Inner journeys & exploration in our outdoor world
I had been longing for Arizona for months. But responsibility and monetary consciousness held me back. So when my life completely and drastically changed in the blink of an eye, I booked a ticket before I could change my mind. I knew I needed…. something.
For the first time in my life I traveled alone. I’ve been on plenty of flights solo, but never before had I done an entire journey on my own.
No safety blanket.
No familiar faces or voices.
Just me, my sneakers and my sense of adventure. Guard down, head up, feet planted strongly into the red earth. That was my plan.
Never did I realize just how transformative and eye opening following that little intuitive nudge would turn out to be. I knew that sometimes to go into yourself, you have to go out. In order to heal the inner turmoil, you have to surround yourself by the calm of the outdoors.
And my internal world was a boiler room.
Three days was the catalyste that sent me down a path that changed my life. While never before being a morning person, I made a commitment to myself to immerse myself in a sunrise hike every morning. Day one was lovely overall, and contently I sat with heavy eyelids figuring out area to explore on day two, I kept being called back to Cathedral Rock.
I stared at my computer screen, blinking. Extreme 600 foot incline over half a mile it read. I gulped a little. I came to hike, not rock climb. Do not attempt without a good pair of hiking boots was the next line. I glanced over at my dusty shoes. They weren’t even close to representing a pair of hiking boots, let alone a good pair.
Thoughts flooded my head as I closed my computer and set my alarm for 4:30 a.m., the time that the world would still be sleeping.
Maybe I shouldn’t go. It sounds dangerous.
No, you want to go. Go. If it gets too difficult just turn around, but at least try.
At least try.
You can always quit….
The next morning, I resisted the urge to sleep in or drive to another spot. I knew it was unjustified fear setting in. So there I stood in the parking lot, staring up to the top as the sky transformed itself from a deep, dusky blue. The birds were singing, encouraging the sun to peek thru the dark clouds looming overhead. So much for an early morning sunrise.
It started out easy enough, the lower trail wasn’t steep and there was so much beauty to get lost in. There was only one other hiker out, and he quickly passed me and disappeared, not to be seen again. (Which was strange bc there was only one trail in and one trail out from the summit.)
The elevation quickly got steeper.
I had to stop.
I couldn’t wait to get to the top. I also couldn’t help but dread the potential danger. There is nobody here. If I fall, how long will I be there before somebody finds me? I shouldn’t have come alone. But I knew I needed to be alone, to do this completely by myself.
So I kept trekking upwards and onward.
(I also found comfort in knowing some psychic friends were going to be in town later that day, and figured if I fell off a cliff and broke my leg…maybe they could locate me. These are the rationals of a woman who is terrified and will take any safety net possible...even the possibly outlandish ones.)
I stopped on a sharp ledge to sit back and take in the beauty, and catch my breath. My heart was pounding. Not from strenuous exertion, but from fear.
I was so comfortable on my ledge, and so proud of how far I had come, and so apprehensive about the last little portion before the top. All around me the cliff just went straight up. After gathering my courage and adjusting my bag, I turned the corner.
My stomach dropped to the floor.
I was looking up a sharp crevice with no real trail and just a few white marks letting me know where I should and shouldn’t walk.
I mean climb.
I mean levitate.
Because how else am I gonna get up this thing? And when I do, how am I gonna get down? I’m for sure gonna die. I can’t do this. There is no way. I have come far enough. The view is great from here, you tried. That itself is enough.
I sat down again. Rationalizing all the reasons why I didn’t need to continue.
What? Where did the voice saying but come from? I turned around and looked up again. There was nobody there.
But the view up there is even better. And it’s a short distance, this steep climb. And you are ssssooooo close to the top.
Don’t stop now.
And that’s when it hit me. Why I felt so called to be here, at this spot, on this day, of all the places in the world. This hike was representative of my life. Before this moment, I would work so hard, fight and climb and huff and puff and cry, and then give up.
I almost finish.
Then it gets hard.
My inner voice got more excited.
Don’t stop now. If you turn around you’re gonna have to do all this work all over again, and you still won’t have made it to the top! Twice the work minus the reward.
Don’t worry about how you’re gonna get down. Don’t worry about how steep it is. Don’t focus on the whole path. Just focus on the next step.
What is that saying?
You don’t have to see the whole staircase to take the first step.
One step at a time.
Just focus on where your hand goes. And then your foot. And then your other hand. And that’s precisely what I did.
One step at a time.
Before I knew it, I was hoisting myself over the edge and stepping onto an expansive, beautiful, flat plateau. I felt so at peace. I smiled and twirled and laughed. I wasn’t at the top yet, but the rest from there on out was so easy after my mental struggle and breakthrough. Just then, the sun burst thru the clouds.
I hiked the rest of the way and sat for an hour in solitude, taking in the sights and sounds. I took my shoes off and put my feet in the earth, wiggling my toes and feeling the energy from the ground. No wonder it was called Cathedral Rock. Something major had shifted in me and I wanted to sit and bask in it. I wanted to soak up the red dirt and sunshine and birds and trees. I wanted it all to mesh with my soul and take it with me to cherish forever.
I did the next best thing. I hiked all the way back down barefoot. Humans were around thousands of years before shoes! God had to know what he was doing when he made our feet, right?
If it gets hard you can stop and put your shoes on.
You see, I was worried about that steep decline that caused so much doubt on the way up. And gloriusly, it was much easier getting down, especially barefoot. My toes gripped the earth, joy radiating from the soles of my feet to the top of my head.
I made it all the way down to the car with my shoes tied together and flung over my shoulders. I paid attention to where I stepped, I noticed everything. On a particularly soft patch of finely sifted earth I stopped and wrote a love note to everyone going up.
I laughed at all the people with their gear and hiking boots and poles. Some stopped, some stared, and some couldn’t help but inquire about my barefoot adventure.
The earth feels good.
I take it one step at a time.
I grip the earth, it supports me.
Some people took their shoes off too. Others scoffed. Such is life.
I made it back to the car with a smile on my face and my very own custom pair of Red Bottoms.
No more giving up.
Originally published at thecampsiteblog.com on July 4, 2015.