After the decision was made, I set on my little journey back through the Balconies Cave trail to retrieve the car. I was trying to beat the sun set so I had to semi-run/jog back. Once I got to the cave, there was no one. Dead silence with only the dripping sound of water echoing through the cave. Going up this cave wasn’t too hard, going down was the tricky part. With no other light source, all I had was my phone and it wasn’t too bright. What made it hard climbing down was holding my phone and trying to figure out where I wanted to step. This is when you que the horror movie music. I get a claustrophobic when I am in a dark space by myself so this was icing on the cake. As I was climbing down I admit I made some errors. What I thought would be a shortcut ended up being a ledge that actually opened up to a drop. A couple of more steps and I definitely would have fell and then a scenario from 127 Hours would have happened *cringe*. I actually kind of gave up trying to find different crevices to put my foot in so I ended up just kind of sliding down the rocks and putting my feet wherever felt stable.
Alas! Through the semi-panic attack and almost complete meltdown later, I see the light! Going through the caves took about thirty or so minutes of my time and I needed to hurry. The cold mountain chill and altitude was starting to make me exhausted which caused me to run/jog like a zombie coming out of the woods. It did not take me too long to get back to the car and when I did, I prayed to all the heavens the keys would work and not randomly fail on me. To my joy…it worked! The drive out of the park was exhausting and I was trying AGAIN to read the map the park ranger gave with where to exit.
The problem is, when you start driving into literally the middle of no where, I don’t think they really keep their signs up to date. The whole drive I had to only make four turns which somehow I still got lost? The GPS signal did not work out in the rural area and to my luck, there was a park ranger who was driving behind me. Don’t take the park rangers for granted! Through his help, I was able to make it to the West end of the park in exactly 2.5 hours. By this time, the mountainside got REALLY cold. I was thankful the park rangers allowed my family to stay at the visitor center and they hung out with them even though they were supposed to be done for the night.
The drive back to San Jose took about another 1.5 hours and we were all finally home! I have to say this was an exciting way to end my trip and it made me crave more of the unexpected. The adrenaline fuels me and makes me want to explore the next thing.
My time was up in California and now I had to return home to sunny Florida. Where will my next travel adventure be? Tune in to see where the wind takes this ballad next!
**TL;DR- Wanted a nice hike. Made to many amateur mistakes. Realized cooperation and understanding is important when in the middle of nowhere. Got lost. Almost fell into a dark pit. Got lost again. Found my peoples. Drove home satisfied.