Did I ever get lost? When I think of that question my mind immediately goes to our family hike to Kermsuh Lake (pronounced "Kermish" according to my Dad). I wasn't really lost - by no small miracle - but I felt very lost. Dad and the rest of the family were the ones that were lost.
In true Wilcox fashion, the entire family (from Craig age 14ish down to Rachelle age 5) set out from the trailhead in the late afternoon ready to tackle an 8 mile hike. Kermsuh is a high Uinta lake. I remember my pack feeling quite heavy. We hiked for a mile or two, and as I recall Mom sprained her ankle badly and had a hard time walking, and Rachelle's 5 year old legs didn't cover a lot of ground. So the natural thing to do was to split up, of course. So Dad loads most of the gear into mine and Craig's backpacks and tells us to head out in front, try to make it to the lake in daylight and set up camp for the rest of the family. No map, no compass, no GPS, no radios. Hmmm.... So we set off - a 14 and an 11 year old with the majority of the gear going it alone. I remember hiking behind Craig most of the time with a lump in my throat, on the verge of tears. After several hours of hiking alone with Craig, and being well beyond earshot of them despite loud frightened calling, I remember wondering to myself many times if I'd ever see my family again. How many stories have you heard of boy scouts getting lost in the Uintas and waking up dead? It's only by the grace of God that Craig and I navigated our way along the trail, making correct turns at forks in the trail, crossing long meadows by following cairns, and somehow figuring that the lake we eventually came upon was actually Kermsuh. It could have been any lake really. Who knew how many lakes there were in the neighborhood? We had no map. Anyway, determined that we were actually at the right lake we set up our tents just as it started to rain at dusk. We sat in the dark tent in a rainstorm for what seemed like hours, and again I was convinced that I'd never see my family again. We said prayers and I cried to myself, trying to not let Craig know of my inner terror. Eventually we heard Dad's voice outside the tent. He'd somehow found us in the wet dark, holding his patented candle lantern, which was as bright as a small flock of fireflies. "Nobody uses flashlights anymore. It's all candle lanterns nowadays," he used to say. So Dad got a few supplies (notably sleeping bags for the others who he ditched a few miles down the trail in a tent with no bags) and headed back. Having been found by Dad I was relieved enough to fall asleep. The next morning Craig and I hiked a surprising distance back down the trail until we found Mom, Dad, Brandon and Rachelle, and helped them make it up to the lake.
Once finally at the lake, my memories of that outing are some of the best of my youth. We camped for a few days, and we caught a lot of fish. Near camp their was a small inlet brook running down a short slope into the lake. Brandon and I dammed up the brook and created about a 3x3 foot wide and 1 foot deep pond. Each time we'd catch a trout we'd bring it to the small pond alive and release it. As I remember we had at one point 15 fish in that little pond. When we needed to eat we'd go catch one with our hand and put it in the fire. We had a great time. And the hike out must have been uneventful because I don't remember anything about it. I do remember the deep blue bruise on Mom's ghost-white leg going all the up the side to nearly her knee.
Good times. Fear, a sense of hopeless doom, lots of fish, and fun. The trip to "Kermish" is one of my favorite family memories growing up.