It was the morning of June 20th in the year 2014. It was my first morning in Zion, and even though I didn’t sleep much, I could not wait to get up and get going. Today was the day that I took another step in conquering my fear of heights. Most people wouldn’t guess it, by the way I seem fearless on cliffs and mountains, but the reality is that I am terrified of heights. Being up on ladders is nerve wracking for me. So when I learned that there is a hike, where the last half mile is guided by chain, I told myself that I could do it.
It was cool and still that morning. I waited impatiently for the first tram to pick me up with all the other early adventures at the stop inside the park. I could feel my anxiety begin. All I kept thinking about was how crazy this hike seemed. I wondered if I would be able to do it. I wondered if I would give up once I got to the last part. I wasn’t sure of how this would all play out. I could feel my fear gripping and tugging at me, but I wasn’t listening to it. Or at least, I was pretending to keep my cool. After all there is a saying “fake it until you make it.”
When I arrived at the the trail head I could see Angel’s Landing not too far off in the distance. It didn’t look that high, but still, it was quite high. I began my trek and was quite surprised to find a paved path lead it’s way to the trail. I remembered hearing that Zion was tourist friendly, but I didn’t expect it to be that friendly. Still it felt a little nice to have a clear path for once. I began to feel tired, already. The odds were against me this morning, with the lack of sleep, already hiked 20 miles this week, blisters forming, and being over weight were all contributing factors. Still I pressed on, I was determined to get to the top.
It wasn’t that long before I got to what I thought was the top. I felt amazing, I felt like I just conquered the world. I sat on the ledge and took a couple of pictures. That is when I remembered, that there is supposed to be a chain section. I looked over my right shoulder and saw people headed up a long narrow path that seemed to stretch on and up. I felt a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I got to my feet, buckled my day pack, took a sip of water and headed for the dreaded chains. I knew I could not take my time on this part of the trail. The morning was getting later and with each passing hour, more people were making their ascent. As I began my hike aong the chains, I felt more relaxed. Now that I was actually here, I felt better. Each and every step was getting more comfortable and my confidence was improving. I came to a small section that had a small drop. I grasped the chain and as I began to crouch down I stretched out my left foot. I had hoped to be able to touch the next rock and climb down but something else happened instead. My right foot was to close to the edge and I slipped. I immediatly death griped the chain and held on for dear life as I nearly went off the cliff. I may be embellishing a bit here, but trust me, if I didn’t hold on I would have hit the rock and went off the steep cliff. I pulled my self up and got my footing back. I could feel my heart beating fast. The adrenaline was pumping and I felt alive.
I continued up the trail, because I have already come this far, and I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to see that incredible view. Time seemed to be moving slow, or maybe it was because I was moving slow, I really don’t know. That last half mile seemed to go on forever. Finally I was nearing the top. I just needed to get up the last steep portion and I would be there. I gave it all I had left and boom, I was there.
The view was incredible. Every direction you looked at gave you a new and beautiful view. It was so amazing that I forgot how tired I was. I was taking photos left and right, trying to capture the beauty of this place, and the emotions that I was feeling. I was taking a panorama when I felt a strong breeze hit me, and it rocked me a bit. That is when good Ol’ fear came creeping back in. I started to feel like I was being affected by vertigo and so I decided to sit down for a bit.
As I sat there I felt a little better, but I was also dreading the fact that now that I was up here, I needed to get down. As I sat there and ate my pitiful pb&j I saw an elderly woman. She was so full of life and energy. She was beautiful. She hadn’t a care in the world, nothing was going to stop her from living her dreams. She inspired me so much in that one moment than anyone else I have ever meet in my entire life. I remember hearing another hiker say that when he grows up, he wants to be like her. I replied with I want to be like her, right now.