To Virginia and Back, In A Week. Part 1 to the Grand Canyon and Horseshoe Bend.

Recently a friend of mine was given a chance of a lifetime, but it also meant she would have to move from California to Virginia. So when she asked if I would come along with her and her boyfriend to drive across the country, I jumped at the opportunity. After all, I’m an adventurer, how am I supposed to turn down an adventure? So even though I only came home from another adventure a few days prior, I packed up my bag again and was off to adventure on the open road once again.

When we left we only had four days to make the 40-hour drive to Virginia. The only problem was we were only going to drive for six hours our first day as we had planned to stay overnight at the Grand Canyon and visit it in the morning of the second day. I was more than happy with this decision. After all, it’s the Grand Canyon. No matter how many times I visit it, I can’t get enough of it. Plus I convinced to team to travel a little out of the way to visit Horseshoe Bend in Page Arizona. I knew it would add a couple of extra hours to our drive, but I also knew it would be so worth the time.

When we woke up the second day, we quickly broke camp and entered the Grand Canyon. We saw Mather Point at early light, the partly cloudy skies added to the ambiance and spectacular views of the canyon. Often times a scene like this looks as though you are stepping into a painting, it’s so beautiful, you think that it can’t be real. Then you breathe, and you know it is real, that this splendid beauty and chaos is the most real moment you have had in a very long time. 20160505_070408_Richtone(HDR)

Soon we were leaving the Canyon and heading north on the 89. We were going a bit out of the way, but I knew this detour would be worth the hours lost. I had planned to make an important rest stop at Horseshoe Bend near Page Arizona. It took us nearly two hours to reach the parking lot of the bend, and the sign marking the area was no help at all. It’s tiny, one blink and you’ll miss it. That is if you don’t notice all the other cars turning into a random dirt road and lot.

As we hiked towards the Bend, I was anxiously rushing up the hill that stood between me and that marvelous natural wonder. Once I was at the top, I could feel my asthma kicking into overdrive, but I didn’t care. I could already see the top of the formation, and it made my heart skip. The soft sandy trail down was not going to slow me down, nothing would until I was finally setting foot on the Navajo Sandstone. It was already midday, and there was a lot of people gathered at the mouth of the cliff, but lucky for me I was able to grab a spot that had unrestricted views. IMG_20160505_125509

As I sat and soaked in the view of from the cliff face, I let my feet dangle off the edge. I’m terrified of heights, I don’t even like to be on ladders; and yet this was fine. Maybe nature just has that effect on me, or maybe the beauty of nature is like the flame to a moth for me? Regardless, I could have stayed all day on that edge just looking down at those cliffs and the river, and not feel like a moment was wasted. Unfortunately, we had to be hitting the road. So I had to say goodbye to Horseshoe Bend and hello to the open road.

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Purple Rain, on the way to Morro Bay

I’ve been driving through the Los Angeles traffic for nearly two hours when the congestion finally seems to break. I’m only in Ventura and I still have a ways to go. Morro Bay is my destination on this trip, and even though I can feel my morning caffeine begin to wear off, I can’t help but feel excited. I’ve been impatiently awaiting another outing since my last overnight trip to the Trona Pinnacles and I must say it’s been too long since I’ve slept in a tent again. I don’t know what makes camping so special but it truly is. Maybe it’s being detached from civilization? Or maybe it’s just a connection with mother nature that puts one’s mind at peace? All I know, is that I love it, and it makes me happy. 20160422_130254_Richtone(HDR)

It’s about 10 am when we arrive at Avila Beach in San Luis Obispo. My legs can’t wait to get out of the van and walk around and the first step on the parking lot feels like heaven. I take in a deep breath of the salty air and it comforts me. I can already hear the waves crashing along the beach and I quickly grab a couple of things and begin to head off to the beach. Even though it’s early the beach already has some visitors on it, but lucky for me and my group we know an area that is less traversed. As I climb onto the pillow basalts to avoid the crashing waves I’m treated to a small but private stretch of beach. There isn’t a lot of sand at this part of the beach but that doesn’t matter. I’d rather look at the rocks anyways. I boulder up some of the structures and I perch myself up not too high but high enough just to get a better view. The sun is shinning and wind feels perfect and there are sea otters and seals playing in the water. It’s almost perfect here. I almost wished that we were staying longer than a couple of hours, but there is much to see and do, before arriving to camp.20160422_121351_Richtone(HDR)

We’ve only been driving for a half hour when the skies begin to pour with a vengeance. We knew before heading out, that we were going to get rain, but for a moment we forgot all about it, and felt surprised as the rain began to pour.The whippers on the van moved fast to keep the drops clear for a view of the street, but it didn’t seem enough. This storm was hitting hard. As we came closer to our next destination it began to lighten up dramatically. The once powerful and mighty storm was now just a light sprinkling and when we stopped, I couldn’t help but snap a few pictures. That’s when the music began to play in my head. I could hear Purple Rain playing and I felt a little sad about the recent lost of the artist known as Prince, but so happy to have known about his work before hand. It’s funny how a celebrity death can hit you so hard. You may not have ever meet them or knew them personally, but through their work you felt a connection. You grew up learning about yourself and making memories and having experiences to their work; so when they die, it’s like a piece of you died too. 20160422_142842_Richtone(HDR)

As we walked down to the Estero Bluffs we were treated to a field of blooming mustard plants before reaching the beach. Once at the beach we spent some time looking around. I found a couple of hidden plastic Easter Eggs, and I wondered who had an egg hunt here? One of the eggs was empty but the other had some candy in it, but the ants had already claimed it as their own. It was beautiful there at that beach. I got to see the remnants of the storm pass by and leave us and welcome back the blue sky and sunshine. Soon after that it was time to finally make our way down to camp to set up for the night.20160422_163904

I had never stayed at Morro Strand Campground before. It’s a little too close to  civilization for me, but it wasn’t too bad as it is right on the beach. I pitched my tent on a dune and then went for a walk along the beach as the sun began to set. The beach was littered with sand dollars and I watched the sandpipers congregating as they searched for food in the sea foam. Morro Rock towered in the distance in the evening glow. I watched in amazement for a while just trying to take in all the scenery. It really was a wonderful day for adventuring and I’m looking forward to getting a good nights rest. After all tomorrow will be another busy day. 20160422_195644_Richtone(HDR)

I’ll Meet You At the Trail…Or At Least I’ll Try To.

This past Sunday I was supposed to meet up some friends to hike a portion of the Mt. Wilson Trail in Arcadia California. We had been planning for over a week to meet up at the trail head at 7:30 am and hike up to at least Orchard Camp. I haven’t hiked this trail in about a year, and I remember it being very challenging. So I really did want to get an early start as Sunday was the projected hot day of the week with temperatures reaching the mid 80’s.

It’s 6:45 am and I’m barely getting out of bed. I rub my eyes in disbelief. It feels like I only just closed my eyes. It was as if I had blinked and jumped ahead in time. Last night was restless, but luckily I don’t feel groggy. I hurry to get ready and soon enough, I’m out the door. I look at the time and it’s already almost 7:30, well it looks like I’m not going to make it out there in time, even with the traffic being almost non existent, there is no way I’m getting that far in a few minutes.  I send a text message to my friends from a McDonald’s parking lot, letting them know I’m running late and that I’ll meet them on the trail. After I send the message I decide to grab an Egg McMuffin. I figured I was late already, might as well get some calories in me before I hit the trail. 20160417_122228_Richtone(HDR)

By the time I get to the trail head and reach the sign in box, it’s almost 8:30. I think to myself “Damn, I’m going to see them when their coming down the trail.” I decide to just enjoy as much of the trail as I can before I meet up with them and I proceed up the long steep hike towards the top of Mt. Wilson. The first portion of the trail is exposed to the east and there is no shade at all. The warm spring sun beats down on you as you climb higher and higher up the dusty trail to the top. Even though it’s still morning, I’m already wishing I started earlier. Other than the sun being very warm, I feel okay. I’m doing pretty well on this trail, even though I haven’t done a hike this strenuous since Flattop Mountain in the Summer (Which is easier than Wilson), I’m making good progress.

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Soon I reach the first place most people take a rest at, and that is called First Water. It’s a nice shady area with a little creek going through it. Even though it’s a pleasant area I don’t stop long. I’m too concerned with finding my friends. So I continue on up the trail towards the next stop, Orchard Camp. It’s only two more miles up from First Water So I figure I should be seeing them soon.

20160417_102801_Richtone(HDR)This portion of the trail is so much nicer.
As the trees provide much needed cover from the sun. I think this is my favorite portion of the hike. It’s so beautiful, the trees, the mountains. The people seem more friendly and happy. It’s just so wonderful there. It was even better seeing a bunch of butterflies hanging around the trail. Everywhere I looked, I would see a butterfly. It would either be resting or flying about in the air. They made me happy and I had to stop and just enjoy them for a while.

As I approached Orchard Campground I thought I would finally see my friends, and then we could travel the rest of the trail together. You can imagine my surprise when I arrived and didn’t find them.Could they have gone up to the next stop? Maybe? But it was getting closer to being the hottest part of the day, and I didn’t feel like going any further with the heat. Perhaps I missed them when I stepped off onto a ledge to get some pics? It’s possible, only one way to find out, and that meant I would have to keep going and hope to find them. Somewhere down the trail.

 

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As I began to begin my decent, something strange happened. I actually felt alone. I’ve gone on many adventures alone. It’s never bothered me before. So what’s changed? Me, I guess. Sometimes life just catches up to you, and sneaks in a hit when you least expect it. So I was alone to my thoughts as I rapidly descended down the trail. Now everything seemed just a little dimmer, a little quieter, a little colder. I don’t think I ever wanted a hike to end so soon. Usually I just relax and take it all in, the beautiful chaos that is nature, and I’m humbled and amazed, but not today.

As I was getting closer to the trail head, I kept seeing more and more people 20160417_102318_Richtone(HDR)beginning their journey, at the mid day point, in the hottest part of the day, and I wished them well in my mind. Some didn’t even seem to have water with them. Are they crazy? I thought. Surely, they must know that you shouldn’t attempt any trail without water. Then I saw a man with a beautiful all white Husky looking dog. They were making fast progress up the mountain, but the dog was heavily panting. As they passed I asked him, if he wanted any water for his dog, “Sure if you have any you can spare.” I quickly removed my Camelbak water bottle and unscrewed the top. As I began to slowly pour a stream of water the dog quickly began to lap up the water. She was very thirsty, and it was only the beginning of the trail. They still had easily a mile and a quarter to go before First Water. The dog quickly drank almost all of the water. She even managed to stick her tongue into the bottle to get even more water. I just smiled and let her have as much as she wanted. When she finished her owner thanked me and I’ll never forget this, but the dog gave me an incredible look. It was as if she was wondering where I was going, and why I wasn’t going with them. I told the owner it was a tough hike, and he said they wouldn’t be going too far. So I pet the dog on the head and I left.

As I exited the trail, I checked my phone for any messages from my friends, and I had a couple but nothing about their whereabouts on the trail. I checked Instagram and sure enough they had already posted some pics. So with that, and feeling a little defeated by the mountain, I decided it was time to head home for a much needed shower, and perhaps a victory, or in this case a defeat beer to enjoy on this beautiful warm spring afternoon. I feel like going back to this mountain soon. There is something about the challenge of it that I like. It’s tough, and demanding and unforgiving. A perfect place to hone yourself for a life of adventure. 20160417_122154

Raven’s Trail

It’s been nearly a week since I’ve arrived in Alaska and it has been a roller-coaster of excitement and adventure already, but the past day and a half, everything has come to a slow halt. It’s mid day and I’m laying in my tent listening to the rain land and bounce off the fly and the nearby gravely ground. It’s calming and soothing to listen to as I read Call of the Wild by Jack London. However, no matter how pleasant and relaxing this is, I’m not content. I can hear the wild lands of Alaska calling me to her trails. Waiting for me to try and test my metal against hers. I contemplate putting on some rain gear and going out. My better judgment convinces me other wise.

Now it’s 16:00 the rain has stopped and I can’t contain myself anymore. There is a trail, nearby that I’ve been itching to try. So I pack my daypack and I’m out to try and conquer the trail. It’s a mile away from my tent, but it goes by quick. The road to the trail head is easy and not very traveled so there is nothing to slow me down. In no time I find myself at the trail head. A wooden sign surrounded by quarried diorite leads to the trail. First I’ll have to follow a service road for a half mile, and then the real trail will begin.

Even though this trail is a stone’s throw away from the airport, you wouldn’t even notice it was there. Only two commercial flights fly out of the airport each day. Any other smaller aircraft traffic is minimal at best. The road stretches out through the muskegs, as spruce saplings rise up from the mud, trying to claim it’s own niche in the world. I’m surprised by how well the trail is marked. A bright blue arrow points it out, as it could have been easily passed if it had not been. I half expected to see a cairn, and while I’m tempted to make one, I know it’s already 17:00 and I need to hit the trail.wpid-20150702_183626.jpg

The trail is a row of boards, or like a really long plank that leads through the muskeg. The boards have fish net on the top, and this helps get a good grip, because I imagine that with all the rain and mud it would be slippery. This kind of trail is alien to me. I’ve never encountered such a trail in all my travels. If you are traveling with a companion you would have to travel single file as there is only room for one on this trail. There isn’t even enough room for trekking poles on the board, it’s that small. Soon I exit the muskegs and enter the forest. It’s a surreal experience, the vibrant greens, and stillness, and the way the light peaks in through the branches. It’s more than what I expected.

Soon I come upon two hikers a man and women, both appear to be in their mid twenties, and both are very friendly. Luckily we came upon each other at a wide part of the boardwalk (the only part on the whole trail). The woman asks where I’m headed, and I tell her I’m going to the cabin at the top. She informs me it’s not at the top, and the man confirms. They tell me once you summit you will follow the path down further and onto another peak and that is where the cabin lays. After exchanging more pleasantries we are both headed on our paths in separate directions. I had no idea this would be the only human contact I would have on the whole trail.

As I enter the thick part of the forest, the boardwalk disappears, and I finally feel like I’m on a real trail. It’s muddy, and rooty and if you don’t keep your wits about you, and mind your footing, it will cost you. I almost catch a face full of Devil’s Club as I was watching my footing. Luckily my spider sense kicked and I ducked and narrowly avoid an unpleasant encounter with the thorny plant. The trail starts to get even harder, I think of all the challengingwpid-20150702_192004_richtonehdr.jpg trails I’ve done: Mt. Wilson, Mt. Baldy, Bright Angel, Angel’s Landing, I think I’m prepared, that I can handle it, that it won’t be that bad. While I was prepared, I underestimated how strenuous and challenging it would be.

Soon I’m gaining a foot of elevation with nearly each step that I take. The trail has round logs that sort of make a steep staircase, and I do mean steep. At times it felt like I was climbing more than stepping. To make matters more difficult the logs and trail are all muddy from the recent rains, making the trail more difficult. After a mile and some change of mostly steep elevation gains the path begins to even out and soon you reach the peak of the trail. Most trails peak to barren rocky tops, but not this little mountain. It’s covered in muskegs. I try not to linger as the standing water attracts the mosquitoes, but I notice the sun is low in the northwestern sky. I decided I’ll press on for another 20 minutes and if I don’t reach the cabin I’ll head back.

I move as fast as I can on the slippery boardwalk through the muskeg and brush, and after 20 minutes, the cabin is no where in sight. I pause for a moment. I check my map, I can’t be too far from it now, but then I realize the light is getting dimmer and I still have some thick muddy forest to traverse. So I head back. I’m really rushing now, as I do not want to get stuck in that forest with no light, because even with a head lamp and flash light I know the trail could be difficult to find. As I enter the forest, my fear comes to realization. It is much darker in here than I anticipated, and like I feared the trail is hard to see even with my headlamp. I try to pick up my speed but soon I slip and nearly fall. That slipped would of cost me dearly had I not been using my trekking poles. I slip again, and again, and finally I let the trail win. This will not be a speedy decent. I will have to take my time and watch my footing.wpid-20150702_211913.jpg

I make sure to make noise and bang my trekking poles together every few steps. After all this is bear country, and I do not want to surprise one on this lonely trail. I nearly go off trail once as I was following mud tracks and broken vegetation but I stopped and looked around and knew this wasn’t a trail. I had to back track several feet and luckily I spotted a blue diamond telling me which way to go. I count my lucky stars as an off trail adventure in this forest in the dark could cost me. I won’t lie and say the thought of getting lost in here didn’t cross my mind, or that I wasn’t afraid. Fear was with me, as I descended, but I used it as a strength. After all fear is a super power. It can make you stronger, run faster, jump higher. Adrenalin is like rocket fuel and it will course through your veins making you think faster, make it seem like time slows. How could you do the impossible without fear?

Once I reached the boardwalk I feel a little relief as I know the worst is over and and soon I’ll be back on the service road. I make haste on the boardwalk, as I still feel uneasy being on this trail in the dark. The good part though, was that there was more light on this part of the trail, due to less dense vegetation. It isn’t long before I’m back into the muskeg and the service road is in sight. Once I take that first step onto the road a big sigh of relief let out. Still I knew I had a half mile of service road through the muskeg to be really in the clear. Once I’m back at the trail head and reach the main road, I feel immediate satisfaction. I made it. I just did an intense trail, got caught in the dark and I still made it.

Looking back on this adventure I will admit that I was foolish for trying to accomplish this trail so late in the day. Or underestimating the trail. I didn’t have enough respect for the trail when I started, but now I’ve learned. Now I’m wiser, and now I realize just how wild my future adventures in this land will be. Also you will pleased to know I ran into the nice couple the next day on my way to the Laundromat. The woman explained how they were worried about me venturing out so late. It was good feeling to have, and we were all happy with the outcome.

Feeling small at Grand Canyon National Park.

Sometimes you don’t really know where you are going. I for one can attest to this. I maybe for the most part stuck where I am, but any chance I get to go somewhere I do. Sometimes it feels like I’m just running in any direction that I can, just so I can see or experience something new. So when a friend invited me to go to Flagstaff Arizona for a road trip, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.

My friend and I have become great pals over the last year. We both have love exploring, beer, and enjoying a good laugh. On top of that we have some friends in Flagstaff that we will be visiting so it’s even better. These three people that I had the privilege of spending time with mean a lot to me. In some ways they are like my family.

So one day while we are all together one of them brings up going to the Grand Canyon for the day. It’s not that far of a drive, and I’ve never been to the south rim before so I was all for it. After running a few errands and getting some stuff for the road we were off. Sitting in the backseat soaking up the views of the San Francisco Peaks and the Ponderosa Pines, brought me back to a time when I traveled a lot with my friends. Like when we traveled up to Yosemite and spotted a tornado near Panum Crater. Or the time we drove through some of the Sierra Nevadas on our way to Fresno, and had a whole camp to ourselves; and many other similar adventures.tZK84Yy - Imgur

It’s funny really, when I think about it. I always thought I would leave first. I never imagined that I was going to be the one left behind. I think it’s actually better this way to be honest. Maybe I needed them to all leave so that I could finally leave? I was actually supposed to leave almost a year ago and I pushed back my plans so that I could have more time. I’m glad I did, because after I leave. I won’t be able to see any of them for months.

When we arrive at the Canyon there was a good size crowd there. Which I really don’t mind, it saddens me when I visit an empty national park. We go up to the fence and the sight of the canyon is magnificent and breath taking. Only problem I have is that there is a fence between me and the canyon, but lucky for us there is a trail that goes along the rim, so we take it. It isn’t long before we are away from the crowds and the fence. Now we can truly walk up to the ledge of the rim and gaze in wonder..IIhpKo3 - Imgur

Being on the ledge and looking out into the great below is like no other feeling I have felt before. The way the rocks are layered and how the Colorado River meanders through it. The lush of green at the bottom of the canyon and the reds near the top, it’s just wonderful. Seeing it stretch far out into the north, it appears to stretch on forever, even though it doesn’t. I sat there high on the ledge, my feet dangling off hanging in the wind. It felt peaceful and invigorating at the same time. There is just something about that combination of sensations that helps you realize that you are alive, and at any given moment that can all change. It reminds you to appreciate the good and the bad that life has all to offer, and that for now it still has more to offer.

An Unexpected Companion

Ever so often, you feel like you are at a crossroads in your life. You don’t know which way to go. What path you should take. The road that brought you here to this crossroads was a rough one, but it started to feel a little easier. You tell yourself “Maybe you were just getting stronger along the way?” Or maybe things are just getting easier? My life has been filled with these sort of dilemmas for the past couple of years. One time life threw me such a curve ball and I swung and miss so bad it left me hurt. I had the longest second in my life, and I didn’t know how to carry on. So without really telling anyone, I set out to the desert to clear my head.

The semester had just ended, and while my friends were beginning to enjoy the start of the winter break, I couldn’t focus. I remember telling my best friend what happened. I remember going to her house because I really needed someone to talk to. She was always great for that. She helped me through a lot, but I still didn’t feel like I was really moving on. So I came home and packed up some camping gear, because when the sun rose, I was hitting the road.

It’s eight in the morning and I realize that I over slept. I should have been on the road already as it was going to be a long drive. I had trouble sleeping the night before, not because of what was bothering me, but because I always have trouble sleeping before leaving on an adventure. I rush to get dressed, make a quick breakfast and grab my field pack. I had to hurry if I wanted to get there before dusk. My destination was a good five hours away, so without any more delays I was off to be alone in the desert. 20141120_155532

The sun hangs low in the western sky as I pull up to camp off the dusty beaten road. As usual, no one is here. There isn’t a soul around for miles and miles. It is so peaceful here, some people can’t stand it being this quiet, however, I kind of like it. I quickly set up camp and then decided to do a little hiking while there is still some sun out. I can’t go too far because it will be getting dark soon. I set off towards the nearby mountains just north east of camp. The gravel crunches with each step along the lonely trail. I keep thinking about my mistakes. I keep thinking of how much of a fool I am. That is when the solitude begins to hit me, and I start feeling alone.

Suddenly out of the corner of my eye something moves. I turn to look and not too far in the distance is a lone coyote. It stands there watching me, as I watch it. I keep walking, making sure not to act like prey. I keep looking over my shoulder and I notice it is following me, not directly behind me, but off in the distance to the side. It’s not trying to hide, and it doesn’t seem to be stalking, just following. Maybe it’s just curious? I don’t know. After a couple of minutes of hiking I see that it is now keeping pace with me. Instead of it being slightly behind, it’s now off to the side of me. For some odd reason, I start talking to it.

I start speaking out load, as if it can understand me. I tell it what’s been troubling me and why I am here. It doesn’t seem to mind and just stands there watching me.  At one point I actually looked at it and ask “What should I do?” It just looked at me, and everything went quiet. It was only a moment but it felt like a long time, and in that moment I felt at peace. I felt relieved. The coyote then sniffed the air then turn and ran off, checking over it’s shoulder to make sure I didn’t follow. I stood there and watched it run off. I then waived at my once unexpected companion, before returning to camp for the night.20141120_122202

I don’t know why that coyote followed me. Perhaps it thought I had food or that I was food? Or maybe, just maybe it was nature’s way of saying that everything was going to be okay, and that no matter what, I’m never truly alone. What if we are never alone, and always have a companion in someway? A constant companion. Always there to make sure we come back home. I like to believe that is true.

Until next time. Never give up. Never give in.

The Moment You Give Up, and the Silver Lining in Defeat

I can’t slow my breathing. My hands are shaking as I rest my palm on the weathered granite slope. My feet shuffle for position as I try to find an area to launch to. Ten feet is all that separates me from where and my path down. My friend and companion waits on the other side, two more are watching from the bottom. I only have one shot at this, there is no room for error. Under jump and I tumble down, and if I’m lucky a sharp thorn bush breaks my fall. Over jump and risk hitting a boulder and having a similar ending. The small landing zone is right there I can see it, but I don’t think I can do this. I take a step and instantly freeze in terror. Fear grips me like a long lost lover and I realize that I have finally lost.20141223_111912

I waken to the sound of a zipper opening up a sleeping bag and the rustling of my friend getting up. Light is beginning to fill the tent. I know it’s later than usual because today is the winter solstice, and a quick look at my phone confirms my belief. As I exit the tent and make my way to the nearby picnic table to get a drink of water I admire the view in front of me. Indian Cove in Joshua Tree is remarkable. The way the morning light hits the rock and fills the small valley, it’s like the mountains are singing to you. I can’t wait to get going, because today I go bouldering on the nearby rock. The greatest thing about this campsite is that there are places to boulder right next to your tent.20141223_104636

After a quick bite, and packing up camp, we set out to a tall outcrop. The nearest face is sheer and tall. There are climbers at the base gearing up for a climb. I mentioned that I don’t know how to climb, and that I always wanted to try it. My friend then exclaims how fun it was and that we should check out Hangar 18, a local rock climbing gym. I agree, and tell him that I almost went a month ago on my own, but something came up and I hadn’t attempted to go since. We then decide to try walking to the other side of the outcrop to see if there was a better place to try and climb up.

On the other side we found a great place to head on up. Two of my friends stayed at the bottom where a couple of small boulders lay, and by small I mean about as high as a one story house. My other friend and I begin our ascent. I head right he goes left. I end up on top of one rock not to far from the bottom but with no way to advance further up, while my friend is getting closer to the top. When I see where my friend is I decide to head that way. Now one thing about bouldering that I have noticed is this, it’s always easy going up. Going down is a whole other story. You look down at how you got up and think to yourself, where did I put my feet? So after heading down a tricky slope I start heading to the top.

I’m almost to the top when I spot my friend on a ledge about ten feet above me. I asked him how he got up and he pointed at a sloping rock and said “You see that rock that is sloping up on your left?”     20141223_111835    I look to my left and reply “This one?”
“Yeah, that one. Just take that and it will go around the corner” He says.
“Alright.” I say still confused on what he was explaining.
I don’t think he and I were looking at the same rock. This looked kind of sketchy but oh well. I thought to myself if you don’t risk anything, you won’t gain anything, so up I went. The first few feet where not bad, but then it narrowed significantly. It seemed to narrow at the worst part too. This is where it curves around and there is only an inch of ledge to place your toes on to support yourself. Luckily the boulder above me had a grove to provide a hand hold. I faced the cliff, held on with my right hand and stretched with my left hand until it found the other side where I couldn’t grip but palm enough to give me something to sort of hold onto.I then proceeded to shimmy across until I was on the other side. I felt a sigh of relief as I reached the other side and then started to hike up to the top.

Sitting on the top of this large formation of rock overlooking the valley in the morning was spectacular. My friend and I gave each other the obligatory high five and began making fun of our other friend who decided not to go as high as we did. It really didn’t matter to either one of us that he didn’t, but we just wanted to give him crap for it anyways, and so we did. After several moments and a couple of jokes later we decided to head back down, and join the others.20141223_112040

On the way down we passed where I had to shimmy across to get around the rock and my friend said  “Dude I wasn’t talking about that! That is way to dangerous! I meant this path.” He points.
I look and several feet below that is a nice flat rock that goes around the corner. I must have worn a shocked look on my face because my friend started laughing.
“You went the hard way.” He laughed.
“Oh well, if you don’t challenge yourself you’ll never exceed your limits.” I replied.
We continued down and at some point we ended up going down a different path. We ended up coming to a point where the only way down would be to jump down ten feet. We thought about attempting it but after thinking about it, and knowing there is another way we headed back.

I went over another rock and saw what looked like an easier way down. We started climbing down and we came to another ledge. Our friend who was spotting us from the bottom said if we go to our left we could make our way down. I recognized the rock from earlier and I knew we could go back. My friend was closer to the part on the left and I watched him make his approach and leap to the other side. He made it look easy. I tried to follow in his footsteps. I stood where he stood, I crouched and ready myself to pounce to the other side. Then something happened I started thinking about what if I don’t stick my landing. I imagined myself slipping and falling back, cracking my head open on the rock and falling to my doom. Once that thought crept into my mind, I couldn’t shake it. I lost my confidence and with it the will to try.

20141223_110854I turned and headed back up to find a new path. Leaving my friends behind. I went to another part where I found another place to drop down to was. I wanted to move closer to the edge to take a look, and that is where I slipped. I lost my footing and began to slide towards the edge. I reached out in desperation and caught a crack in the rock just before my feet went over the ledge. My heart was racing like never before and I thanked my lucky stars that I caught myself. I found my feet and climbed back up. Where I found my friend, he had come back for me. I didn’t want to tell him what just happened, so I didn’t mention  it.  We found an easy path after reuniting and made our way to our friends. Where I proceeded to hugged each and every one of them like never before. I was happy to be there with them. I was happy to be alive.

While I may be disappointed in myself for not being able to overcome my fear. For not trying to make that jump, that I know I could have made. I’m a little happy at what came out of this experience. You see it wasn’t long ago that I lost my will to live. Where I wanted to die, and it seemed like there was nothing anyone could say or do to make me think otherwise. Luckily I found my strength, my inner light to illuminate the darkness around me and I overcame it. Since then I wondered if I still had a slight death wish with some of the things I do. I think me not being able to attempt a jump for fear of death, leads me to believe that I don’t. I can truly say that I am happy to be alive.