20 November 2016

Rappelling for Kolby's 13th Birthday

We wanted to do something special for Kolby's 13th birthday party, something a little more exciting than our standard pool party.  So we decided to take Kolby and 3 friends rappelling.  We asked my dad if he would take us -- he has all the equipment and know-how, and he has taught hundreds of kids (and adults) how to rappel over the years.  And we found 3 friends who were up for it (I was pleasantly surprised it wasn't a lot harder to find some of his friends who were not only in town the weekend before Thanksgiving and available all day long, but who's parents were also willing to let them try out something new like this -- it must mean Kolby has made a good choice of friends).  :)

Lana, Jack, Chance, & Kolby

So we all piled in the car and headed out to Anza Borrego Desert yesterday morning, a 2 hour drive from our house.  We went to the Pictograph Trail, which leads out to Smuggler's Canyon.  We hiked in a little way past the pictographs and found some good rocks for the kids to learn on.  Kolby learned how to rappel last summer, but none of his friends had really done it before.  They were a little nervous, but were all good sports and gave it a try.  After mastering the hardest part (getting yourself to take those first few steps over the edge) and getting in a few practice runs on the smaller rocks, we headed down into to the canyon.

Most hikers on this trail walk out to the canyon, and stop to see the beautiful views of the surrounding valley from the top of a long-dry waterfall, atop a drop of about 50 or 60 feet.  But we didn't stop there.  That's where we hooked up all the ropes and got ready to rappel off the edge.  Kolby went first, and he rappelled like a pro.  Then Jack and Chance each took turns.  You could tell by the looks on their faces that they were scared -- going over the edge is always the worst part -- but they did it, and then realized how fun it is after you get over the edge, even pushing off the rock a bit on the way down to bounce a little as they descended to the canyon floor.

Lana was unsure, and kind of psyched herself out.  We weren't sure if she was going to do it, but after some convincing, she finally decided to give it a try.  Her dad was on belay down bellow, and my dad talked her through getting over the edge.  (Michael, and Lana's dad Steve, and I were all saying silent prayers that she would give it a try, because we really wanted it to be a positive experience for her).  And she did it!  Once she got down, and said she liked it and she was ready to do it again and again.

The adults got in a little rappelling too, which was a lot of fun.  And we got to do a little free climbing around on the rock walls.  It was beautiful weather, and late in the afternoon everyone was still excited to get in one last rappel before we had to leave.  As we packed up the ropes, my dad told all the kids, "Over the next 10 years you will have experiences that are scary and that you think you can't do, but you can think back on this and remember that you can do scary things, and you can even have fun doing them, and give them a try.  This is about more than just rappelling, it teaches you something about yourself that's important for the rest of your life."

We hiked the last leg of the trail back to the car in the dark (I'm glad I decided to leave a couple head lamps in our bags, just in case).  Everyone was exhausted after a fun, long day.  We stopped at Grenadine, our favorite Lebanese restaurant, on the way home for dinner, then all went home to sleep after a good, long day.  What a fun experience!

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