I went on a hike with a friend a couple of weeks ago. The hike is called Devils Causeway. When my girlfriend explained the hike, she said it was on her bucket list and would love it if I joined her. I immediately said, yes! I love hiking and helping my friend cross something off her bucket list sounded like fun.
Here is the description of the hike –
The Devil’s Causeway, a narrow strip of land in the heart of the Flat Tops Wilderness Area, is notorious for causing sheer terror, or awe and thrill, for those who dare to cross it. This “land bridge” is roughly 50 feet in length, and narrows to as little as 3 feet in width. On both sides of the rough and rugged trail (terrain is the more proper term) are 60-80 foot cliffs, with steep talus slopes dropping another 600-800 feet into the drainages below.
I know I must have read this before we went. However, I must have blocked it from my mind because that description does not sound like a fun time to me. You see I am afraid of heights.
I don’t recall anything happening in my past that caused this fear. I just know that looking down over a cliff, a mountain, or a tall building makes me feel very uneasy, unstable, and a little scared.
I do remember we discussed that the hike was 10.5 miles, it was going to be a bit challenging and that there was one area that was going to be a little scary – but I also knew that my friend also had a fear of heights – so I thought if she was game, then so was I.
It was a great day for a hike. The sun was out, there was a slight breeze, the leaves were changing colors and the weather was perfect. Not too hot and not too cold.
After reading some of the reviews we decided to complete the hike counterclockwise – so we would cross the land bridge earlier in the hike.
We were about 3 miles in when we arrived at the land bridge. Umm, where did the trail go? All I see is a narrow, uneven pile of rocks. Did we make a wrong turn?
For a moment, we both just stood there and laughed – not the funny ha ha laugh, but the oh, shit kind of laugh. Thoughts of turning around were stirring in my head and the uneasy, scared, unstable feelings started to kick in.
We looked at each other, took some deep breaths, and made the decision to face our fear. We couldn’t turn around now. We put our hiking poles away and got on our butts so that we could scoot our way over the uneven, jagged, rocks. We wanted to be as close to the ground as possible to help us feel somewhat stable.
I remember thinking to myself – just don’t look down – just don’t look down.
Fortunately, my girlfriend led the way. I knew that if I could focus my attention on her being ahead of me, it would help me from looking to the right or to the left and seeing the 600 – 800 foot drop.
I carefully watched how she moved, where she placed her feet and her hands and I followed. It was working! I felt okay. Focusing on my friend helped me not look down. We were slowly moving along when we reached the middle of the land bridge.
My girlfriend froze. What is it I said? She said, “I am not sure I can go any further.” What? She said, “this part is too steep for me and I am not sure my body is long enough to step down.” I thought, okay, so now what? The distance to hike back was the same distance continuing to hike forward. We sat in silence for a minute.
I took another deep breath and told her I would check it out to see what I thought. I braced myself and slowly slid past her focusing only on the rocks in front of me. At one point I caught a glimpse of one of the sides and the long drop-down. I immediately felt my hands shaking.
I stopped for a moment to refocus my attention on the rocks in front of me. I took another deep breath and told myself I could do this. I could take it slowly and move through my fear. I started repeating, just don’t look down.
I steadied myself. The spot was steep, but I felt like I could do it. So I slowly, carefully, and gently stepped down. I did it. Next, my girlfriend followed.
We did it. It wasn’t so bad I thought. We can do this. My girlfriend repositioned herself back in front of me and we continued scooting the rest of the way.
We made it to the other side. We were so excited! I was so proud of us. Here we are two women that are afraid of heights and we crossed the land bridge – a narrow strip of land that is notorious for causing sheer terror, or awe and thrill.
The remainder of the hike felt like a piece of cake. Yes, we were tired, but we were also excited that we didn’t turn around – that we completed the entire hike. Oh and also an extra mile because at one point we did take a wrong turn. So in the end, we completed 11.5 miles.
Later that evening we were spending time with my girlfriend’s daughter and her friends and one of the friends said, “Oh Devil’s Causeway. I do that all the time. It is fun! My mom used to put me in a baby pack and take me with her when I was just a baby.” My friend and I looked at each other and laughed – the funny ha ha laugh.
I can’t say that this experience helped me completely overcome my fear of heights, but I do believe that it was a step toward lessening my fear and it feels good.
“Courage is only an accumulation of small steps.” — György Konrád