Cami writing here… Last summer we had planned for a quick little trip to Yellowstone. I don’t think I have ever been and Lamoni went when he was 14 years old with his Scouts. We had planned a 3-4 day trip to go camping in Yellowstone National Park.
We left in the afternoon of June 20, 2016. We loaded all six kids in the Excursion (Milo, the baby, was just 3 months old) and hitched up our trusty old 1968 Aristocrat Lo Liner trailer to camp in. Well, mostly camp in – the Aristocrat doesn’t fit our whole family so we usually end up pitching a tent for the older kids. The Aristocrat was filled to the brim with our camping gear, tent, bikes, stroller, suitcases and various camping gear. Off we went! We have never been North through Wyoming and I have to say, it is beautiful! Star Valley was breathtaking and I fell in love with the landscape. Our navigation said that Yellowstone was 8-ish hours from our house and we were scheduled to arrive at our campsite a little after 10pm.
We were high up in the mountains about 2o miles south of Jackson Hole around 9pm when our trip took a nasty turn. With the Snake river on our right we heard a very loud POP! Flat tire on the trailer. Bummer! So, Lamoni pulled over as far as he could, but there was a guard rail on the right so we were sticking out a little in the road. The flat was on the driver side of the trailer. Lamoni went back to change the tire. I rolled the window down and immediately smelled something burning. “Whew!” I thought, “That tire must really be in bad shape.” Lamoni then comes running back to the truck saying “I need water!”
I remember thinking, “Why does he need water? He’s just changing a flat tire.” But I also recognized a small panic in his voice. So I got out of the truck to go see what was going on. He was grabbing water bottles and throwing the water on a small fire that had started up under the tire of the trailer. It was a small fire. But it was in a bad place. It was hard to get to it. We were throwing water from the bottle up and around the tire. We couldn’t get to the fire to make a difference. We had some people stop and help us. There was a guy who unhitched the truck and drove forward for safety. Lamoni was unscrewing the propane tanks from the front of the trailer while other helpers were using fire extinguishers to try to put the fire out.
Lamoni decided to try and save some of our belongings when we knew things weren’t looking good. Since we were snug right up against the guard rail it was hard to open the door to the trailer. We were bending the frame of the door to get it open enough so Lamoni could squeeze through and start throwing stuff out. He first threw out a bunch of firewood that was in the way,(because that wasn’t going to help our situation in any way!) he then got to two bikes which happened to be Lamoni’s nice mountain bike and our oldest son’s bike. The bikes were strapped in pretty tight and Lamoni just cut the strap with his knife and threw out the first two bikes in the line-up. Then he threw out two suitcases, a coat, and one sleeping bag. By then the trailer was too smokey to see so we were yelling at him to just get out. I think we knew at that point it was gone. The nice guy who unhitched us moved our vehicle to the other side of the road and we watched it burn.
Why am I recording this? It didn’t cross my mind, my mind was full of emotions and disbelief of what was happening. At one point Lamoni looked back at me (while he was still fighting the fire) and said, “Why don’t you record this for us?” I was seriously flabbergasted. “WHY??” I answered. Lamoni shrugged and with a slight chuckle he said to me, “What else are you going to do?” Well, I guess he’s right! So I started to record. Why not!?!
One reason it was a total loss was because we were up in the mountains with no cell service. I remember one guy telling us, “We sent someone to call 911, but they won’t have cell service for 15 minutes or so until they come out of the canyon.” – Bummer.
The firetrucks and police finally came and helped to direct traffic. It was quite the site. They Highway Patrol Officers were very kind and helpful. They found a hotel for us in Afton, Wyoming and got us a discount.
It was amazing to see how fire can damage things in such a short period of time.
They called a tow truck to come and tow the remains into Jackson Wyoming. We headed back the other way to Afton, WY to get our hotel room. Just as we came out of the canyon after a 15 minute twisty road Lamoni gasped. We were sitting at a stoplight and he exclaimed, “MY FOOT!” Um, what about your foot? — “My Spongebob foot was in the trailer! We have to go back right now.” And with that, we turned around and headed back up the canyon to the burn site. That was the longest 15 minute drive we have ever taken. With every turn of the road we kept saying, “It’s got to be close, why aren’t we there yet?”
Lamoni couldn’t believe it took him 2.5 hours to remember that his prosthetic foot was in the trailer. It was just sitting on the bed in the back. It wasn’t buried, it would have been easy enough to get to. But for some reason he didn’t remember about it for a long time. He made the remark, “I would have saved my foot 100-times over before I saved my nice mountain bike… why didn’t I remember?” *** I have an idea of why he didn’t remember. I believe the Lord didn’t allow him to remember his foot for the safety of his life. I know Lamoni, and I know that if he would have remembered his foot at any time during the fire he would have risked anything to go in and try to save it. And Lamoni agrees with me.
We arrived at the site just when the tow truck was pulling the camper up onto his bed. Most of the firemen and policemen were still there. Lamoni jumped out and ran up to see if he could get a glimpse of his Spongebob foot. He knew it was a goner, but he had to try. The only thing he found that night was the socket part lying in the road. It was blackened carbon fiber.
It was very sad. That foot was the worst thing we lost in the fire. As Lamoni put it, “You just can’t go down to the store and buy these things. Even if you had the money, they aren’t on store shelves to easy-peasy walk out with. They take a lot of time to get the fit just right.”
The next day we went to the tow yard to see the trailer in daylight.
It was sad to see it all clumped in a pile. We just couldn’t believe it still.
Since the kids didn’t have any clothes we decided to hit up a thrift store in Jackson Hole to get them one extra pair of clothes for the day. We also ended up buying a stroller at the thrift store. I had mentioned that maybe we should just head home. But Lamoni wouldn’t let this experience defeat us. “We’ve come this far, we have to at least go see Old Faithful! Let’s go and enjoy a few hours in Yellowstone. We will not be defeated!” The kids and I all agreed so we headed to Yellowstone through the Grand Teton’s.
We saw these two items below in the Historic Old Faithful Inn and couldn’t help to snap a picture…
We returned home the next day. Lamoni left the following day to go back to Jackson Hole and retrieve our trailer. (All in one day, it was a long trip for him!) He took his brothers flatbed trailer and brought back the burned trailer so we could go through it.
Our oldest son was the winner and found the bottom part of the Spongebob foot in the rubble. Hooray! There is nothing much we can do with it… we’ve thought about making it a planter. Why not?
We’ve talked a lot about this experience. It has been 8 months since the fire and we’ve had some time to reflect. We talked right away with the kids about how the things we lost were just “things”. We knew how blessed we were that no one was hurt. It could have been so much worse. We thank our Heavenly Father for watching over us and giving us this experience to learn and grow from. We want to thank the many “helpers” who stopped and helped us on the side of the road that day. The kindness of the strangers and the law enforcement/fire fighters really touched me. I don’t know any of your names but I think about your service often. May God bless you.
One of the sweetest things was a few days later our 8-year-old brought Lamoni this picture she drew. She knew how important this foot was to Lamoni and wanted to draw this for him.
Rest in peace Spongebob foot…. You were an excellent foot.
And Hey, Yellowstone, we’ll try again another day.