The walls of Red Mountain feel entirely too far apart at this point. I could feel myself breaking into a cold sweat. The orange-hued walls tower above me; the sunlight receding until it leaves me in the mountain’s chilly shadow.
That’s all this place was anyway – a large cave, it felt. Really, it’s a volcano with a natural amphitheater cut into it. And I felt trapped. I was left battling for my bones, even my life, to be spared.
Red Mountain, about 25 miles north of Flagstaff, is where Frank and I decided to spend our Saturday afternoon. This popular hiking site is definitely a kid-friendly, easy stroll, but this trail had never scared me quite this much before — because I decided to take a risk.
My footing slips a little bit, setting loose tiny rocks and kicking up a small cloud of dirt and heightened fear. My breathing and heartbeat quicken its pace. The rocks descending down the slick, steep slope aren’t nearly as audible now. They’ve been falling for a while, it seems …
Frank reminds me to hold on, that he’s going to pull me back up. I had to muster up the courage to move from my face down, arms-and-legs-outstretched position, clinging for dear life.
And then I lose my footing.
A shrilling shriek echoes through the amphitheater.
Adrenaline is pumping through my veins; I can’t feel anything but my feet sliding against the wall while trying desperately to stop this epic fall. I can’t hear anything but the rocks from above, below and alongside us falling rapidly down the slope. I can’t see anything but Frank clouded in the kicked-up dirt, tightly gripping my arm.
My eyes close, and suddenly we’re stopped, about 25 feet above level ground. It felt like it lasted minutes, but I’m sure it lasted a mere 15 seconds … maybe even less.
Our heavy breathing slows to a steady pace. “Well, we’re not dead,” I thought to myself, “But, whoa, what a rush!”
I’m not an adrenaline junkie by any means, but that was the first time in my life I had experienced something so frightening yet thrilling and exciting. I swore I would walk away with at least a broken finger. Instead, I walked away with an incredibly painful gash in my forearm, cuts and scratches all over my legs, and a newfound respect for safe hiking.
I can safely say this was the most amazing, exciting, scary, wonderful, fun experience I’ve ever had in Arizona. Yes, I walked away bruised and battered, but aren’t those technically the most memorable experiences one could have?
And I mean really memorable … you remember the pain, the fear, the rush, the innocent hike preceding the horrendous fall, the nervous laughter afterward and overcoming the fear of taking a chance and stepping foot onto that mountain ever again. [I eventually did.]
But that’s life.
You never know what will happen the next minute. You never know you’ve made a mistake until you’re experiencing the repercussions of it. But the real test is how you handle it all — the fall and the aftermath.
On Red Mountain, I didn’t expect a cathartic experience. I expected to have a few hours of “getting away from it all” but ended up with a different take on life.
So, Frank helped me stand up on my shaky, unstable legs; I brushed myself of the dirt and debris, took a sigh of relief and thought to myself, “I’ll get back on this mountain soon … and this won’t happen again. And if it does, then I can call myself an idiot.”