My mantra this summer has been “You can do hard things.” I have to keep telling myself this, because I keep trying hard things and getting discouraged about halfway through. Over June and July I took a graduate course called Statistics for Researchers. This is a tough class and I chose to take it online over 8 weeks instead of on campus over 16 weeks. It. Was. Hard. But I can do hard things.
The first weekend in August, my wonderful Husbee convinced me to “hike” a trail in the Wichita Mountains. The purpose of this hike was to make a video project that will be used in our church. I put the word “hike” in parentheses because this was no hike. What he actually meant when he said “hike” was CLIMB. We were joined by our friends Zack and Karen for the beginning of our trip, and they rejoined us on the last stretch.
This is Karen’s picture. The rock formation in the top left photo is called the Apple and Pear- that is where we were heading. It’s hard to tell from pictures just how big these rocks are and how high up. I want you to know- they are huge.
We started out on a trail that seemed pretty easy. No big deal. A few bumps and steps up. A few rocks to step over and tree limbs to duck under. Then we came to the “Valley of the Boulders.” This picture is borrowed, but I’m pretty sure it’s the same valley:
I borrowed this picture from http://www.summitpost.org. I have been trying to wrap my brain around what we actually did and where we actually were, but I am a novice hiker and that was my first time to this area. I have no idea what any of the trails were called.
This picture actually does it no justice at all. Those are some BIG rocks! Like, taller than me rocks. We were climbing on and over them and jumping from rock to rock to get to the next trail. My first boulder jump was so scary that it took me about 10 minute to work up the courage to do it! I did finally jump and climb my way down to the next trail which led us to the rock rooms, which are not quite caves but definitely a place one could take shelter if needed.
From the rock rooms, we followed the trail out into the sun. I think it’s important to tell you now that I was carrying 3 liters of water on my back and Zach was carrying 1 liter along with various camera equipment for our project. 3 liters of water is heavy. It was in a bag with a drinking spout, inside of a backpack that didn’t fit quite right because it’s Zach’s, and I am not a very big adult…. which may be an understatement. The trail stayed in full sun the rest of the way to the bottom of Elk Mountain.
At the bottom of the mountain, I thought “I can do this. It’s not so bad.” About halfway up, I was ready to quit. I was almost crying, and had come very near to hyperventilation due to sheer panic! This climb is much steeper than it looks from the trail at the bottom. I wanted to just let Zach finish the climb alone, make his video and come back for me. I was in the shade and I could just wait it out- I thought. But of course, Zach wouldn’t let me. The rest of the climb was a religious experience, let me tell you. I pushed my self harder than I have in a very long time- both mentally and physically. I came close to tears and hyperventilation a few more times on the way up. The mildest incline was about 45 degrees and we were basically bear crawling on all fours for the entire second half of the climb. I was having to stop and rest every 100 feet or so. Then we came to the last stretch. Again, I told Zach I couldn’t do it. It looked like it was completely straight up from where we were. Did I mention we had zero climbing equipment? It was just us and our hands and feet. I don’t even have any hiking shoes- I was wearing running shoes!
I did finally muster the courage and strength to do the last stretch upward.
Zach and me at the Apple and the Pear.
Just so you know how big these rocks are- this is Zach standing directly under the Pear on a previous trip. It’s really, really ridiculously big!
The trip down was just as terrifying as climbing up had been. We couldn’t really go down the exact way we went up because it was so steep that we might have slid down too quickly. So, we had to find a new path. This proved very difficult. There were times we were climbing down, and unexpectedly came to a place where the rock just dropped out from beneath us. We would have to climb back up, then climb sideways until we found a place where we could descend this crazy rock with no equipment. More crying, more hyperventilating.
By the time we got back to the rock rooms, we were out of water. I was on the verge of heat exhaustion. I had to remove the empty water backpack because I couldn’t breathe. I took off my long sleeved shirt because I felt smothered, but when I sat down to rest, I started getting goose bumps. It was 100 degrees outside, but much hotter on the rocks. We still had to walk a ways on the trail before we reached the Valley of the Boulders again. I did NOT want to climb back UP those rocks. But I had to. I made it to the top of the valley and saw Karen. I once again was near tears. She handed me the last little bit of water they had. Some other hikers overheard us say we were out of water and handed us a Powerade. What a life saver. We were still about 2 miles from the car at this point. I started trucking down that last trail toward the parking lot. I was afraid if I stopped moving, I wouldn’t be able to get up and go again.
I have never experienced anything like this. I had to keep telling myself “you can do hard things.” You know what? I CAN do hard things. So can you. The only way to prove this to yourself is to do something that you think is too hard.