My husband and I enjoy the outdoors like it’s nobody’s business, but on the day we were supposed to drive up to the Blue Ridge mountains, I twisted my ankle pretty badly climbing down the stairs. I’m clumsy that way – perfectly capable of tripping on leveled ground while wearing flats, so it’s a miracle that I’ve survived this long. When we got to the base of the hike up to Chimney Rock, which was basically a bunch of stairs, we had to use the elevator instead of climbing up. I tried all day to reserve judgement on whether or not I could make the climb, but I took one look at the stairs and I knew I couldn’t do it. Not just because of the twisted ankle, but also because I despise stairs. I can speed walk for days but do not make me climb the stairs. My cardio sucks and I hate feeling like my heart was going to beat out of my chest. I have the same amount of revulsion for snakes and stairs – my two greatest fears. Ok that was a bit of an exaggeration. I am mortally afraid of snakes.
So we took the elevator, which took all of 30 seconds to take us to the top – it was a few hours to sundown, the sky was cloudy, the air frigid and cold as you’d expect November to feel like on the mountaintop and the view was stunning. But we both stood there in silence at 2280ft, among the thronging crowds lining up for selfies and group pictures atop the precarious piece of outcrop that was Chimney Rock and we were quite sad and empty. Somehow, we felt like we didn’t earn that view, and that thought made sure we couldn’t enjoy it. We trudged back to the line to the elevators, waiting for our turn to go back down, but there was that one moment when we looked at each other and knew that the day wasn’t going to end this way.
My dear, sweet husband tried to feign disinterest towards the climb, worried about how much it’d hurt me, but I knew he would have otherwise wanted the climb, and he knew I was going to do it no matter what. So there was nothing left to do, but climb up to Exclamation point which was at 2,480ft, about 200ft up from where we were, or about 18 stories. Of course, we didn’t have all this data at the time – all we had was this blind rush inside that told us we had to do it.
So there we were, two 30-somethings, climbing up the rickety, rotten wood stairs like a 70-year old couple. I had to grab onto the railings to pull myself up, and there were times when I had to transfer all of my weight on my husband to ease the pressure off my foot, but after what felt like an eternity of pain, we were at the top. T’was as if the Universe was waiting for us to get there, because while the entire climb was windy and so cold that I couldn’t feel my fingers for most of the way, the second we got up there, the winds stopped, the air got less cold and the world around us grew silent. It was just a half hour or so before sundown, so there was nobody up there with us. It was just us two, with pressing silence and this view before our eyes. Words cannot explain the sheer perfection of this moment.
Up there, with a throbbing ankle and burning lungs, I realized that the difference in the feeling was in the climb. The view hadn’t changed that much in 200ft, but we had. The pain gave us renewed appreciation in what lay before our eyes, and everything, even life, is sweeter, when you’ve been through the rough times. And when you eventually reach your goal and make it up there, that stellar view from the top will make it all worth the pain and suffering that the years have mercilessly heaped upon you and my dear, sweet friend, you’ll thank yourself for not taking that 30 second elevator at the start. So keep your faith, and make that climb, because there is so much beauty and joy just waiting for you to get there. So, climb!
“Climb mountains not so the world can see you, but so you can see the world.” – David McCullough Jr.