts are forever filled with gratitude to this beautiful family. 

They open their arms, live fully, and love freely.  What great company!!  Our friend writes in his blog about his grand mule adventures at http://flyingimules.blogspot.com

The next day, we left for the second portion of our trip… to Nanny Camp.

We began our journey from Las Vegas to Missouri with a nail in our tire which gave us a very late start.  After fixing the tire, we punched our destination into our GPS and were surprised to see it leading us the southern route of the United States to Missouri.  Abe commented that he hadn’t gone this route in years; I hadn’t either.

After driving several hours, we checked the route and realized that THE GRAND CANYON was only an hour and a half off the road.   Several months ago we had planned on spending a day of our Vegas trip traveling to The Grand Canyon.  We ran out of time because we decided we would rather spend the day with our dear friends in St. George instead. 

We couldn’t believe that we had arrived so close toTthe Grand Canyon by mistake!!  For a second we debated if we had time to add 3 extra hours onto our already long journey.

We would be sleeping in our car for the night, and we wanted to go as far as we could.   Abe and I called out to the kids: “Who wants to see the Grand Canyon as the sun sets?” 

Cheers erupted of course. 

We arrived at The Grand Canyon just as the sun was setting.  We had exactly one full hour to absorb one of this Earth’s greatest wonders.  Could this have been any more perfect?  I don’t think so! 

Someday we will return to The Grand Canyon and hike it, but this brief visit with its most perfect timing was the bow on top of an already perfectly wrapped weekend/gift.
I believe that God gives us opportunities to partake of His most perfect gifts more often than we realize, but we must be willing to trust God in order to accept the fullness of His gifts that would create some of the greatest miracles in our lives.

God Bless the Wild, Wild West!!!