The Bridge to Nowhere

In this episode of “Tales of the Trails,” I introduce four of my adventurous friends to the Bridge to Nowhere, a freestanding bridge located in the San Gabriel Mountains of Southern California just north of Azusa.  We hiked on a broken road paved with beauty, adventure and promise, and acquired a few life lessons along the way.  Find out what sort of tales we found ourselves in by watching The Bridge to Nowhere.

Enjoy!  🙂

Tales of the Trails: The Adventures of the Fabulous Five – Pt. 4

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.

Joyce!

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?

Life on the Edge…(Chapter 28-The Face of Fear)

I hit the water feet first. I don’t recall hitting the bottom and it didn’t seem like I was underwater for very long. The life vest kept me from plunging too far down. I probably wouldn’t have made the jump without it. Underwater, I felt peace and I just relaxed my entire body until I reached the surface.

When I came up, I heard the muffled sounds of cheers. I was still alive, except for a bad case of vertigo that lasted about ten or fifteen minutes. My ears were filled with water. Other than that, I was fine and so thankful that I jumped.

Now, I don’t want you to think that I’m this careless and reckless person who goes around jumping off of cliffs and doing other crazy, death defying stunts. I do exercise a great deal of caution and am sensitive to God’s direction regarding what I should and shouldn’t do.

There is a difference between godly discernment and a spirit of fear. What I felt when I was standing on the edge of that rock above the Kern River was a spirit of fear. I had witnessed many people jump off of that same cliff before me, and they were all fine. Some of them wanted to do it again.

Even after having witnessed the evidence that it was okay to jump, I still cowered. There was no reason for me to be afraid. If I had begun to drown, the guides were excellent swimmers and trained to perform daring rescues.

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:7 (Amplified)

After the rafting trip, I began to assess the past year of my life. In comparison to the previous years, I had done some pretty interesting things that, at one time, I thought I’d never do. I used to be very timid and fearful. I was a coward. I have begun to come out of my shell more and more. Every time I do something adventurous, I feel bolder and more courageous, like I can overcome anything that comes my way. I have learned to look fear in the eyes and laugh in its face.

Life on the Edge…(Chapter 27-Into the Deep)

The next great adventure I went on after conquering Half Dome was whitewater rafting on the Lower Kern River.  I had never rafted before and was thrilled about the opportunity to go.  I went with one of the hiking groups I’m involved with.

After the Half Dome conquest, I was like, bring on the adventures!  I wasn’t afraid of anything.  That is, until we reached a place along the river where our guides parked the rafts and allowed people to get out, hike up to the top of this big rock that stood about 30 feet up from the swiftly flowing river, and (you guessed it) jump.

At first, I was dead set against jumping off of that rock.  After watching several people jump, I got curious enough to make the short hike up there and get in line.  When it was my turn to jump, fear socked me in the gut.  I walked over to the edge and peered over.

The distance between me and the swift current below frightened me.  People near the rafts who had already jumped, as well as the ones behind me who had yet to jump, cheered me on.  I couldn’t do it.  I stepped aside to allow someone else to go.  I yearned for further motivation.

After the guy jumped, I went to the edge again and looked down at the water.  My heart was beating so fast that I thought I was going to have a heart attack.  I heard the people below cheering for me again, but I still couldn’t do it.  I backed away from the edge and one more person jumped.

I was the last person and the guide told me that we had to start heading down the river in a few minutes.  I either had to jump or take the walk of shame back down to the rafts.  I went to the edge one more time and heard Karen, from our group, say that she was going to count to three.  She began the countdown.

I started to back away, but then decided to make the jump and go against my fears.  I stood right at the edge with my heart beating ever so fast, took a deep breath, and literally stepped off the rock into nothing.  I was no longer in control of anything that happened after that.  Nothing was beneath my feet.  Nothing was near me to grab onto to.  I had completely surrendered my will to the unknown.

Yes, there was water, but how deep was it?  Yes, I wore a life vest, but would it really hold up if I went too deep?  Were there rocks beneath the surface on which I could have hit my head or broken a bone?  I didn’t have the answers to any of those questions.  I just jumped.

Life on the Edge…(Chapter 26-Serpents and Scorpions)

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)

Life on the Edge…(Chapter 25-Beauty for Ashes)

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)

Life on the Edge…(Chapter 24 – On Top of the World)

When I made it to the top, I was immediately welcomed by a fellow member of Team Half Dome. He thought I had turned back and was thrilled to see that I’d made it.

Gretchen was next to come up, followed by Andy, Bre and Mike. Gretchen’s husband was waiting and we all cheered when she came up. I was so proud of her. Like me, she overcame her fears and dared to do the impossible.

No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.
Matthew 19:26 (The Message)

Walking on the summit of Half Dome, which stood 8800 feet above sea level, was like walking on the moon.

I had never walked on the moon before, but I could just imagine the moon’s surface looking a lot like what I was standing on. The surface was a lot bigger than it looked from afar. It was probably the size of about 3-4 football fields.

We met up with Ms. Rosemarie and the rest of Team Half Dome, but most were ready to head back down. I had surprised everyone. They were certain I had turned back. I can’t say I blamed them for thinking that. They just didn’t know me very well.

Since Andy was our driver, he said that we would stay at the summit longer to give us all a chance to take it all in and enjoy the euphoria of the moment. I saw little Katelyn and her family and they were excited to see me there as well.

I took a few moments to explore the surroundings, then I did the unthinkable. I went to the edge and guess what? No fear of heights. I laid down flat on my stomach and peered over the edge. I held out my camera and took a picture of the valley floor below. I guess it didn’t dawn on me that I was hanging over the edge of a 4800 foot sheer drop.

I backed away from the edge, got to a seated position, and carefully scooted over to where my legs could dangle freely. Andy came up and asked if I wanted my picture taken. “Sure,” I said. He stood behind me and I smiled up at the camera. I told Andy I wasn’t scared and he said that he was because of the vantage point where he was standing.

My risk taking didn’t stop there. I went and stood on the Visor and had Andy take my picture there, too. I had said that I would never, under any circumstance, go on the Visor. If you’re not familiar with Half Dome, the Visor is this rock ledge that juts out over the sheer drop. Walking onto it is like walking the plank. However, I wasn’t scared. I was free of the fear of heights and it felt so good.

Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
John 8:36 (New King James Version)