Featured image of the Royal Arch by photographer Julie Kurger, a.k.a. The Trail Girl
Last Saturday, D suggested we took our exercising outdoors. Fall is my favorite season to be in Colorado, because of all the beautiful nature that’s at arm’s reach. The colors of the changing leaves are so vibrant! When I first moved here, I’d literally start singing the lyrics to the Pocahontas song “Colors of the Wind” whenever I’d leave the house. Naturally, when presented with the opportunity to come up close and personal with my favorite season, I had to say hell yeah.
Off we went to Chautauqua Park in Boulder. I was so excited! I’d heard about these trails before. I’d even tried to explore them once or twice, but had never actually made it there. It’s got amazing views, she said. Let’s take the short route, she said. The other one takes about three hours each way, this one only takes one, she insisted. I was happy to oblige. It was fun to think about all the exercise I’d be able to get in while enjoying a nice view .
Up we went on this so-called shorter trail. OMG, I thought I was going to die. Just the night before I’d completed an intense lower-body workout, and my butt and legs were incredibly sore from it. This climb was steep, I don’t care what anybody says. Lately I’ve been setting the treadmill to inclines of as high as 7. Now, I know this may seem like child’s play to some of you, but for an absolute couch potato like me, 7 is still pretty challenging. I was dying. At some point during the climb and the million stops I had to make, D mentions how this is the equivalent of a treadmill incline of 10. I almost fainted.
Up the little hill we went for what felt like forever. We finally got to an area with less of an incline, fully surrounded by the forest. It was awesome. The air was pure, the foliage was beautiful, and the walk was entertaining. Full of rocks, pebbles, and crevices. Between the chat, the hike, and the scenery, we got into a nice little groove. Nice enough to get the adrenaline pumping and make me forget for a second about a little HUGE detail. I’m terrified of heights.
All of a sudden we were no longer surrounded by trees. It finally hit me that we were climbing up! And where there used to be trees, there was now a cliff.
D walked on for a little bit longer to assess the area and see if I could attempt to brave the situation. As I waited, a panic attack hit me with such force, right on the spot where this last pic was taken, that I had to sit down and concentrate on breathing.
I’ve tried to explain to others what I feel in these situations. It’s a paralyzing fear of falling into the abyss, combined with a desire to jump in to get out of the situation as quickly as possible. It’s feeling like the earth is moving beneath you, and you’re falling off your feet, when you know you’re not actually moving. It’s like your madness knows no reason because your brain understands all this, but you still can’t help yourself.
We turned around right then. D had to hold my hand most of the way down, while I felt mad that I’d been so scared, and embarrassed that the fear had been stronger than me. I also felt sad to have ruined the hike for D. I’ve had nightmares every night since then. Each time I’m balancing myself on a cliff.
I absolutely had to see this Royal Arch, so I did the only thing I could do. I Googled a photo of the stupid thing. Luckily there’s braver people in this world than me, and they too have cameras. Who knows? They might not be afraid of heights, but maybe they don’t know how to swim.