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You Can Climb Mountains

I don’t have a fear of heights.

I have a fear of tumbling down to my doom.

Our morning view... where mountains belong in my humble opinion.

Our morning view… where mountains belong in my humble opinion.

Ask me to join you for a hike to the top of anything resembling a mountain, and I’m likely to politely decline. It’s not the up part that scares me, it’s the coming down part.

We’re currently parked in a wonderful boondocking location outside Phoenix at Saddle Mountain with our buddy Becky. We have gorgeous mountains surrounding us as our view.

And we discovered there are over a 100 geocaches placed within walking distance.

Geocaching, for those unfamiliar, is a real world treasure hunt utilizing a handheld GPS, such as a smartphone, and a database of hidden caches. It’s a perfect RVer hobby.

We’ve been having a blast setting out in the late afternoon, each of us taking breaks from our respective writing projects, to seek out a few caches.

It’s a great way to incentivize a hike, and go explore locations we might not otherwise venture.

The blue line marks the approximate path we ended up taking.

The blue line marks the approximate path we ended up taking. Doesn’t look THAT bad from this angle??

Last evening’s hike however was a doozy.

Our goal was seeking out Mr. Potato Head – a legendary cache in the area. GPS pointed us directly behind our camping spot, about .7 miles. We headed out, as the crow flies.

We probably should have consulted deeper and realized that following coordinates blindly was going to lead us over the mountain in front of us – when there were nice flat trails that would take us around.

But the description said ANY 60-year old potato can do this cache. Certainly we could!

It wasn’t until we were half way up the incline, approaching loose gravel and a steeper climb ahead of us – that we realized our destination would be over the ‘saddle’. This couldn’t be the way the cache placer intended.

Climbing the 'hill'. Umm.. hey guys, it's getting kinda steep. Are we sure this is the way??

Climbing the ‘hill’. Umm.. hey guys, it’s getting kinda steep. Are we sure this is the right way??

We looked behind us, and woah – we had climbed a far way and it was a lot steeper than it felt amidst the excitement of a good hunt.

Trying to back track down would be harrowing.

NOT mountain climbing or hiking shoes.

NOT mountain climbing or hiking shoes.

Chris and Becky at least had shoes on that more closely resembled something reasonable for such a hike. I just had slip on walking shoes and my feet were getting sweaty.

And ailments and physical limitations – oh, I’ve got ’em baby.

We definitely weren’t prepared for a challenging technical climb let alone a descent.

Ok, lets face it – I’m unlikely to EVER be prepared for such a thing.

But at least I had the wisdom to bring along my hiking stick to give me a little extra balance.

Knowing that UP is usually easier than down on such an incline (at least you aren’t looking at your impending doom constantly) – we made the collective decision to continue and hope there was an easier way down on the other side.

Looking Up... and realizing we're doomed.

Looking Up… and realizing we’re doomed.

At several points, I came close to freaking out. No, I think I did in fact freak out at least inside my mind.

The gravel was getting loose on top of solid rock and it was becoming difficult to get a firm grip. My already weak knees and ankles were feeling like jello and shaking. I knew one wrong footing, and I was tumbling down down down.

Doom. Doooooom.

I was way beyond my comfort zone. I had passed my comfort zone a few hundred thousand steps ago.

I was in the exact situation I would never intentionally set out to tackle.

Looking down.. those little white specs are our RVs.

Looking down.. those little white specs are our RVs.

But here I was. I didn’t set out to climb a mountain. I didn’t have a chance to talk myself out of this craziness by having thought through each step in advance. But I was about to have… step by step.. done exactly that.

Climbed a mountain-type-thing.

I was just a few dozen feet from the top. But it looked like a mile straight up from my vantage point.

I had to do this. There was little other choice, other than perhaps trying to make home on a 6″ piece of flat rock with a great view.

I mustered up all my will, put on my big girl panties. I tossed my hiking stick up ahead of me, and got down on my hands and knees.

I didn’t need to do this gracefully. I didn’t have anything to prove. Sure, an experienced rock climber would scoff at this and probably chuckle at my method. But I don’t care.

I just needed to freakin make it to the top without killing myself.

I crawled and I crawled, carefully picking where I put each hand and foot. I made the final climb and joined my hiking partners at the top (damn youth, Becky had made it up long before us and was exploring caves).

And just as I was about to celebrate the accomplishment as the view over the pass came into my vision..

Really? Are we seeing this?? Or are we delirious??/

Really? Are we seeing this?? Or are we delirious??

…. a hot air balloon ascended from behind the pass.

I toughed up to my fears. I didn’t lose my shit. And I was rewarded with not just being able to live another day without a visit to a trauma center, but an amazing & unexpected experience.

I sat on that ledge for a while, enjoying the view with friends who had just endured their own similar challenges to get there.

We are stronger than we think... just give me a moment to catch my breath. Whew.

We are stronger than we think… just give me a moment to catch my breath. Whew.

I couldn’t help but remember we tend to be stronger than we allow ourselves to take credit for – especially if we don’t have the opportunity to swim in self doubt.

We (and this means YOU too!) are up to the challenges, particularly if we don’t obsess over every minutia of the multiple steps ahead before we’ve even started.

Instead, taking it one accomplishable step at a time, you’ll find the finish line isn’t as far off as you think.

I’ve been in this spot before.

  • When at the last minute I decided to strap myself to my brother and jump out of an airplane.
  • When I faced up to my fear of seeing death and but was honored to be the one who got to sit with my father as he passed.
  • And when I found myself in a relationship that tempted me to sell almost everything I owned and give up the stability I had built – to venture out into the unknown of the world.

There is nothing like that feeling of having accomplished something you thought outside your comfort zone.  Especially when it’s not planned.

It’s how we grow. It’s how we learn who we are, and where our real strengths are.

Whatever the challenge in front of you is… YOU GOT THIS!

When you’re ready to celebrate your accomplishment … you’ll find me taking it easy nursing my sore overstressed foot. I’ll be thrilled to toast our badass selves with a glass of wine.

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46 Comments - Still Plenty of Room for Yours!

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  1. Have you ever tried Ingress (game for your phone/tablet)? It is basically geocaching on teams. Goo times.

  2. Congratulations–great post. A day like that makes the evening “back at home” relaxing feel so fantastic!

  3. Great story! So inspiring on facing fears and challenging oneself. Did you ever find The Mr. Potato Head? Thanks so much for your Blog and Videos!

  4. Congrats! I am not so happy with heights myself but have started to confront them via indoor rock climbing…I pretty much want to throw up and cry at the same time but when I reach the top, I must admit I feel pretty confident and accomplished! Your blog post was very timely – Congrats again and the pictures are beautiful!

  5. Funny story and congratulations is certainly in order. Did you locate the cache eventually – or just so thrilled that you DID it?

  6. woohoo! Well done. That looks like an awesome boondocking spot. We are headed to the southwestern corner of AZ in a few weeks and wanted to ask you which area you like better, the one you are in now or the area around Ajo that you explored last year?

  7. Wow! Cherie! I am in the same boat as you. I can’t do heights. I’m glad you had your walking stick with you. Great pictures, too! I was with my father when he passed, too. I sang hymns to him in his last moments.

  8. I found an area in the Saddle mountain vicinity a few years ago that had a scorpion under every rock. Some great boondocking close to the city.

  9. Just wonderful! Four years ago, at 55 years of age, I faced one of my biggest fears, strapped on snorkeling gear, and jumped into the ocean and UNDERWATER! And I not only survived but also realized “I can do this!” I now can celebrate with you and others who shout those words to the wind….good job, Cherie!

  10. Loved your post today! It is always good to challenge ourselves and our belief about what we can do. It is even better when we live to tell about it!! My greatest challenge is to do today the moments that present themselves, as tomorrow brings new opportunities and often regrets for all left undone. Congrats!

  11. Awesome Post! Thank you for all your wonderful articles and I am so glad you are back to blogging and posting videos!

  12. Enjoyed your post today as I do all of them.

    A year or so ago I stopped and introduced myself while you and the WheelinIt folks were staying at SAMs in Desert Hot Springs. I told you I was living vicariously through you, The Bayfield Bunch and other full timers while reading your blogs. Well we just bought a Class A motor home and plan on taking our first shakedown trip to the Salton Sea in a few weeks. After that who knows. Looking forward to your updated book so we can make sure we are technologically prepared.

    Thank you again for all you do for the RV community. I hope our paths cross again.

    Safe travels.

    Jeff and Jeanette Egan

  13. You go girl!!!! I don’t usually make personal comments, but you look like you have lost some weight, and I don’t know about you, but that is a comment I love to hear, even if it is just the clothes I’m wearing flattering me!

    • Thanks for noticing 😉 Yes, we both have been concentrating on keeping active and eating healthier. Time to reverse the stress & vacation eating style of the summer.

  14. Good for you CHerie, I am setting out on April 12 and find myself thinking about hiking while I am boondocking in the west this summer. As a non-hiker, I am nervous, but I want to see these lovely places so I am getting a walking stick and planning on trying some hikes. I’m sure my fear of heights will come into play, but I will work through it. Thanks for the inspiration today.

  15. Good for you, Cherie!! Though you didn’t tell us how you got down?? I am always terrified of losing control going downhill and finding myself in a heap at the bottom of a mountain, very much worse for wear. Thank goodness for hiking poles, they definitely provide more control!

    It’s so good to be reading your posts again, I’m glad your hiatus was a short one 🙂


  16. Great post Cherie, Just wondering if you made it down that mountain or are you blogging from your mobile device???

    Hope to see you on the road. We set our date in the fall and it’s only 3 weeks away! We are 40 somethings hitting the road Feb 28th. We are heading to the Excapers Convergence in TX.

    Thanks to you and Chris (and many others) for sharing your experiences and driving us to take a step out of our comfort zone.

    Patrick & Stephanie (www.rvsikeseeing.com)

    • Oh, I’m totally posting this from the top of the mountain. Nice view up here, but my battery is running out. Hah 🙂 (Thankfully the other side was easier to descend, and we all made it down in one piece).

      Congrats on hitting the road very soon.. and have a blast at the Hill Country Convergence. Wish it lined up for us to be there.

  17. Read you post with delight, We have set THE date to be on the road. and all the things needing to be accomplished before leaving. (trial for a year before we sell S&B we built 43 years ago) seem overwhelming. So for you to share your fears and trepidation gave us hope that we can to conquer ours. Willing to supply the wine for the toast if we cross paths.

  18. I enjoy the up, the down not so much. It hurts the toes, the hips, there is loose gravel; there might be falling. We hike with two hiking poles. When coming down, lean a little and plant the pole down hill. I do not leave home without them. Glad you survived to write another day.

    • I’ve gotten better about taking my pole with me, it really does help a bunch. I would have been scooting my way down the mountain on the other side much more if I didn’t have it to lean on.

  19. Good for you!! Nothing like a great hike combined with friends and geocaching! We all need to get out of our comfort zones now and then. That feeling of accomplishment is amazing!

  20. Cherie,

    I was experiencing your fright as you wrote about this experience. It made it worse with those flimsy shoes you were wearing. Lesson learned: Get some 3/4 hiking or trail shoes asap.

    At times when you were in scary positions and crawling it reminded me of the time we took the wrong trail in Mesa Verde. At one point I could not go up or down and knew the helicopter would have to retrieve me. My fear of the flight made me go on, albeit on all 4’s. Never again. I understand that trail is closed now. No one told us how tough it was. Lesson learned: check with a ranger before going to unknown territory.

    It looks like you are truly enjoying this boondocking outing. Becky wrote she has had a pleasant surprised as to how much she likes boondocking.

    Have a nice rest of the winter.

    Marilyn in Dania Beach, FL

    • So glad you endured and got down off your own mountain too.. amazing how looking at the viable alternatives gives you that push you need 🙂

      Had I known we were setting off on something so ambitious, I would have worn my better hiking shoes.

  21. First – Congratulations. Second – Congratulations. Third – Badass Congratulations.
    You have accomplished what many of us won’t think of, let alone dream of, or even start to do.
    Strive on. john & Deanna

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