Family vacation spirals out of control

By Paris Walther | Published Saturday, August 3, 2013

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My family and I went to the top of a mountain in Colorado.

I can’t help but laugh when I say “mountain.” Sure, it was tall, but we road an airtram to get there and to be honest, I don’t even know the name of it or if it has a name. My mountain man skills are pitiful.

Paris Walther

Paris Walther

There is a new reality TV show that I’ve been watching called “Naked and Afraid.” For those not familiar, a man and a woman are dropped off in unfamiliar wild territory and challenged to survive 21 days without assistance or clothing.

I quickly decided that if I were put on that show, I would die, not from a wild bear attack but from my own sheer ignorance. I’m sure that if it came down to it, I would mistake poisonous berries for raspberries. I might drink the water that “seemed OK” or take a bath in a whirlpool. The possibilities are truly endless for my naivete.

The airtram didn’t quite take us to the top of the mountain, but at the viewing and rest area, there was an opportunity to continue on a trail to the summit.

Being the mountain aficionado that I am, I was wearing flip flops and brought a cross-body bag, just in case I needed my driver’s license and a few dollars at the top I guess. I looked ridiculous, but I was determined to go, so I figured that counted for something. My family and I climbed the gravel trail, stopping to catch our breath as the air became thinner. My feet ached as each rock stabbed me through my flimsy shoes. The bag that I carried banged against my leg with each step that I took.

It was a pathetic struggle.

But as we neared the top, the air tasted clean, and the terrain was beautiful. Very carefully, I was able to climb a rock to see a lot of earth. I could go on about the majestic mountain and the beauty of the great outdoors, but my appreciation was limited since I was trying to catch my breath the entire time.

On the way down, my mom found several rocks laced with colorful mineral. Along with not being mountain men, my family is not famous for our gardening skills. Where we should plant flower beds, we put rocks. So as we came down the trail, my mom picked up different stones for our Texas rock garden.

When we got back to the airtram dock, a sign we hadn’t noticed earlier now jutted out of the earth condescendingly – DO NOT TAKE THE ROCKS. I guess we all read the sign at the same time because when we turned around to look at my mom, she was stuffing what she had in her pockets and hid a particularly large rock in her coat.

This is the woman that raised me.

We waited in line for the tram down, continuing to hound my mom about the “Rock Police” and “Mountain Jail” where she was sure to land. As we laughed and joked around, my sister suddenly stopped participating in the banter. It was as if something crossed over in her, and she suddenly started to fall.

Thankfully, my dad caught her and laid her down on the ground. Her face was pale, and her eyes were blank, trying to close. My family began to yell for help and run around like crazy people, trying to find someone to get us off the mountain.

“My sister just passed out! My sister is on the ground! Do you have oxygen?” I was panicking and asking the man running the tram, but he was surprisingly calm, maybe even a little put out.

“Give her some water, and we’ll put you on the next tram down,” he said, unsympathetically. “She’ll be fine.”

She came-to fully as we rode the tram down the mountain. We could tell that she was feeling weak, but we were just happy to have her awake and glad to be leaving.

My family may never be very good mountain men; we live in Decatur, Texas, after all. We may not hike a lot of trails or survive on slugs for fun, but what we are is a family.

We’ll climb a mountain if that’s what one of us wants to do. We stick together, and we will run around like headless chickens if one of us is in trouble. I like to think we are tight-knit and close.

And rock thieves.

We are also rock thieves.

Paris Walther is a Messenger intern.

One Response to “Family vacation spirals out of control”

  1. Cindy Berry says:

    Paris, I never get tired of reading your columns. They are raw and beautiful and funny — and so very true. Thank you for the ‘voice’ you exhibit through your writing that a journalism teacher could never teach!


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