A couple weeks ago I drove down to one of the most incredible places within an hour of my house, Castle Rock. This place reminds me of some of the rockiest areas of Great Falls, MD, except it’s up in the mountains (great views) and the rocks and trees to climb range from the pretty easy and basic (kids and people in flip flops climb them) to really damn hard (I got stuck in one spot for about 10 minutes trying to figure out how to get down or up, and serious rock climbers come out to train here).
I love getting outside and exploring. Sometimes I just wander around and find things to climb while I totally relax by connecting to nature. Other times I search for whatever adventures I can get in to. For me, challenging myself is what it's all about. Not only because it's fun, but because I think its important. So, I had three separate scenarios where I got myself pretty nervous, and that is what I want to get into here.
There is this massive redwood that fell against a huge rock-face and it seriously looked like it was deliberately put there to climb. You can start right at the base and sort of spiderman crawl up the tree about 50 yards while using those awesome branches for support. Most of the way up this thing you realize that you are a good 20-40 feet above the ground until you reach the “safety” of the rocks being about 5-10 feet under you near the top. Now I’ve done enough climbing around the woods to not really get too concerned for my well-being on something like this. But it had been a long enough time for me to feel that heightened sense of excitement as I climbed. My heart raced, and my senses got super focused. My breathing quickened and I made myself pause in the middle of the tree to appreciate the feeling. I hadn’t felt that way in a while.
This is the one I mentioned in the opening paragraph. It was this sort of crack between two large rocks and I decided it would be a fun challenge to shimmy up between the two of them to the top. The best way I am able to do this is to press my back against one rock while pushing my feet against the other one and slowly leveraging myself upwards. Well, this rock decided to be weirdly angles making that strategy not possible. So, I just found my way up. This worked really well until the halfway point. Here I found myself sort of stuck in a game-of-twister style position, wedged between two rocks about 30 feet above the ground. Yes, it took me a solid 10 minutes of slight body weight shifts and risky hold changes to finally get myself through the top and to safety. That got me pretty scared for a few minutes, along with extremely dirty, sweaty, and scraped up pretty good too.
This is the one that got me thinking about fear and how important it is for us humans to experience it. I climbed up an absolutely awesome tree. This huge one about 50 yards off the trail with two massive branches stretching out into the silent forest. One was about 15 feet high, the other about 20 feet. To get up to the first branch I had to do a bit of a trust jump going from a knob near the base of the tree to what I hoped to be a decent hand-hold on one side of the lower branch. Lucky for me it was a solid hold, and then I used what little muscle up skill I have to maneuver my way up onto the branch (again, even dirtier, sweatier, and more scraped up). But the reward was a huge natural mezzanine of sorts that I could actually lay down and spread out, listening to the forest and really connecting with nature. The tree was covered in moss too, so it felt like a super comfy natural bed. I hung out there for a while, it was really, really nice.
But eventually I had to get down. And getting down the way I came up was risky enough that it was out of the question. So, my only option at that point was to jump off the 15 foot branch into a very sloped and branch-and-rock-filled earth below. No problem, I tossed my bag down first (it proceeded to roll over itself about three times showing me just how sloped the ground was there), then stood up and got ready to jump. I froze. Damn. I was so scared!
What if I tripped and fell? What if I landed wrong? What if I got hurt, or worse, what if I crashed to the ground and got empaled by a huge branch?!
This fear very quickly gave way to sheer excitement. I immediately remembered why I love being out in nature so much. And why I insist on climbing things, and jumping off things, and exploring, and getting lost. I crave this fear. I know tons of people out there can relate. Climbers, adventurers, explorers, race car drivers, divers, motorcyclists, surfers, the list can go on and on. The fear we feel in these situations makes us feel alive. It gives us purpose. It trains us to understand our emotions and learn how to control ourselves in extreme situations. Putting yourself at risk, getting so far out of your comfort zone you genuinely don’t know what to do for a period of time, those times are when you learn the most about yourself. Those times are when you become a better version of you because you HAVE to. When you walk to a ledge and the only way down is to jump, you learn to trust yourself, to trust nature, and have faith. Faith is one of the greatest things we can have. It is how we overcome fears. It might be faith in God, or something spiritual. it might be faith in yourself, or just in an idea that things will work out. Allowing yourself to disconnect from all those fears you have learned to have is such a unique and incredible skill. You must believe in the fact that whatever happens in the moments after your leave your feet, you are ready for it, good or bad.
Yes, this is a metaphor for life. It doesn’t have to be jumping from a tree, it could be starting a new job, trying out a gym that uses barbells and atlas stones, traveling to a new country, telling someone you love them, anything that takes you out of your little world of comfort. Sure, you can always measure your risk levels and assess that joining a gym is a little less risky than climbing Mount Everest, but you see my point. For some people, unfortunately, stepping out of the house in the morning is as much a scary situation as it is for others to climb a 100’ foot cliff. It’s all relative. And my message holds true to anyone and everyone out there: these fears are good, and NECESSARY for you to grow and improve as a human being. Embrace them for all their scariness and appreciate every single thing in your life that you’ve had to take a risk to achieve. Those things are so worth it! Most of the greatest achievements come from great risks. So damn it, JUMP!
Back in that tree. I actually laughed out loud. It felt so good to fear in nature. It was a rush of excitement and I missed it so much. I looked around the woods, felt the cool California dusk wave over me and heard the birds chirping as the sun went down. The trees rustled, the giant rocks loomed all around me, and there was not a single sound of another human being, car, or plane, It was perfect. I took a deep breath and jumped.
Never Stop, GET FIT.