Friday, August 24, 2012

The Precipice

Acadia National Park is full of hiking and biking trails...

Given that we were there at one of the busiest weeks of the year, it was the one place we could go to get away from the crowds.

And regardless to which coast, mountaintop or lake we hiked or biked, the views were spectacular.  

Many of the trails traversed over bald rock faces carved out by glaciers so the paths were marked with these piles of rocks called cairns...

After our lobster lunch with Linda, Jim's back wasn't feeling too well so he left Jack and I to hike one of the most difficult hikes on the island, The Precipice.  Now you'd think with a name like "The Precipice", I would have had a clue.

It was listed in my guide book as "strenuous".  But we had completed a number of strenuous hikes in the past few days so I didn't give it a second thought. Plus, the guide book mentioned the aid of iron bars to hold onto to help you over the rough spots so I said "Let's Go!"  Jack loves to rock climb and this climb was touted to be "all rock".

Now keep in mind, there was this warning sign at the beginning of the Precipice trail...

Why I didn't choose to fully read it, I will never know.

I thought I read it, but let me tell you folks, my "experience in climbing near exposed cliffs and heights" is zero.

And I'm not as good with heights as I was a few years ago.

Plus, I know I didn't read the last sentence:  "Persons have received serious injuries and others have died on this mountain side!"

The climb started off with Jack and I heading up the trail at a fairly steep rate, climbing over large boulders, and underneath rock crevices.  Stupid me, I had brought my camera bag and it was getting in the way as I scrambled around on all fours.

After the boulders, the iron railings started to appear on narrow ledges and the trail began to tighten up and get smaller. This small bridge is actually over a 30ft drop.  This is what I thought the book had meant by "The Precipice" so  I began to believe that the entire trail would be just like this.

No problem.  I got this.

Well folks, as we rounded the bend, the trail got less trail-like...

This is also where my rock hugging began.  

Notice there was only one iron bar here so, believe me, I was staying as close to that rock on the left as I could.  Just a minor shift in my approach far so good.

Then we rounded the next bend and were rewarded with this view...

Plus a sheer drop off of over 100ft. which made my stomach drop out from under me and my heart start racing at about 800 beats per minute.  

Jack:   "Mom, are you OK?"  

Me:  "I'm fine Jack (in very high-pitched voice trying to sound in control).  Mommy just needs to take this really slowly."

Jack: "Maybe I should take the camera and put it in the backpack?  I don't think you're going to be able to take any pictures from here on..."

Truer words have never been spoken. From there, the trail started to go straight up.

I started to become hyper-aware of where each of my hand and footholds were.  

After we ascended that patch above, the climb got purely vertical.  To slip or let go of one of those rungs, meant we were plunging back to Jimmy in the parking lot by direct-route.  

Jack:  "You know Mom.  The mind cuts deeper than the sword.  Once I read that in my Game of Thrones book, I wasn't afraid of heights anymore.  So think of that Mom.  The mind cuts deeper than the sword."

Me:  "What?  Do you think I'm afraid or something?  I'm good.  I'm good."

No answer.  

Jack:  "Watch out here Mom.  This space will be tougher for you because you're short.  Step here first.  Don't go the way I came."

I kept taking small breaks while spread-eagled flat against the rock, not daring to look down, trying to remember my "center" and taking "deep, calming breaths".  That only got my heart rate down to 500 bpm but it kept me from completely flipping out.  

I couldn't let myself freak out.  The only choice was to go up because the only other way off was to have a rescue helicopter fly in and get me.  No thanks to that.  

So, another deep breath and up I went.  Until I was rewarded with another ledge to walk around...

Photo courtesy of ink & snow No way was I taking this picture.

Then, we were climbing straight up on a cliff face on those iron rungs...and every so often, I had to stave off panic when there was a stretch where one was missing or broken.

Jack (very calmly):  "Mom.  There's no rung here.  But look, there's a handhold over here on the left and a foothold right here.  You got it?"

"Yes."  I squeaked.

And so we went like that.  Jack telling me my next best move and me following his lead.  

When we finally made it to the summit, my bottom lip started to quiver, my legs turned to water and my eyes started to tear up in relief. I had lived!!!

I ran over to the rock at the top and kissed it.  

Honestly, that climb was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life other than give birth to Jack.

And at that moment, I was so grateful to him for talking me off the ledge.  

I hugged him and realized that the tables had turned.  I wasn't worried about him once on that cliff.  And he wasn't worried about him either.

He was way more worried about me.  

I always thought his laid-back personality and calm demeanor would serve him well when the rest of the world was freaking out.  And this day proved it.

We started laughing in relief and goofing off.

Did you know another use for a cairn is as a burial marker?  

We think we should tack this picture onto the warning sign...

It's not my best shot but you can't expect me to look very good when I'm pretending to be dead.

Jack:  "Well Mom.  I think we should start down.  I'm worried about Dad." A little pause before he added,  "Boy, am I glad Dad didn't come on this one..."

Poor Jack.  I don't think he could have handled talking two parents off the cliff.

Me:  "Me too buddy.  Let's go.  I'm following you."

Luckily, there was a path down that went around the cliff.  There was NO WAY I would have ever climbed back down that rock face.

The view was beautiful.  

And we were in that "magic hour" that photographers love.  The time of day when the sun is beginning to set and the light is just right.

And, as happens when you've just survived a near-death experience, my senses were hyper-aware of the smell of the sea, the blue of the sky, the green of the trees...

And that beautifully awesome Red Hat.

I started falling behind again because I was taking photos and drinking in life.

"Come on, Mom.  Dad's waiting..."

So, I put the camera away.

"I'm coming."  

And with that, we walked off The Precipice.


Melanie said...

Wow! I couldn't have done that! You are very brave to have kept going and made it to the top!

Linda H said...

Oh Susan!! You continue to blow me away!! As we were merrily travelling down the Interstate you were having "near death experiences"!! I'm so glad Jack was "there for you" and the views made the climb worthwhile. Bet you've learned your lesson and you'll read the ENTIRE sign at the beginning of any hiking trail from now on....
Hugs! L.

Annette said...

Oh my how brave are you, love the story and bravo for you mom. xoxo


High five to you Susan. Never in a million years would I have attempted this. Love the views though and a gold star to Jack for being your guardian angel.

coral-seas said...

OMG! You deserve a gold medal for completing that hike.

I guess you got your reward in the stunning views and some very special moments with Jack.

Rachel said...

Love your Jack, he's a great lad and a credit to you both already. And you did a great job by following his instructions - I've met mothers who wouldn't have... Maybe you're a credit to him too!

Marsha said...

Oh good LORD. I wanted to throw up and my palms were sweating just reading about it. You are one brave woman and Jack is a wonderful guide, patient guide.

Roberta said...

Holy crap. I'm speechless. Glad you are still with us.

Karen said...

As I read today's entry, I kept thinking that you wouldn't go to the top...hah! Silly me. Way to go Susan and Jack! I live vicariously through your blogs.

Stacie said...

What an amazing climb/adventure! Good for you!
Much love to Jack for taking care of his Momma :) he reminds me of my youngest(20) who also does the "Mom, you ok?" things on adventures!

gracie said...

I always admire your creative being... now I admire you .. just you. You were/are very brave indeed.

Marty52 said...

What a story Jack will be telling for the next 70 years!! Way to go, Susan!!

Momma Bear said...

oh sweety! you are soo brave!
the minute there was nothing but hand holds and shear drop off I would have been going back crying like a sissy-girl!)
and boy don't our kiddies get all growed up and stuff all of a sudden!
good for Jack and good for you!

Elizabeth Braun said...

Totally unrelated to your post, but I was flicking through mags in a shop recently and saw your 'Breakfast at Tiffany's in "Stitch" magazine for next issue. CONGRATS on being published like that! I'm looking forward to seeing the full article soon.=)

FlowerLady said...

Susan ~ I was holding my breath, and freaking out with you on your climb and was so relieved and got teary eyed when you reached the top! You did it girl. Congratulations to you!!!

What a great guide you had.

Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

BackstoryBeads said...

I think MY heart was going 500 beats a minute reliving the experience with you! Great story, wonderful photographs! And now I will fully read EVERY sign I pass.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it joyful and terrifying when we realize our children are growing up.

Arts and Crafts said...

Thank heavens for little boys...... Read the sign better next time buddy, your too precious to loose. I had done something similar, thankfully I had both hubby and son present, as my small legs wouldn't get me over the boulders they were taking me too, but the waterfall at the end was amazing.

Stunning photographs, love the one with the pine corns, make a good embroidery I think.

In Oz.

Moonsilk Stitches said...

Awesome post. I felt like I was there with you step by step all the way! Thanks for sharing. I've thought it several times before, your son is awesome!

Cathy K said...

Oh my, you and Jimmy have raised a wonderful young man in Jack! And what a story that was; my palms are still sweaty!! Congrats on your climb! You never cease to amaze me. Yep, you're amazing. TOTALLY CRAZY, but amazing!! Hugs, Cat

Catherine said...

My eyes filled with tears and I started shaking just thinking about that climb!! I have a natural fear of heights like that. My husband and kids get a kick out of it!
Beautiful pictures and I adore how Jack took care of you. Job well done on raising that one ~ he's amazing!

Jen said...

FIRST of all, I swear to god, every person I know was in Maine in the last month. Strangers from the internet? Check! My immediate family? Check! Multiple friends and accquaintances? All posting pictures of beautiful, cool, refreshing, decidedly-not-North-Carolina, Maine? CHECK!

SECOND: Holy crap! I can't believe you climbed that, I am in awe! You are amazing!!! I was so touched by what a caring (and cool headed!) son you have. I just had my second daughter this month (hence no trip to Maine) and I couldn't help but think of them as I read this and marvel at the idea that the tables would turn like you described some day. Great read!

Marie Alton said...

OMG ... that was trippy! My dear ... you really are crazy ... good thing your son was so conscious of your well-being ... so glad he was there for you!

Kudos to Jack for getting you through the adventure! Obvious that you raised a great kid ... something to be proud of Mom!

Awesome photos ... felt like I was right there with you! YOU ROCK!

Hugs ... Marie

Sheila said...

Yeah. Throw me in with all the other Oh - My - Gods! already mentioned. That was a great story! Good Job, Elliotts! That goes up there with that monster slingshot ride from the Day of Saying Yes. :D

Wendy said...

I give you big kudos for going up the face of that rock! I would have done that in my 20's but not now! Such stunning views though! Is it not amazing how our boys start showing the man they are becoming on trips like this. Thank you for sharing such an awesome adventure with us! Glad you both made it up and back down safely.

Carol- Beads and Birds said...

I followed you all the way up. At the first ledge I wondered if I could make that turn...then I saw the view and knew I 'd be going on with you. THEN I saw that straight up incline. Well, I can do this..after all I have climbed the rock wall several times. Then I made it to the top with you...see me there in the pic laying right next to you? Then I thought..I'm stuck up here cause no way am I climbing down the way I came up. Then Jack surprised us with the easy way down. Thank God.
xx, Carol

Jillayne said...

Wow. What an awesome story - I love the end where you mention that you weren't worried about Jack at all. Isn't it wonderful to be so sure of them and their abilities?
You're so brave for all of it and I really admire you both!

Needlework: The constant thread said...

That was awesome!!! Thanks so much for sharing your experience and photos with the world! I was so engrossed in every step. I don't know you (wish I did) but you are a real inspiration!! Enjoy reading all of your posts.

Elizabeth said...

I did that same hike/climb in my 20's! No way I could even think about doing it now!!! Good for you and Good for Jack!! The view is absolutely spectacular and i love all the lichens on the rocks at the top. After you death scene, I am sure that you noticed the texture of the granite with the lichen and the colors of it all!!
Your Man/boy is so wonderful!!! Is he going to be leaving the red hand for you to have at home when he goes off to college? Or perhaps the red hat will become a central theme in one of your Blocks!!!
Big Hugs you wonder woman you!!!!

Cari said...

You are amazing. Jack is amazing. And how could he not be with the great parents he has!! Thanks for sharing your adventures!!

Judy S. said...

Amazing! So glad you survived what sounded like a tough climb. BTW, there's a sign just like that on the trail up Mt. Rainier where things start to get serious. Unlike you, we turned around!

Linda said...

I am amazed at your climb, but the image of Jack and his love and caring for you and his dad is what has left me here with tears running down my face. Give him a hug from me and tell him he is one in a million! Thanks for sharing.

xo Linda

Mary Ann said...

You are one brave lady. I would not do that for anything:)

Diana said...

Hey - MY heartrate got close to 800 JUST READING THIS. A.Ma.Zing. Congratulations, brave woman. And HOLY CRAP what were you thinkin?? Also, how come you couldn't go up the way you came down?? The photos are gorgeous - but I would have bought a postcard for this one. Oh, yeah.

Lisa said...

I'm sitting here thinking about what I want to say after having read this stunning post on your blog ~ and your note on the comment form is saying, "Have a wonder-filled life!" and it comes to me how much you really do live a "wonder filled life" and how beautifully you share that with us ~ and how you must do that with your family as well, as evidenced by Jack's responses to you throughout your "non-technical climb"! What a treasure you have in your son! Thanks so very much for sharing your experience with us!

Ingrid Mida said...

Dear Susan,
My heart was pounding for you as I read your post... wondering if you would turn around. What an awesome accomplishment and a reminder that you can do anything!
Best wishes!

Marsha said...

I want you to know I dreamt about climbing a ladder of steep boxes Fri. Night. Couldn't figure out what gave me that dream. Then I remembered.... Oh yeah..... Susan and her hike!

Miriam said...

Goodness, you are brave! I got vertigo just looking at the photos! Lol

I love the views, but could I go up the way you went down??

Thearica said...

My hat is off to you.. I would have been glued to the face of the mountain and begged for the rescue helicopter... and some clean drawers. lol

Mary said...

No way could I have done that. I get tipsy on the ladder! That place is beautiful and your son is so cute! I enjoyed this so much!

Faith said...

This brought tears to my eyes. It sounds like you have the same wonderful relationship with your son as I have with mine. I don't recall having the same level of danger, but my son has helped me do things I would not have done without him, and I know the joy you felt with/for your son.

edyB said...

Oh good gravy ~ Woman! Yep, Wonder Woman and Super Son! Hug that guy for all of us ... he's a special one!
WHEW! I'm exhausted after reading this ... love the photos ... but, NO Way would I be on those ledges!
Thanks for the trip...

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