Questionable Decisions

“Hesitation of any kind is a sign of mental decay in the young, of physical weakness in the old.” – Oscar Wilde, “The Importance of Being Earnest”

I’ve been sore for two days. We’re talking crippling sore. Thanks to my new gym membership, and a desire to get stronger in the hopes that this will eventually equate to being faster.

That should have been the first indication that I shouldn’t be pushing my limits. There was also the 6 inches of new snow that should be been a second indication. Then there was the fact I got a late start, headed out in something less than adequate attire and no pack, no nutrition, no water. Then I decided to do one of the most challenging trails- Corkscrew up to Liberty Cap, and back down the Liberty Cap trail. 

This trail, which I’ve done before- remember? Shortly after my surgery? And I was dumb then, too. Still had stitches, the trail was icy. But I was fine and had a great time! I didn’t think this time would be much different. If anything, this time would be better, right?

Wrong.

So very wrong.

This trail has more than 1300 feet of climbing, and I took the longer ascent of about 2 miles. The descent is even steeper: 1.5 miles. Within the first 1/2 mile I probably should have known it was a mistake. It hurt more to walk than to run, so I ran as much as I could on the climb. But the foot placement was sketchy and the traction was nil. Normally if you see me running on a trail you could imagine me to be channeling the spirit of a gazelle, or perhaps a bird of some kind that runs fast. If you had seen me this day you would have recalled Quasimodo. It was a stumblefest.

When I got to the intersection, I could make a choice. It was less than a mile to complete the climb up to the Cap, or I could turn and go down. Here it started to become mental, right? I have this complex- when I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do everything in my power to do it. I had told more than one person that I was hiking up to Liberty Cap. Not up the trail, but up to the rock its self. How could I tell them I didn’t, when I said I would?

So I pressed on.

So, so very wrong.

Corkscrew had been easy in comparison. Liberty Cap was blanketed in snow, and though it had seen more traffic, it was still nearly impossible to guess what pitfalls awaited under the snow. Again- I had no food, no water, no trekking poles, no support but my hands and feet. So I slipped and slid along the hidden rocks. I scrambled up the climbs and shuffled across the traverses. I plodded.

At times the trail up there is quite exposed, and there was more than one occasion when my foot fell off the side of the trail, nearly plunging me into the incredible views below. Twice I slipped on a rock scramble and struck my shoulder, my knees, and twisted my back.

Now, I tend to be of a rather optimistic disposition. When several pitfalls befall me in short succession, it will generally provoke laughter. In this case, it provoked angry tears. But I still didn’t turn back. There was still this tiny light inside of me- and I think it was coming from the rocks and trees and even the snow.  En-wrapped as I was in my own suffering, I could not deny the beauty of this place and how it smote my heart.

I did make it to the summit- eventually. I immediately found a field of snow and laid down. And I remained stationary, freezing, for several moments. I just didn’t care. I just wanted to become numb so the pain would end.

Then something magical happened. A change in the lighting enveloped me in gold. I turned my head to see what had changed. The sun was somehow reflecting off the yellow-gold hues of the rocks. I was surrounded by a thousand points of light. I smiled. And decided that I was going to be an angel.

IMG_5738

 

The way down was…different. I was a little more cheerful, but far less cautious. I slipped and slid most of the way down. Did I fall? Yes. How many times? No idea. Didn’t care. I just wanted to get down. And that’s an odd feeling for me. Usually when I’m on the trail, I am content. But this time, more than anything, I wanted to be done. I wanted to be home, and warm, with 800 mil of Ibuprofen coursing through my veins.

When I was finished, I didn’t take time to reflect as I usually do. I can’t say that I even rejoiced at achieving my goals. All I could think about was, “Really, Elisa? You haven’t learned, have you? Still making some dumb choices in these little adventures! If you learn nothing else from this little experiment of yours I hope you learn good judgement!”

Well, I guess we’ll see. At least I’m getting to be a better photographer.

Looking toward the west entrance of the monument.
Looking toward the west entrance of the monument.
Insert a metaphor here about how sometimes it's easier to walk in the path that others have trod, and sometimes it's better to make your own path.
Insert a metaphor here about how sometimes it’s easier to walk in the path that others have trod, and sometimes it’s better to make your own path.
Looking north.
Looking north.
Looking down the way I had come up. This is Corkscrew. Can you spot the trail?
Looking down the way I had come up. This is Corkscrew. Can you spot the trail?
Looking up.
Looking up.
Looking east toward the Mesa.
Looking east toward the Mesa.
The shining.
The shining.

IMG_5725

The trail up to Liberty Cap. Yes, yes that's a "trail".
The trail up to Liberty Cap. Yes, yes that’s a “trail”.
Another shot of the Liberty Cap trail. Kinda sketchy here.
Another shot of the Liberty Cap trail. Kinda sketchy here.
Rock formation, almost to the top.
Rock formation, almost to the top.
The cap. I love to look up at it from the valley. It boggles the mind.
The cap. I love to look up at it from the valley. It boggles the mind.
Obligatory panorama of the Grand Valley. 'Tis grand, no?
Obligatory panorama of the Grand Valley. ‘Tis grand, no?