The Pikes Peak Incline
Heaven and Hell, and a Long Hike
We made it up the mountain, and getting there created several challenges, including the plateau. The plateau fools you (for about 1000 feet) into thinking it’s the top until you hit the plateau and realize how much is left. The trip back down was no picnic either. During the 4 ½ mile trek downhill, a friend and I slipped, fell and slid across an icy patch that took us to a scenic overview where we were glad we didn’t slip off!
Monique and I, and some of our friends, beat the Pikes Peak Incline, in Manitou Springs, CO. The name “Incline” doesn’t exactly describe the hellish nature of this hike. The incline, a mountainside hike up jagged, uneven, and sometimes icy steps made of railroad ties, and seriously untidy, uneven, chippy and craggy wood like an old west cracked-toothed six-shooter outlaw with two chips on his shoulder unafraid to take the fight to you.
Step-by-step you’re gaining 2000 feet and about one mile of elevation. It became harder to breathe with each step, more than we were already breathing, having had to hike uphill for about ½ mile to even get to the start of the adventure which sits at 6400 feet above sea level.
I WANT TO BAIL!
But before one can even take the the trip down, you have to finish the trip up. Well, sort of. About two-thirds of the way up, there exists a bail-out option. The bail-out is an opening in the trail that leads a person off the steps of the incline and to the path that takes you back down. Some use the bail-out because their legs are spent, and others can’t seem to fight for another step. It’s an intimidating climb.
And then there was Nancy. Nancy was a brunette-haired woman of normal build in her early 50’s. She wore hiking shoes, gray sweats, and an athletic wear for a top. Her purple jacket lay hapless around her waist with a backpack-style water harness.
Monique and I noticed her when she plopped down crying on a rock near the bail-out. She told us it was hopeless. She was hopeless. She told us there was no way she could make the rest of the trek up the mountain. Her head hung low, she felt dejected, alone, embarrassed and frustrated.
The Hero’s Journey – Challenges In The Way
That’s when we shared our challenges. You see, I was born with the most severe type of Spina Bifida. I told her my story…the short version, anyway. I said, “I am missing part of my spine, I have had 13 major surgeries, my right foot is fused, my left foot is turning outward, I can’t feel my right foot at all, and can hardly feel my left foot, I hardly have any calf muscles, am missing one hamstring, my right knee doesn’t straighten, I endure constant pain, and a condition at the brain-stem called Chiari Malformation.” We told her the physical ways Monique was having to support me and her at times on the way up.
I paused, and said, “Nancy, we are going to make it up that mountain.” Throughout the story her eyes, widened, and though she gasped with tears, they also slowly dried up. She said, “All of that, and I have the gall to sit here and complain about my pain!” We told her that everyone deals with their own demons and challenges that we can’t judge. We said that we all get to be the heroes of our stories. “What does your story look like?” I asked. She took a good minute, I’d guess until she wiped her eyes, stood and said, “Oh, hell! There is no way I’m not making it. If you can make it, I can make it!” She turned in a swell and took off.
A Hero In Nancy
I never saw Nancy again. She wasn’t waiting at the top all smiles and thank you’s”. Not because she wasn’t grateful. She had her own life to live, and that was enough happiness for me. I knew she’d made it. Even now I can only smile, and even feel a tiny swell of my own.
You’ve read the stories of heroes. Many have fantastical names like Blade, Black Widow, Gandalf, Optimus Prime, Maximus, Inigo Montoya and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Some heroes bear more understated names like Lieutenant Ellen Ripley, Robin Hood, William Wallace, Linda Hamilton, and Frodo Baggins. Despite the odds these fictional heroes with fantastical and not-so-fantastical names went on to do fantastical things.
All we did is sit with Nancy, and talk to her. I am not a hero with impossible strength, or with expertly trained skill. In fact, I have remarkable lack of strength, short of an internal drive that no one can extinguish. Part of that internal drive is to notice people where they’re at, and see how I might participate with them to whatever end. And to share my story.
You all have Nancy’s on the mountain. Even if you haven’t noticed, there’ll be a day when your version of Nancy will be within reach. Will you refuse the opportunity to get them to the top, or leave them to their pain and let them bail? Or will you and “Nancy” make it up the mountain?
Perhaps Counseling Is A Good Idea
You can tell them where you’ve been, and why you’ll make it. You can say, “perhaps counseling is a good idea, and I know just the couple to do it. You see, they’ve helped many up their own mountains.”
Making A Difference – A Tale Of Two Heroes
Heroes and their journey. What if you’re the hero in another’s story? A tale of two heroes. Nancy became her own hero because her hero was willing to step in and help make a difference. That’s what it takes. The willingness to step in and make a difference. They won’t be at the top all smiles and “thank you’s.” Not because they’re not grateful, but because they have their life to live. Knowing that is thanks enough.
A “Nancy” will find her way to your path, on the mountain. He or She may Tina, or Jack, or Tim, or … well she may be Nancy too! He or she may be experiencing everything our Nancy was. Dejection, aloneness, sadness, and weakness. And your “Nancy” may be alone, companionless and broken. Remember that though he or she might feel hopeless, no one on your particular mountain is truly hopeless. Explore what’s possible with them, much like I did with Nancy. Because they’ll need you to be that with them. Would you turn down your opportunity to be a hero? What difference will you make?