Yesterday, I went hiking to Bridal Veil Falls / Lake Serene in the Central Cascade mountains of Washington. It was a spectacular day. (The weather is forecast to be fabulous all week long leading me to believe somebody is playing with our emotions.) I felt confident I could do the +7 mile hike. BUT I forgot to look at the way the path is (smooth vs. rocky) and the grade or "up-ness."
I started out on the popular path and asked a co-hiker what to expect and she told me it was steep but that it was worth it. And that there were a lot of switchbacks. OK. I can do this! I will just take my time and be careful.
In February of this year, I was going through a diagnosis of Celiac disease. Now most folks just think that this is digestive only. Well, it is not. It causes inflammation in every part of my body. It grew tumors in my ovaries. I had a period for 3 weeks. I was severely anemic. The test didn't say, "Low," it said "Alert!" I could not walk up a short hill without being severely out of breath because I had very few mature red blood cells to carry oxygen around. In short, it stank.
And, over the last few years I have had surgery on my left ankle (torn tendon) and my right foot (two! neuromas crowding out my middle toes). I couldn't walk without pain until, oh, last year after the neuroma surgery. Generally, I count every pain-free step a success. Would my feet hold out? Always a question. And with the ankle surgery, I generally look for nice, solid, flat ground so my ankle will not roll.
Rats! This path is not smooth. Very rocky. Wet sometimes. Muddy sometimes. But mostly rock, rock, rock. Keep my eyes down and make sure my feet land on flat spots! That's the plan.
Anyway, I started up the path at my own pace. I got a little less than two miles in and found the below sight. I tried really hard to capture this thing that was happening with the sun and the water! It looked like liquid sunshine was pouring off the top of the waterfall. I almost think it comes through better in black and white.
At any rate, it was astounding. And it was the second set of falls I had seen. This mountain is one big slab of granite! (Hence the rocky path) And there is water everywhere. Well, okay, not everywhere, but in a lot of places. It was hard to get a good picture, but earlier, there was a set of falls that were very tall and jagged. But the trees were very overgrown so you could only get glimpses of the splash of light and water. This is the very bottom of that series.
I got past the falls and it was two miles to Lake Serene. I was feeling good so decided my body could do this! I kept on going. And going. Up and up. Picking my way carefully through rocks. Resting when I felt overwhelmed. Then there came a moment when I thought that I was not going to be able to do it. I grounded my feet to the earth and drew on the strength of my God and the strength of the earth. I breathed deeply. This had become a spiritual quest.
I kept on going. But at that moment, I felt like giving up. I soon encountered a woman and her dog. They were resting. (Yay for rest!). I asked her how much further. She said, "When you feel like you have been through the worst possible climb, then it is just a bit more up and a little down and you're there."
OK. The worst possible climb. I can surely get to this.
I went up and encountered massive rocky path, with only about a 9" clearance to skinny through. Surely, this is the worst possible spot.
I kept going and encountered another massive rocky path, with water and slipperiness. Surely, this is the worst possible spot.
Add water and repeat.
Finally, I broke through the shadows of the forest into a sunny meadowy type area (is it a meadow if it is on the side of a mountain?). I looked up and my breath left my body. It. Was. Amazing.
I was now in the sun, with this incredible sight, having passed through at least 5 stretches of the worst climb ever. And I saw another worst climb ever in front of me. But my spirits lifted. I was in the light and had left the darkness. Amen!
I kept on going. There was one more seriously worst climb ahead and then I was there. Lake Serene.
In fact, this lake feeds into the waterfalls pictured earlier. I had climbed all the way around to the other side. Here is what the top of the waterfall looks like from this same point, just facing the other way.
I clambered through the snow a bit and sat at the closest point I could get to the top of the waterfall. Ate lunch. Relaxed a moment.
Time to head back down. Surely, down would be easier! It always is. Mostly.
On the way down, I kept my head down looking to keep my feet planted so my ankle will not turn. I almost made it. Darn it. One mis-step and a turned ankle. Choice - fall in a way to minimize injury or try and get that wobbly ankle to hold me up. Quick decision - my ankle will not withstand the effort to stay firmly up. Fall it is! Sheesh. I hate rocky, downhill, paths. Now, cuts and bruises, scratches and blood. I hate to see what I look like.
I crossed back in front of the amazing waterfall that poured sunshine and the woman I had met earlier was there with her dog! She was resting. Her dog decided to try and clean up the scratches on my legs a bit (ha ha!). We chatted a bit and she moved on. I stayed and tried to get some more photos of the falls and take a rest. Oh, and to use the water to wash my arm which has a pretty serious scratch(es).
But, gosh darn it, I did it! I am still on the path. I can still walk. My body is sustaining me. This is such a big deal, you have no idea. I was misdiagnosed for at least 20 years. To be able to do this is the most awesomely amazing thing ever. My muscles don't even hurt as much today as they did on days the inflammation from being celiac made them hurt. (That was a bad sentence, sorry.)
I kept going. And I made it back to my car by about 5:00 p.m.
Victory! I am proud that I had the perseverance to keep on pushing through. My blood tests still say "alert" on the iron portion, but it is improving. My ankles and feet are okay today. My right arm and right shin are pretty banged up, but as long as nobody touches them (!) I will be fine.
The return hike took 2 hours. It took me 4 hours to go up.
Next time, though, I am going to read a little more closely about where I am going to take a hike.