I don’t have a fear of heights.
I have a fear of tumbling down to my doom.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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..
…. 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.
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.