Tales from the Trails: The Bad

Welcome to my second post of my three-part series Tales from the Trails: The Good, The Bad, and the Inspirational.

Our hiking trip to Utah was filled with mostly great hikes. But there were two aborted jaunts I’d rather forget: Hidden Canyon and Angels Landing.

Hidden Canyon

The hubs really wanted to try this trail. I thought I’d go along. What else was I supposed to do? This trail has many sections where the hiker has to hold on to chains positioned into the side of the mountain. The chains are there to prevent said hiker from falling off the side of said mountain. The hike is supposed to be well worth the effort. Once on the other side of the mountain, the views, I’m told  are spectacular. But for me, there’s one problem.


I tried. I really tried to do this hike. But the dizziness from seeing the drop-off was too much. I was frozen in fear so I aborted. The hubs went several hundred yards without me while I briskly walked back and forth on a drop off-free section of the trail in an attempt to keep my heart rate up while I waited. A while later he reappeared with a strange look on his face. The wind picked up while he was scaling along holding the chains. He, too decided to abort. He vowed he was going to try again on another day of our trip. Over my dead body.

Angels Landing

Angels Landing, Angels Landing, Angels Landing. That’s all I heard the hubs talk about in the weeks leading up to our trip. This is a trail one arrives at after making it to the summit of Scouts’ Landing. Here’s some info about it.

In case you missed it on the web page, “Hikers will navigate the next half-mile along a narrow sandstone isthmus with sheer cliffs on both sides. The narrow and arduous trail drops 1200′ on one side and 800′ on the other.”

You’d think I would have learned my lesson after the aborted Hidden Canyon…but sadly, I had not. You’d think I’d have taken heed of the sign posted that warned people who were out of shape and afraid of hights…but sadly, I did not.

The hubs and two men we met the day before, Glen and Hans, went ahead of me. I slowly grabbed the chain and began my attempt of the ascent. A few minutes later Hans returned. He is a very experienced hiker from Oregon and he describes Angels Landing as a walk in the park. Um, ok. But he came back to help me. Bless him!

Hikers aren’t provided with one continuous chain all the way to the top. There are breaks and one must climb upward to grab the next chain. Well, I made it half way to the midpoint (with Hans’ guidance) and at that point I reconnected with the hubs. He had gone much farther and was on his way back. He informed me that he wasn’t going to finish. The steep drop offs were just too overwhelming. I was the last person he expected to see. Knowing I have vertigo, he expected me to quit after hiking along the first set of chains. I think we was also disappointed to see me because that meant he had to worry about me as well as himself as we attempted the decent. Hans was going to continue helping me upward, but hearing hubs wasn’t going to finish was all I needed. I was done. I was terrified. And I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it down.

I told Hubs to go ahead of me so that I could slowly think my way through every step. Well, actually what I told him was, “Don’t talk to me; don’t even look at me. I’m scared as #$@ and I need to think.” Unfortunately, he did as I asked. A few minutes later I found myself in a real bind. My arm was completely extended while I held on to the end of a section of chains. I couldn’t reach the next chain below without letting go of the one I was holding. And I couldn’t figure out where to place my feet in order to lower myself and reach that next chain. And I’d sent hubs away. Thankfully he thought better of my instructions and he came back. I told him I couldn’t figure out what to do and he talked me through it. That period of being frozen and stuck probably lasted 90 to 120 seconds, but it felt like hours.

Once I managed to make it to the end of that trail, I promised myself I’d never again do anything stupid. I doubt I’ll keep that promise, but I’m going to try. It took me quite a while before my arms and legs stopped shaking. While it was my decision to make the attempt, and I blame no one but myself, I know I had death rays coming out of my eyes as I glared at hubs. But he paid me an unsolicited compliment. I told him I should have heeded the sign that warned out of shape people not to try it. “But you’re not out of shape,” he said. Huh? “Pam, I doubt 20% of the people out here can do a triathlon.” I reminded him that I don’t really do them well. He reminded me that at least I can finish them. I’ll take the compliment.

The next day I met some hikers while I waited for hubs to do another trail that’s is not recommended for people with vertigo (you see, I’ve learned something.). They had done Angels Landing the day before. I told them about my aborted trip due to vertigo-induced dizziness and fear. “To make it as far as you did having vertigo, you should feel as accomplished as someone without vertigo who finished,” one replied.

While I didn’t feel regret for not finishing Angels Landing, I hadn’t yet given myself permission to feel accomplished for making it as far as I had. That hiker reminded me that accomplishments can take many forms.

Sometimes the accomplishment comes just from trying.

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2 Responses to Tales from the Trails: The Bad

  1. Chris Felder says:

    Pam this is frightening. I think of you as such an “in control” person, and you weren’t in control in these situations. Also very interesting to think that the problem dealing with the two hikes was not your fitness/body, but your mind. Thinking back to the former Pam, it would’ve been your physical fitness that held you back. So in a way, this is actually a triumph. It sounds like it was a beautiful trip, regardless of the vertigo problems.

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