I've never had any aspirations of being a mountain climber. Never wanted to use strange tools to cling precariously from rocks high above ... well ... more rocks. If I'm going to be way up in the air, which I do enjoy, I'd rather keep my bottom firmly planted on said rocks or, at the very least, strapped into a harness and carabiner-ed to a zipline. That's about as dangerous as I get.
That's when my husband decided we should hike Grandfather Mountain.
I didn't know that was the plan. I thought we were going to walk across the Mile High Swinging Bridge, so named because it's a mile above sea level, and then head into Blowing Rock for some window shopping and dinner.
Oops. I missed the part between the bridge and the window shopping when we talked about the plan. I should pay more attention. He knew I've been craving time outside after being quarantined with the chicken pox and two sinus infections, so he was trying to find fun outdoors adventures for me.
It was definitely an adventure.
Next thing I knew, we were headed up the mountain. Yes, there's MORE mountain above that bridge.
No, it wasn't quite like this. My husband faked this shot to show the kids. His feet were on the ground the whole time - but those were real rocks, baby, and we were a mile in the air.
After walking along the trail for a very long time ... well, hopping like a mountain goat might be a more accurate description, because those were big rocks and they were far apart and I've got short legs ... we came upon this. Yes, the picture is turned the right direction. We had to push-up our way through this slit in the rock to the ladder, which was bolted into the rock, and then climb up it to continue on the trail.
Did I say trail? It's not so much a trail as a stream. There was water flowing in the rocky path where we were trying to walk, making our shoes wet and muddy and slippery.
Now, after that ladder, we pulled ourselves up a few rock faces via helpful ropes knotted and attached to said rock faces. I was starting to feel rather confident that perhaps I could tackle this mountain after all when we came to this:
Four ladders, not quite end to end, heading up into what seemed like the clouds. They didn't start at my feet, either - I had to climb onto two big, stacked boulders to get to the bottom of the first ladder, and I wasn't sure I could.
My husband decided to climb up ahead of me to see if there was more trail, or if the top ladder signaled the end of the line. If it was the end, I could wait there, he said, and so I waited - until he was out of sight.
Suddenly I was afraid that he would fall off the edge of the mountain and I'd never see him again, so I hurriedly repacked my canvas bag - who knew I'd need a backpack? - threw it around to my back, and tried to scale some boulders.
I was heading up the first ladder when he reappeared and said that there was more trail.
There was, all right - directly above my head as I took this picture.
The difference was that we had to scale another ladder - and this time, the ladder was bolted to a very narrow, vertical rock face. I started up it, and then realized that every time I let go with my left hand to reach up for another rung, my arm was dangling over several thousand feet of nothingness.
I decided that I was high enough.
My husband felt the same way.
Look very, very closely in the upper left quadrant of this picture. See those orange specks on the ladder? That's where we were.
We decided that we'd had enough hiking for one day and turned around.
So yes, that meant we had to do all of those ladders in reverse, but it was WAY better than the next one.
We made it back to our car just before the trails closed and park rangers headed out for the missing.
We survived Grandfather Mountain - more specifically, McRae's Peak, elevation 58xx.
I really think that ought to be worth a t-shirt, don't you? Because I'd definitely buy it.
My husband's determined to go again and head up that last ladder.
Maybe knowing what's in store would leave me feeling a bit more able to brave the nothingness.
Or maybe not. Because right now, I'm super happy not to be a mountain climber. I have a great story to tell, and I'm happy to have had my rock-climbing adventure, but now ...
My bottom is happily seated on the ground, elevation nothing, and the only mud I anticipate to wear today is from weeding the garden.
Then I'll talk to my husband across the dinner table.
That's more my kind of adventure.
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Any mountain climbers out there? What's your favorite one??