Conquering My Fears

Conquering my fears is not something that normally I loose sleep over. However, for the past few weeks I have had this thought on my mind and I am not sure how to deal with it.

I have shared with with you all that we have a warm climate vacation planned for mid winter. We have started training and I know we will be physically ready to hike and try our hand at class III rock scrambling. Physically failing is not my issue, it’s mental. Ever since our last hike of the year at Devil’s Lake State Park here in WI where my family witnessed a gentleman fall from a bluff, I just can’t seem to forget that moment. And now, we are singed up to rock scramble with no ropes to the top of a mountain and I don’t know if my mind is going to allow this to happen.

I know my physical limitations and don’t usually push myself much further. Mentally is a whole different story. When we climbed Angel’s Landing in Utah, if I would have known what was ahead the entire hike up to the ridge, I know I would have had issues of panic. Thankfully, I did not know what was going to be asked of me and somehow I accomplished this. However, to this day I am still amazed with myself. I will admit, however, that I could have never accomplished this daring stunt without the support from our guides on this trip. I 100% trusted them with my life and that is not something I EVER do!

I already know that I will never forget what we witnessed here in WI and I know it will forever affect the way we hike at this park in the future. I always knew it could happen, I also know it could happen anywhere else we hike. It just scares me to know that even cautious, trained, physically fit individuals can make mistakes and one wrong move can forever change your life. I am not sure I am ready to risk this quite yet. I am not done living…. but at the same time, extreme activities are what make me feel alive. So what shall I do?

Do we cancel this hike/scramble and pick a different safer route?

Do we talk with our guide, explain our fear and see what he suggests?

Do I just suck it up and conquer my fear of falling?

 

 

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I Feel a Vacation Coming….

The winter of 2014 will be forever in our minds as the winter of below zero temperatures for 49 days straight. Lately, we have had temps up to 75 and now we are back down to the thirties in the morning hours. I simply can’t believe we have had to turn our heat back on!!! That being said, I really feel the need to do something about where we live.

I know what your all thinking. I just have spring fever. Although, I seriously think it’s more than that. I may have winter pneumonia. I have lived in this city for every single one of my 41 years of life. That’s 41 winters I have remarkably survived. Now, I admit maybe when I was young it was not so bad, but the last 10 years have truly been torture. So, I came up with this plan and ran it by my husband.  He always gets so worried when I say, “Honey, I have a plan…!” (I personally think he just needs to relax) Much to my surprise, he agreed to my plan after very little thought.

We are going to take our first winter vacation ever in 2015. We have decided (ok, so maybe I decided and let him know about it) to go back to the Southwest area where it is toasty warm and sunny.

We visited this same general area for the first time back in September 2013 when we traveled with REI to Zion National Park. This was by far the best vacation I had ever been on. We arrived in the REI van as passengers and it literally brought tears to my eyes at what I saw everywhere around me. I must admit, this was also the most emotional vacation I had ever taken. I cried three times in three days and for no reason other than I was so happy there. I was in my element with sun, hot temperatures and mountains all around me. Someday I have to believe I will live in this area, but until then, I plan to visit and explore every mile that I can.

This time we will be going at it on our own with no guides. We are also not visiting any national parks. Utah in winter has snow, so we plan to go a little more south to avoid the nasty white stuff. I hate to say it because winter 2014 is not that far behind us, but I am actually excited for winter 2015 to arrive. Now that’s a scary thought!

My hope is that by going on a warm vacation for a few days it will at least break up the endless days of freezing temperatures and make winter not seem so long and dreadful for me. It’s the best we can do at this point in our lives so I will take it as a blessing that I will have one week mid winter of glorious sunshine and warmth.

Do any of you vacation mid winter somewhere warm and sunny?

Does it help with the endless days of winter?

 

Our 20th. Anniversary Vacation-Zion National Park-Day 4

The only destination for today was the top of Angel’s Landing. An elevation gain of 1488 feet, rated as a strenuous hike, 5 miles round trip, with an average time to complete being 5 hours. The last 1/2 mile is up a narrow ridge with anchored support chains to hang on to.

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I knew this was going to be the hike that would be a dream come true if I could accomplish it. Climbing to the top of a mountain has been a life long dream of mine, and this was my chance. (When I read the sign that said 6 people have died from falling off this cliff, I prayed I would not be the seventh.)

We started out our day with a good breakfast and checking out of the lodge. All luggage was loaded into the REI trailer and we were all asked to visit Megan’s room where they had a spread of wraps, lunch meat, veggies, granola bars, chips, peanut butter, etc. all nicely arranged for us to prepare a pack lunch to carry to the top of the mountain. We all did this and loaded up and headed to the trail head.

The path is a paved path and the incline was immediate. The guides said there would be many breaks along the way because this was a climb they like to do all together as a team for moral support. (That should have been my first clue something big was coming) We continued up with gorgeous views. When we reached Refrigerator Canyon, we were cooled by a nice breeze and some shade which is where we took a break.

Next, up the trail was what they refer to as Walter’s Wiggles. This is a series of 21 short switchbacks with extreme elevation.

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When you reached the top of this you arrived at Scout’s Landing. Another break was taken here and this was when we could see our destination. The very top of this ridge.

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I can only try to explain the feelings I had from this point. They posted a nice sign stating the danger involved.

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No photography was taken while we climbed this VERY narrow ridge. I was gripping the chains with all the strength I had in me. I will admit, my eyes never left the side of the cliff, I knew if they had, I would have never continued. A few of us were ready to give up at the half way point, because of the sheer terror of this climb. Our guides patiently talked us through our fear and said they would clear the path. We would take it slow and steady as a team, supporting each other.

There is nothing I could ever put into words that would ever come close to the feelings I had. Our guides talked us through this, repeating over and over, “three points of contact at all times.” Two feet on the cliff and one hand on the chain, or two hands on the chain and one foot on the cliff. Each step was carefully planned before taking it. My knuckles were sometimes scraped from being between the cliff side and the chain and I didn’t even care, I was not letting go for nothing in the world.

When we finally made it to the top and the platform was flat enough to walk, I did this with shaky legs all the way to the end and took a seat. I swear I have never seen anything like what I saw from up there. It was like being on top of the world.

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Some of us ate our lunch and some of us just had a small snack. My  stomach was not ready to hold down the lunch I had packed, but I was able to eat a bit.

As we all got settled on top of this mountain, our wonderful guides pulled out a bottle of sparkling cider and cups. It was time for a toast, they said, to an amazing accomplishment as a team. None of us even knew they had carried a bottle up the entire mountain side, it was just amazing. So special!!!!

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We spent a half hour on top of the world literally, and then headed back down the same way we came up, slow and steady.

When we reached Scouts Landing, they said it was tradition to all huddle together in a circle, so we did. Brian then said, everyone take a deep breath and yell REI, and we all did, but the aroma in our huddle made it quite obvious that we all worked up quite a sweat on this hike!!! It was pretty funny actually, we all had a good laugh at this moment.

A very nice gentlemen even offered to take our group picture.

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After this it was back down the steep path to the van. We all had time to change into some clean clothing before the three hour ride back to the Green Valley Ranch Resort where they dropped us all off.

Our last day of hiking was made possible by two special people. I know for a fact, we would have never made it to the top without their support. A special thanks to Brain and Megan (REI guides) for making our dreams come true.

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If any of you are ever considering a trip like this, I have a few words of advice.

We were sent the itinerary of the trip and what the hikes all involved. We were not required to finish or do anything we did not feel comfortable doing. My husband and I trained for this for a few weeks before leaving and I truly believed this helped us get the full trip experience with the least amount of discomfort. Also,when mother nature is involved, things can change and you need to be flexible. We were very lucky that we were able to hike the Narrows with the amount of rain that was in the area before we arrived. Our REI guides made this trip very special in many ways, even though we were lodge based. We would highly recommend REI and plan to travel with them again someday.

****These are all our personal thoughts and opinions.

Our First “Empty Nester’s” Vacation

We did not waste any time to experience what it would be like to go on a mini vacation as a couple instead of a family.

We spent a good portion of Friday moving our son into his dorm and left mid afternoon for a camp sight about three more hours from his campus. This felt odd, leaving him behind, but we did it knowing that he was well settled and we did all we could do to make him feel comfortable with his new surroundings.

We had our new tent, new sleeping bags, sleeping mats, a bunch of freeze dried meals and our new day packs all loaded and ready for our trial run before the big Zion National Park trip we have planned.

When we arrived the tent was pitched with ease. (Hubby did this twice before leaving home to make sure he knew how) Our sleeping mats were unrolled and bags laid on top. We arrived right around dinner time, so we took out the MSR Whisperlite stove and prepared our favorite Mountain House freeze dried meal, chicken fajitas and corn.

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After dinner, we headed to the showers, and this brought a whole new experience for us. We both headed to our own side of the shower room.  As I got ready to turn on the water, I turned around and guess what was staring at me from the wall????? FOUR LITTLE FROGS! Oh my, I really honestly did not know what to do. Yes, it was over 100 degrees with the heat index all day, and I really wanted a nice refreshing shower, but at the same time, I also wanted to step very calmly out of the shower stall so they would not happen to jump on me with any quick movement I made. They did not seem to concerned about me being there, so I decided, it was either shower with them or not shower at all. I can proudly say, I bucked up and just showered. They never moved from their spot, just watched and waited for me to leave their shower stall when I was finished. The funniest part, was when I was all finished and exited the shower room, my husband was waiting patiently on the bench outside, and asked if I had any “new friends” in the shower with me. I said yes, why? He just laughed and said, wow, I was waiting for the scream, and it never happened, so he thought maybe his shower was the only one that had the frogs in it. I told him, nope they were in mine also, but we all got along just fine:)

Early Saturday morning we got up and had some breakfast. We were hoping to beat the heat of the day and get our hiking in. We started with East Brady’s Bluff Trail in which we saw some beautiful rock structures along the way.

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Upon arriving at the top,our view was of Trempealeau Mountain with the mighty Mississippi River all around it.

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We also had a small snack in the shelter at the top of the bluff.

IMG_2712We then headed down West Brady’s Bluff Trail. Took a peak at Horseshoe Falls, which was not a falls today, but still a sight to see.

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Then we decided to take on the hardest trail in the park. Perrot Ridge Trail. This trail is a mighty climb. At the very top the park rangers have even secured a rope for assistance in the last few yards of the climb.

A view looking up:

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And a view looking down, when we reached the top.

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We were pretty proud. We did this fairly easy compared to past years. Our training must be paying off. Don’t let me fool you though, we were hot and tired when we reached the top, but did it with ease.

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I hope my confidence stays with me to the top of Angel’s Landing in Zion in a few weeks!!!

Upon reaching the top, we took a break and did a mom and dad thing. We texted our son, and told him we made it to the top. It had been about 24 hours since we had said our good bye’s and we thought we would check in and make sure all was going well. After a bit of time, we started down the trail back to camp for some lunch. Cheesy chili was our choice for today. Another very yummy freeze dried meal.

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This ended our hiking excursion. It started to get hot and very muggy again.

So we thought some disc golf in a nearby city would be fun. We got in the truck and headed to Winona, Minnesota. We had played this course before and wanted to visit the city again seeing we were so close by. We spent the afternoon golfing and then my husband finally had the opportunity to take me to a restaurant he has visited a few times when he has been on the road working in this city.

All in all, it was a great weekend. Our tent was wonderful ,Marmot Trestles sleeping bags were never slept inside of because of the heat, but our Therm-a-Rest Sleeping mats provided plenty of padding from the hard ground.