A hike into the Amphitheatre at South Africa’s Royal Natal National Park to see the world’s second highest waterfall seemed like a good idea—until it didn’t. With heavy mist obscuring any possibility of a view and a water-slicked, cliff-hugging ladder providing the only way in or out, Richard Kitzinger suddenly found himself face-to-face with his greatest fears.
It was a gorgeous day for a hike--sunny, blue skies, comfortable temperature-perfect hiking weather. F suggested we hike up to the summit of the 12,000’ peak, taking our time, enjoying the profusion of wildflowers that had suddenly emerged after the night’s rain. She was used to hiking at lower altitudes, so we stopped whenever she needed to catch her breath or eat a snack. We climbed in companionable silence, finding the meandering path up to the top with no trouble.
Almost as soon as we started eating, it began to rain. We put on our rain gear, packed up our food, and started hiking down the mountain. The temperature dropped. Balls of hail mixed with the rain. Rivulets of water poured down what we thought was the trail.
Suddenly she screamed at me. “I’m not doing this anymore. Why do you always have to hike? Why can’t we ride bikes? This is dangerous!”
by Nancy King
On a cool sunny dawn, after getting up at 4 a.m., my friend and I began our hike into the Grand Canyon after agreeing that we would each walk at our own pace and meet at the rest stops. She took off and I followed behind, starting down the 14-mile hike on the Kaibab Trail, munching a protein bar and drinking the electrolyte-water in the bladder of my backpack for breakfast. As the golden rays of the sun highlighted huge stone canyon structures, I felt blessed by the beauty surrounding me.
Before we began the hike I was concerned about hiking back up the steep Bright Angel Trail, but it never occurred to me that going down could be a problem. I was totally unprepared for the widely spaced wooden steps and heavily eroded trail in front of me. Down two feet to a log step, then up two feet to the next log step. Down, up, down up, all the time moving down a steep incline. Still, I was contentedly making my way when suddenly I lost 75% of my energy and could barely control where and how I stepped. I began falling backwards as I tried to take a step. My body refused to move normally. I had no idea what was happening to me.
What I did know was that I couldn’t afford to panic and waste my waning energy.
by Nancy King
The Sierra Club hike was advertised as: Strenuous Hike along the streams and meadows of the Grass Mountain area of the Pecos Wilderness, ~10 mile one-way hike with car shuttle, possible 2000 ft. cumulative climb.
It sounded doable to me although I usually hike only seven or eight miles. The preceding weeks had been stressful and my system felt full of grunge. Maybe the sight of wildflowers and panoramic mountain vistas would act as emotional system cleanser and make me feel better. So, I signed up.
By seven o’clock, on the morning of the hike, I didn’t feel well and was on the verge of canceling. But I made a decision, that I would be okay, and with many deep breaths, set out to meet the group at 7:30. There were eight hikers; I was clearly the oldest, and the leader, a cheerful, upbeat guy in his early forties, was so welcoming that he carved a space in my worries and filled it with optimism. But I was unnerved when I heard people ask him, “So how long is this hike, really?” Funny question. The blurb said ten miles. Hadn’t they read it?
I’ve learned that if I’m able to walk behind the leader, I get charged with his or her energy, but if I’m at the end of the group, it’s a slog all the way, an energy sink. As we started up the mountain, with me just behind the leader, the relentless uphill climb made me wonder if it was going to go on ad infinitum. I huffed and puffed up the first four miles, hoping I’d make it to the top, wherever that was.