Here is today’s podcast. This episode will be available on iTunes tomorrow, but you can click the link below to listen now. 🙂
I glanced around the arch, circling it several times to find something, anything that would lead me to Arthur. I didn’t find even a clue, and I was becoming more and more worried. Puzzled was more like it. I stood underneath the arch, looking through to the other side, and I saw a breathtaking view of Mt. Whitney just beyond. I stepped onto the rock and stopped directly under the arch. Suddenly, I was overcome by a strange sensation–something like AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). The weird thing about it was that I wasn’t at a high altitude, so there was no reason for me to experience those symptoms.
I thought that perhaps if I stepped through the arch I would end up passing through to some other world where I might find Arthur. Then I thought better of it. How silly a thought. Being a writer, sometimes I let my imagination get away with me. But maybe it wasn’t such a silly thought after all. It was obvious that Arthur was close, yet not so close.
It was Arthur’s voice again. He sounded more desperate this time. I had to do something, but I was afraid to go it alone.
“Guys!” I shouted. Eddie, Farrah and Gina emerged from the boulders. “I think I found Arthur.”
“Where?” Eddie stood behind me at the arch.
“Follow me,” I said. With that, I stepped through to the other side of the arch. Immediately, the wind was sucked out of me and I felt as if someone had grabbed hold of my lungs and squeezed them with all their might. I was engulfed by a blinding light and my head was spinning as I was sucked into some sort of vortex.
I heard a deafening roar and then, suddenly, everything just stopped. I thought I was dead, but then felt something warm and rugged on my face. When I realized it was the ground, I knew I still had life in me. But I couldn’t move. I opened my eyes and glanced around, but everything was a blur. From what I could make of the surroundings, it seemed as if i were in the same place as before.
The sun was blazing hot and I desperately wanted to get up, but I couldn’t. I could feel my arms and legs, so I knew I wasn’t paralyzed, but for some reason I was immobile, no matter how hard I tried to move. I was suddenly gripped by fear as I realized that there was no sign of life and no sign of Arthur. I wondered why I heard him earlier, but now that I was in this “place,” I didn’t hear a thing. I didn’t even know what became of Eddie, Farrah, or Gina.
The one thing I did hear was a gunshot. It was distant at first, but then another shot rang out that seemed much closer. Dangerously close. I then heard what sounded like a stampede, then more shots, getting ever so close. I knew at that moment it was time to arise from the dust, but I still couldn’t move.
I tried to speak. “Arth—” It was no use. I could barely form the word on my lips. The stampede grew closer and closer, until I could feel the earth trembling beneath me. I heard another gunshot. This time, I could almost feel the bullet pierce the air right next to my face as I struggled to will myself up from the dirt. I’m dead, I thought.
Suddenly, I felt a strong set of arms wrap around me and I was lifted from the ground. My vision was still blurred, so I couldn’t make out the figure. I was being shaken as the figure ran with me and then whisked me across something hard. As I began to fall over, I felt myself being held up, supported by a warm body pressed against mine. A slew of gunshots resounded, causing my ears to pop with each release.
“Yah!” the man shouted, and we began to move–or rather gallop–across the desert. At that moment, I knew that I was riding a horse. What I didn’t know yet was who had just risked his life to save me? And where was he taking me? More importantly, where was Arthur, and was this mystery man going to take me to him? Or had something terrible happened?
I didn’t do any hiking for about two weeks after I returned from Yosemite. It wasn’t because I was sore; I had very little soreness, which got better after about a day or so. I didn’t hike because I had reached a goal that I had spent months preparing for. It’s very difficult to motivate yourself to do things when you don’t have a goal or a purpose. I had grown complacent and didn’t want to exercise at all.
Do it again.
I heard the voice of God speak to my heart. What? Again? Why would anyone want to put themselves through that kind of torture another time? Then, it came to me. I would start training to do the hike again the next year and purpose to finish in less time.
It took me about 13 hours to finish the hike, not including the time spent at the summit. For most people, it takes less. I decided that I was up for the challenge. I got up one morning, put on my hiking gear and went on one of my favorite trails: a five-mile hike in Santa Clarita. I went during a weekday, so I hiked alone. Sometimes I do that.
It felt good to be back on the trails again and inhale some fresh air. Of course, the air wasn’t as fresh as it was at Yosemite, but it was better than breathing in smog. I noticed that I fared much better on the uphill than I had on that hike previously. I didn’t have to stop as much to catch my breath, which was a good sign.
When I had made it almost to the top of the ridge, just past a fork where the trail split, something in the middle of the trail caught my eye. I almost stepped on it as I thought initially that it was a big stick. When I realized it was a snake, I immediately stepped back a few feet. At the time, I didn’t know what kind of snake it was, but it didn’t matter. To me, a snake is a snake, and they are all ugly and disgusting creatures.
Although the snake didn’t move, I knew it was alive. Thankfully, it didn’t lunge at me. I took a picture of it and went back to the fork in the trail and took the other path. The trails converged later, so it wasn’t a big detour. That was enough excitement for one day.
I didn’t necessarily fear the snake. I just didn’t want to have to deal with a snake bite, especially while I was out in the wilderness alone.
I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.
Luke 10:19 (New International Version)
The wind was beginning to pick up and it was getting chilly, so Andy, who had taken the lead, suggested that we head down the rock so we could start the 8-mile journey back to the car. After all, we still had a five-hour drive ahead of us that evening.
I changed my socks, strapped on my backpack and got ready to leave. I knew going back down the cables was going to be fun, but I almost forgot something very important. The rock! It was still in my backpack and. I told the others and asked them to wait while I found the perfect spot to leave the rock.
I set it on a boulder and took pictures of it for the memorial. Then, I left it there, along with the painful comment that nearly destroyed my life. I didn’t even look back. It was no longer my burden.
I walked toward the cables with what I had dubbed the “Fellowship,” Andy, Bre, Mike, and our new addition, Ms. Rosemarie, who had decided to ride back to L.A. with us.
I was again first to get on the cables. Going down wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The biggest challenge getting down was the crowd. There were people coming up as we descended and everyone had to stay inside the cables, so it got a little congested. There were occasional weirdoes climbing up outside of the cables and they were pretty much free to do so since there were no rangers present to monitor the situation.
When I reached Sub Dome, I took pictures of everyone as they came down from the cables. The mission had been accomplished and I felt so much lighter.
Although I ate some of the food I carried in my backpack and drank more water, the reason my backpack was lighter was because of the burden that had been left behind. The rock was small enough to fit into the palm of my hand, so it wasn’t very heavy. However, what the rock symbolized in my life was a heavy burden and it was now gone.
To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.
Isaiah 61:3 (New King James Version)
I took a few pictures, ate a little bit and drank some water. It’s easy to become dehydrated at high altitudes and develop altitude sickness, which I was prone to. However, the altitude no longer affected me. I was wired and ready for the cables.
It was a comfort to me that the cables were so crowded. I knew that if I happened to slip and fall, there would be people behind me to break that fall. I didn’t want that to happen, of course.
I rejoined the group and saw that Bre was talking to a lady that I had met previously on the trail. Her name was Gretchen and she was sitting on a rock at the base of the cables. Apparently, she and her husband had gone up the cables together and Gretchen got scared early in the ascent.
She decided she couldn’t do it and came back down. Her husband continued up the cables and was probably at the top already. Now, Bre was trying to encourage her and talk her back into going. I got after Gretchen. (If you look to the right of the crowd in the picture above, you’ll see Gretchen sitting on the rock. She is wearing a white hat and a dark blue jacket.)
“What do you mean, you’re not going up?” I said. “You have to go up. If I can do this after all that I went through back there, you can do it, too. I am not going up those cables without you, Gretchen. You’re with us now, and we will help you.”
I was determined to not let Gretchen sit on that rock and miss out on her victory. I meant every word I said to her, that I was absolutely not going up those cables without her. She was one of the people who encouraged me way back when I was contemplating giving up and I was giving it back. She must have realized that I wasn’t playing and that I wasn’t going to leave her alone because she got up and stood with us in line. I was so happy that she chose to give it another try.
Andy agreed to go up behind her and act as a safety net, while I went ahead of everyone. I was first on the cables and Gretchen was right behind me. Bre and Mike followed behind Andy. I looked fear in the eyes and laughed in its face.
About halfway up the cables, I felt confident enough to take out my camera and snap some pictures. Yep, I know it was probably foolish of me, and I saw no one else doing this, but I just had to get those spectacular shots. I even snapped a picture of myself on the cables.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4 (New International Version)
We rejoined the guys and headed toward Sub Dome. To say those freakin’ steps were brutal is an understatement. The best way that I can describe them is that they were stairs carved into a huge rock leading straight up into the sky, or so it seemed. They made the Mist Trail and Nevada Fall steps seem like steps in a kiddy park.
I saw healthy-looking, athletic people stopping multiple times on the way up to catch their breath. And, of course, every couple of steps, I had to stop. I kept waiting for Bre, Andy or Mike to complain or say something, but neither of them did. They were so patient and true examples of God’s love and grace.
Finally, we saw the light and the end of those crazy steps. What was funny to me was that I had miraculously gained a fresh wind. I also didn’t fear heights as I thought I would up there, at least not where we were thus far. We hiked up Sub Dome to the saddle, which connects Sub Dome to Half Dome, the “mother lode”, as some call it. I couldn’t believe my eyes. We had finally made it to the cables. There was a line, so we didn’t get to just latch on and go up. We had to wait a while. However, the wait turned out to be a good thing. A very good thing, indeed.