Saturday, November 6, 2010

I have been to the mountaintop!

This hike will stand as one of the personal highlights of my life. On Sunday, October 31, 2010, I hiked to the very top of the Chimney Tops, willed myself to rock climb the last 30 feet, and raised my head up over the final rock ledge to experience a view unlike any other I have ever experienced. What an adrenaline rush that was! I have ridden that rush for almost a week now and it still seems almost as vivid as it did last Sunday. The views from that uppermost rock ledge are absolutely indescribable, but the personal satisfaction of having achieved it after two knee surgeries and at the age of 51 is just as incredible to me. I am so very glad that I didn't stop at the base of the rock outcroppings and convince myself that I had gone as far as I needed to.

This hike isn't rated "strenuous" for nothing! It is only a two mile hike in, but it takes a good bit of effort on the hiker's part. There are, however, several nice places to stop and rest along the way. My husband and I sat on one log that had been worn totally smooth by, I'm sure, other hikers just like us who were "whooped" and wondering if we would actually make it. I would like to have a dollar for every hiker who has stopped to rest on that one log. After climbing steeply for two miles, ascending at a rate of 700 feet per mile, you reach what some people consider the top. But really, the Anakeesta rock outcroppings that form the pinnacle are challenging you to experience the real mountaintop. Having come this far, I did not want to go back down without at least trying. Many hikers stop right here and convince themselves that these views are just as good as those from the pinnacle. As I watched some twenty-somethings trying to scale the face of the outcroppings, I almost made that argument to myself.

However, other hikers who had just come down from the top, riding their own adrenaline rush, I now know, encouraged us to try it. They also encouraged us to take the trail to the right of the pinnacle which led us to a more perpendicular rise, but that spot provided more handholds and footholds and at least a little more security in my mind. So, I put my hiking stick's wrist loop around my wrist, letting the stick travel along behind me, and started up. Slowly, but steadily, we found places to hang onto and eased our way up the rock face. About 20 feet up, I took one look down and almost froze. It was terrifying, to say the least. But at that point a nice young couple who was at the very top encouraged me not to look down and that we were almost there. I will forever thank them for that encouragement. Looking only to the top now, I inched my way up. I will never forget the feeling as my eyes cleared that last rock and the 360 degree view of my favorite place in the world became apparent. I gasped for breath, not from being tired, but from the sheer awesomeness of what was before me. I realized right then that this was one of those crowning moments of one's life that you will never forget. It made you want to cry out, to jump up and down, to celebrate life and your own accomplishment for having made it. Words, nor pictures, can do it justice. But I can say it has given new meaning to the phrase, "I have been to the mountaintop!"

To view my pictures from this hike, click on this link: Chimney Tops Photo Album

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