Don’t Look Down
Recently I made it to the trailhead of a hike I really wanted to do. I had researched it and I was packed for it and I was really excited. It was a flat hike with no chance of my fear of heights getting to me. So long as I don’t look down. At arriving I found that the entire parking area had been reserved for search and rescue. The Summit County SAR team was assembling for what I assumed (hoped) was a drill.
This was going to be the safest possible hike known to mankind! I mean the entire SAR team was there. Its as close to wrapping yourself in bubble wrap you can get on a hike but I would have to park in the overflow lot a mile away. So of course I left.
The Backup Plan
Next I really used some solid decision making skills. I pulled up my Alltrails app and did a quick search and chose my next hike alphabetically. This is actually a terrible idea. I usually research my hikes to one degree or another but this time I just picked the first one on the list and it turned out to be a lot more challenging than my aching body was ready for.
I was making decent progress on Bald Mountain and despite the protests of my calf muscles I continued on. And on and on and on. I kept telling myself I was done and should turn around but kept inching ever so slowly forward.
I had to walk over a rock face and still I continued. Then, on the second rock face I did something terrible. I looked down.
Respect of Gravity
Now I know “Don’t look down” is totally cliché but cliché’s are cliché’s for a reason! I also realize that being scared of heights is not the best quality for someone walking up and down mountains. I’m not sure if it really is a fear of heights or more of a respect for gravity but either way it wasn’t good.
I have never really frozen on a hike like this but my feet stuck to the mountain like a magnet. At the same time my legs took on the structure of a Jell-O Mold. I am pretty sure I could have been stepping on Lego’s in bare feet at this point wouldn’t have budged. I still can’t figure out how my mind was fine walking onto the ledge and in a glance was completely in shambles.
Methodically, I had to do a proper 971 step turn to start facing the other direction. Now I couldn’t stop looking down. Why oh why in the world can’t I stop looking down! I hate you Isaac Newton. I was probably 20 feet on this section of the trail next to the edge. It might as well been a mile.
Man I wish those SAR folks were around but then again they probably would have just laughed at me and told me suck it up. I kept repeating, out loud to all the birds, rocks and suddenly unwelcomed gusts of wind, “You’re Ok”.
The sweat now pouring down my face was tickling my cornea’s. Maybe I could stay here and the mountain would move for me. Shouldn’t take more than about a thousand years right? I can wait.
I bent down and put my good, albeit shaking, hand on the rock next to me to steady myself. C’mon man its 20 feet and you just walked out here, nearly skipped out here because just 30 seconds ago you were fine. “You’re Ok”.
Or is it “Your OK?”, maybe I should just settle on “UR OK”. OMG text language is now in my mind on this ledge 700 miles (15 feet) from safety. Is there a parachute emoji I could conjure up?
Finally after the longest 5 minutes (30 seconds) of my life I had made it back to the relative safety of the ridgeline. All of those fears, the adrenaline and the grammar lessons left me as fast as they came on. I could look down again and see ground beneath my feet and not the end of a ten thousand foot drop.
It was the first time I made myself a bit nervous while hiking but I made it through. I used my brain…to distract myself and let my body do the right thing. Nice to know my body is smarter than I am!
The truth is that in the past I never got worried about getting off the couch. Well maybe a few mornings after crazy college nights when the world was spinning. While I was nervous, and gripped by my irrational fear of heights (and strong respect for gravity) I got through it and felt more alive.
I have had some great experiences on this hiking journey of mine. Scaring myself half to death was just one of them. One I never would have had if I stayed to the norms of staying in and watching Netflix.
The saying is, “Take the good with the bad” and the great moments on the hills have certainly out weighed the few bad ones. And in the end, UR going 2 B OK!
More from the Fatman
If you enjoyed this page you may enjoy the posts on my Thoughts page. Some popular classics such as “Screw It, I’m Trying”, “Hiking alone not Lonely Hiking”, and “Bad Days and Bidets: Just wash it off”. You can also follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Feel free to email any questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy Hiking!