It never occurred to me to start putting together a bucket list until two things happened. First, I became chronically ill and second, I watched the movie The Bucket List. I don’t generally dwell on my illness because, to me, that gives it power over me. However, I do live in the reality of it. It has changed my perspective on life and in a good way. This blog is about one such experience. Crossing something off that all important bucket list … things I want to do before I meet my maker.
I think perhaps presenting this blog as more of a picture story might be fitting. Doing THE FALLS was something I added to my bucket list about a year ago. My husband had done THE FALLS last year with two of our grandkids. Having heard his description of what was involved in ‘hiking THE FALLS’, it was pretty evident it was something I should not attempt yet the beauty and majesty of the sight earned it a place on my bucket list and something that I would attempt the spring of this year, 2011. I recently saw my specialist and news was the disease had not progressed. The flip-side of that good news is that it could change at any time. Maybe yes, maybe no … it’s the nature of the wolf (Latin for Lupus). I knew it would be a go for me but was not about to tell my doctor. While she would have understood, she would not have approved.
So, let me take you on a journey of hiking THE FALLS. The very first thing that I did wrong was misinterpret the meaning of THE FALLS. In my mind’s eye, I had pictured a long hike up the mountains, following the opposite direction of the stream running down the mountains and thus arriving at a wonderful waterfall at the top. Wrong! THE FALLS, in actuality, is a series of one waterfall after another as you trek up, up, up the mountain. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. First you start at the beginning of the path.
While the path starts out level and easy enough with beautiful blossoms of Laurel, it’s very misleading and you shortly find out why.
You go but a short distance before your ‘path’, which is actually one of many, starts a steady incline over tree roots, rocks and fallen trees. With walking stick in hand, I carefully followed the footsteps of my husband ahead of me. Let me say a big thank you to my wonderful husband who maintained a slow and steady pace, stopping often for me to rest on rocks and to cool off with the all abundant water flowing freely down the mountainside.
It was about this time that it became clear to me that I was seeing one waterfall after another waterfall and I asked my husband, “Do you mean to tell me THE FALLS is not just ONE waterfall but one right after another?” He replied, “Yeah, all the way up the mountain!” These falls were gorgeous and majestic and each one grew in strength and magnitude. What became glaringly evident was that I no sooner would get a certain distance and would have to stop to catch my breath and rest at a waterfall only to look UP and see waterfall after waterfall still hundreds of yards ahead.
With almost an hour into the hike up the mountains, I was almost ready to cave in. Speaking of cave, we saw those as well. I pondered our naiveté in not having any sort of weapon with us should we come across an angry mamma bear or some other creature known to the area. My walking stick would surely not serve as any protection.
Still, we trekked upwards stopping more and more often. At this point, my husband’s frequent remark was, “We can stop and go back down now if you want.” The concern in his eyes was valid as my face was now a shade of red not often seen. My labored breathing and difficulty in navigating rocks and downed trees was becoming more and more apparent. “How much further to the top?”, I would ask. “A hundred yards or so.” he would reply. A hundred yards, to my knowledge, is the length of a football field.
Finally, we were able to ‘see’ the top ahead. To actually see where it leveled off and we would soon be at the ridge of the mountains. Again, my husband urged me to discontinue and head back down but all I could think and say was, “I’ve come this far, I can’t stop now. If I stop now, I’ll never do this again. I CAN do it!”
With hands shaking in weakness, breathing now a luxury and my body’s temperature sky rocketing, the last few steps were taken. We were there! “I DID IT! I DID IT!” I shouted out. I mean with every breath I could muster, I raised my walking sticking above my head and shouted to the mountains and THE FALLS, every last one of them, “I DID IT!”
Beautiful … an apt and perfect description of the view! Looking down now, seeing the vast number of falls cascading down the mountainside was wonderful. So worth it, so very worth it. We sat and soaked in the beauty and majesty of it all. While it hardly compares to the majestic mountains of those that hike often and all over the world, it was my journey, my battle to conquer.
While sitting there it did occur to me, I most likely would never pass that way again. I had to make a permanent picture in my mind to carry with me forever.
Having conquered the battle UP the mountain, it never occurred to me that there would be an equally challenging battle going DOWN. This was another miscalculation on my part. Physics tells you rather quickly that hauling your weight going up is one thing but holding it back going down is difficult as well. With husband still ahead of me, we began the slow trek down, carefully maneuvering the often winding path. I don’t know what was louder, the pounding of my heart, the repeating thump, thump, thump of my walking stick or the flowing water from the falls.
I had to keep reminding myself that while it was indeed difficult, I needed to be aware of the beauty around me.
My husband was wonderful. He guided my every step and with outstretched hand he was always there to help. He stopped often even though he could have done this in a quarter of the amount of time it took us together. He would have turned around at any moment I gave the word yet he respected my determination to do this one thing that was all important to me.
I remember when we arrived at a spot where we could see our vehicle parked ahead, I remember I wanted to cry. While it was probably a physical response to what I had just put myself through, I felt it more as a glad cry of accomplishment and sadness all in one.
Once properly rehydrated in what was now 93 degree heat with a heat indices of 100, I slowly climbed into my husband’s truck with the help of my faithful walking stick. Air conditioner set on high we headed back to the cabin. I managed a small bite to eat and then collapsed in exhaustion on the bed. I was admittedly very proud of myself. I knew the price to pay for what I had done but it didn’t matter. I will never do it again and that isn’t pessimism speaking, it’s reality. My husband then chimed out words that never sounded so good to me, “Let’s go out to eat to celebrate!” Hours later we found ourselves at our favorite local restaurant near the cabin. As we tipped his beer glass to my wine glass in toast, he and I exclaimed together, “To THE FALLS!”