I was blown away, when I first heard of this story about Teia McElroy. I just knew it needed to be shared with so many others. We all can learn from her personal story. So who better to tell it other then Teia McElroy herself.
Lost In The Wilderness – Teia McElroy
My name is Teia McElroy I am a 37-year-old Sipologist who loves nature and loves sharing my passion for the outdoors with my children. I have three kiddos whom I homeschool, an 11-year-old daughter, a 9-year-old son and a 5-year-old son. I currently live in Neosho, MO and enjoy hiking with my big kids. Wildcat Glades has been a favorite. My 5-year-old can’t handle the long hikes but loves coming along on the short easy hikes. We have recently developed an interest in hiking some of the local waterfalls and it is my mission to visit as many as possible with my kids. Here we are pictured at Natural Falls State Park in Oklahoma.
I saw my first water fall in Hocking Hills Ohio when I was 10-years-old, (pictured to the left) I was with my mom, dad and sister. It was a well-marked path until the path split. My dad and I went down one path and my sister and mom went down another path. This was one of the first times my mother got lost. This was in the days before cell phones so you can imagine how worried my dad was when his wife and daughter were missing for an hour. This should have been a warning sign of what it meant to go hiking with my mother.
Hiking with my mom was always an adventure. We were not the prepared hikers and did not usually have a plan. If we were out and about and there was a sign, we weren’t afraid to park the car and explore on foot. No matter what type of clothing or footwear we were wearing. All we needed to hike was to find a good walking stick. This was in the days before Camelbaks and rarely did we have bottled water.
When I was a teenager we moved to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, known as the U.P. It was in the beginning of August and my mom had found out somehow that there was a waterfall not far from where we lived. So, it was my turn to go exploring with my mom. We left the house sometime after lunch to go find Rock River Falls located in the Hiawatha National Forest. The words National Forest took on a new meaning to me after this eventful hike. Up until then hiking was a fun enjoyable leisure activity but on that August day my life was forever changed.
We were able to find the falls sign after following a map that was marked to the parking lot. The trail was not marked as well as the parking lot, but we were able to find the falls rather easily. It was a hot afternoon and we were so excited to be able to swim in the falls. It was a magical experience and beautiful falls. Up until today I only had a memory but thanks to the internet I was able to find a photo from it and it is just as magical as I recalled.
(Photo above, Photo credit from https://www.gowaterfalling.com/waterfalls/rockriver.shtml.
My mother did not like taking the same path twice. I remember her telling me that we should follow the creek back to the car because it must be a shorter hike. Being 13 I wasn’t about to argue with my mother, I was old enough to know it wouldn’t have mattered if I did. She had made up her mind. So, we started hiking along the river. It was a pleasant hike and it was so much fun enjoying the scenery. I don’t recall how far we made it until the path we were on got too overgrown to continue and we had to veer away from the river and started on what I now know was a deer trail. At some point I was so deep in mud my whole shoe came off and I was beginning to lose the excitement of this crazy exploration. However, in my mom’s world it was too late to turn back now. We were almost to our car. Or so she thought. After hiking for what must have been a few hours it was starting to get dark. At one point we thought we saw a house and we were relieved but the closer we got to it we realized it was just some rock formations.
A little reminder, my mom was not a prepared hiker. We went in with just the clothes on our backs. No water, no food, obviously no cell phone, and my mother who was a smoker had left her purse in the car so we didn’t even have a lighter. We were helplessly lost in the woods. By the time the sun set we realized we couldn’t hike any father. The terrain we were on had steep cliffs and rocks and such and we finally gave up because we couldn’t see anymore.
Alone in the woods and lost. It was the longest night of my life. We screamed for help, but no one responded except the coyotes in the distance. At one point in the night we heard what sounded like a mountain lion or bobcat not far up the cliff from us. Again, we began screaming, thankfully it never graced us with its presence. We did find a glow in the dark plant, so we took a handful and made a small pile a few feet away from us, so we knew where to go to the bathroom. The mosquitos were so terrible we took our bra’s off and wore them over our ears. It was a long painful night.
Sometime the next morning a sheriff named Tony found us. We heard him hollering in the distance and eventually he was able to find us. He could not get to us because we were so high up on a ravine. Luckily, we didn’t fall down it in the night. We did not realize how close we were to the edge. It was such a steep drop we had to sit on our butts and slide down to the Sherriff. It took a while for the Sheriff to get us back to the rest of the search party and when we got there no one had anything for us to eat or drink except an old bottle of mountain dew. It was a happy reunion and my dad was there to greet us as he had been searching all through the night to find us.
All this to say I have learned some very valuable lessons from hiking with my mother. When I was in my 20’s I joined the military and was stationed in Japan. In my free time I loved exploring the beautiful waterfalls of Japan, but I learned to stay on the path, wear proper clothing, and make sure to bring something to drink and eat.
I recently discovered the Joplin Outdoors Facebook page and have been loving all the posts of the beautiful waterfalls of the four-state area. I messaged them to ask some questions before embarking on an exploration to visit them. Kenneth has been so helpful in answering all my questions about hiking the many waterfalls in the area. His experience and willingness to share his knowledge of the terrain has helped me asses which waterfalls to visit safely with my children. I have a deep desire to visit them all but I will head his advice before I risk taking my children on an adventure like the one I had with my mother.