Last fall, we went on our biannual camping trip. On this trip we went hiking with a group of friends. During most of our camping trips we always do a hike of sorts and Ayal often stays at the campsite because we know it will most likely be challenging for him.
It was a group decision to attempt a very challenging and strenuous hike; one of the top 12 picks of Israel's greatest hikes. The Nahal Yehudiya (beautifully nestled in the Golan Heights). I vaguely remember the intensity of the hike from a summer trip when I was 16. For some reason, Ayal decided to join for the first section. The trail was rocky, but overall a relatively flat terrain. I agreed to this decision.
The first 30 minutes were uneventful. He managed to walk on his own, however, he needed my assistance from time to time to maneuver around the baseball-to-volleyball-sized rocks. At this point, our children and most of the people in our group were further ahead and not in our sight. We pushed on until we arrived a crossroads; to the right, a path down to a large pool and water fall, straight ahead, the trail continued down to a river. The continuation of the trail was longer, however, we knew the river would have been more exciting. It meant floating in water - What could be more fun and adventurous than that?
Two men passed us and I asked approximately how long it would take to hike down to the river. There answer seemed very straight forward, 10-15 minutes maximum. I calculated that would take us about 40 minutes if I helped Ayal down slowly. Then, we could float down the river. It was a bit risky, however, we had never attempted a hike with this level of difficulty since before his stroke. We decided to continue.
This is the part where you realize you should have listened to your mother hovering over you and waving her finger while yelling, "don't do this, don't do this... you'll regret it later on"!
The river. Impossible. The water was low and was filled with bulging algae-covered rocks. It was a challenging enough attempt for a fit, non-disabled individual, let alone someone with the use of one hand and one stable leg. He was able to walk on both legs but this required an immense amount of concentration when not using his electronic Bioness leg brace. The trek along the river was arduous, stressful, nerve-racking, and exhausting. Each rock was meticulously climbed or slid over. Put your left foot here. Hold on to this vine with your left hand. Swing your right leg over the right side of this rock. Slowly release the vine from your grasp as you slide down the next rock. Balance your weight with your left hand on my right shoulder. This game of multi-step directions continued for two hours.
In addition spewing out directions, which may or may not be successfully executed, it is of utmost importance that you, as the leader of the expedition, try it first. However, if you die, at least your partner will see what didn't work. The remainder of the hike continued in this fashion. We were focused. If any hand or leg wasn't properly placed and planted we would have fallen. The only words that were spoken were my instructions and his comments, "Wait. No. Yes. Ready." There were moments when I contemplated who would adopt our children and I envisioned what the rest of their lives would look like without us. I prayed..... a lot. We did not hike the full 8 km and we did not make it down to the waterfalls.
When I reflect on our experience that day I know it was a stupid decision. We could have died (this is not an exaggeration). If we could do it all over again, I would not. Sometimes, we need to make stupid decisions in life in order to become more responsible individuals. We can learn from our mistakes and we can share our experiences and educate others in this process to help them make educated decisions. I know what my limits are and I certainly know what Ayal is physical capable of.
However, I bet this is the first time in history, the Nahal Yehudiya trail has had a stroke and CVA survivor trek its path. It is true.....anything is possible.
We finished in 5 hours.