Learning to Fly

October 10, 2012
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Learning to Fly

Sweat poured down my face as I continued to trudge along the faint path. One thousand twenty-six, one thousand twenty-seven, one thousand twenty-eight, I counted to myself. “I am freezing to death and still sweating! Is that even possible?” I complained to my dad. He just turned around and smiled at me and said, “Both of you are doing great! We are at the seven-mile mark now. We only have to go another two and a half miles to get to the keyhole.” Great, just great! That means I have to stumble another two and a half miles, all up hill, with no breaks in between. It is just like a cross-country race, but on the side of a mountain. This is so fun! I thought to myself, sarcastically.
We kept hiking for another fifteen minutes until I heard Reed pant out something that sounded like, “Can we please take another break? I need a rest. Just don’t let me sit down. If I do, I won’t get back up; then I will be stuck on the side of this stupid mountain for the rest of my life.” I completely agreed with everything he just said. I had read somewhere that even though Longs Peak was only the fifteenth tallest mountain in the Rockies, it was the second most difficult climb.

My father, older brother, and I had been hiking since two in the morning. It was now approaching eight. I was miserable; I had been climbing up stairs that threatened to break my ankle if I wasn’t careful, leaping over streams that wanted to get me wet so that I could catch hypothermia, and hauling myself over massive boulders that made it seem that they would enjoy it if I fell hundreds of feet to my death. Very pleasant way to leave this life, falling hundreds of feet through the air while boulders laughed quietly to themselves over my demise. I started to wonder if the altitude was making me crazy. I distinctly remember learning in kindergarten that inanimate objects don’t laugh, try to give you hypothermia, or attempt to break your ankle. I took a few deep breaths trying to clear my head. That was getting harder to do. Every step I took the oxygen was less dense, making it harder for me to breathe.

After a couple more minutes of rest, I was able to continue. “Great job, guys!” my dad cheered. “You can do this!” God, He should consider being a personal trainer. He is too happy doing this. Let me be pessimistic in peace! I grumbled angrily to myself. We continued in this way for another hour with Reed saying that he is incredibly lazy and needs a break, me being a Debby downer, and my dad being the idiot who jumps up and down and saying, “Let’s go hike another fifteen miles!” in his oh-my-gosh, this-is-so-fun voice. Weirdo.
“He really enjoys, this doesn’t he?” I mumble to Reed.
“You just realized that?” he replies in a tone that inquires about my level of sanity. “Okay I have a plan to get us off this mountain” he murmurs quickly. “You use your awesome ninja powers that you don’t have and I will tie him up with my magical, invisible rope. Then, we run for it. Deal?” he jokes.
“Umm, no,” I reply, annoyed, “that plan is an EPIC FAILURE! Idiot. How are we supposed to run down a mountain? That seems like a great way for me to break my ankle.”
“Sarcasm, Rayna, Sarcasm. And YOU’RE supposed to be the sarcastic one in the family?” Reed snickers at me.
Just then my dad notices our conversation. “You’re not giving up on me, right? Because all we have left is the Boulder Field and then we are there!” he encourages.
“Shut up. This is not fun.” Reed retaliates.
“Wait, we aren’t even in the boulder field yet?” I cry. I look all around me. Everywhere I could see there were boulders. Boulders, boulders, boulders; I could go crazy just looking at how the scenery doesn’t change. Scratch that. I AM going crazy.
“No,” my dad replies, “This is just the foothill of the boulder field. Take these rocks, make them three times bigger, and then position them so that they are pretty much straight up. That is the boulder field. Very good work-out for the arms and thighs.”
“Thanks, Dad for clearing that up for me. That’s just what I need, a workout. It’s not like hiking up-hill for eight miles isn’t a work out” Reed snarls.
Just then we reach the Boulder Field. Everything my dad said about it was true. Except he didn’t say how big it was. “How far up does it go?” I ask.
“That thing of beauty is a half-mile long. If we start now, we can probably get up it in forty minutes.” he replies cheerily.
“Dad, I think the altitude is starting to get to you,” I tell him, “First that is not a ‘thing of beauty’. That is God throwing a bunch of rocks in a pile and saying ‘Ha! Get up that!’ Second, FORTY minutes to get up that?” It couldn’t take that long. My average half-mile is about three minutes.
Reed whispers to me, “Gotta remember, Rayna, that that is going almost straight up and we are already exhausted from hiking. Well, most of us are”
Right, I can do this! That was my first encouraging thought in the last hour. Then we began the ascent.

My dad was right. It did take us forty minutes to get up to the Keyhole. But we did it; we made it. We were sweaty, cold, gross, and tired, but we made it. As I was looking around I could feel my exhaustion fading away. Not entirely gone, but less so. The view was incredible. I could see for hundreds of miles. But my happiness for the view was nothing like my feeling of accomplishment. I did it. I made it to the keyhole! Not to the top, but some day I will make it to the top. Now I could officially call myself a mountaineer. The best part was that I realized that people could do anything. If I could climb a mountain, anyone else can. They just need to put their minds to it. I felt like I could fly, way up on the side of a mountain, hanging over an edge, holding onto a rock. All I needed to do was to figure out how.
The way back down the mountain went by a lot faster than going up. It was more fun too, because we were all in a better mood. I sang, well more shouted, “What Makes You Beautiful” and “One Thing” all the way down to the tree line. “So get out, get out, get out of my head, and fall into my arms instead.” I sang-shouted.
“I am so hungry and, Rayna, please stop singing.” Reed shouted to us, “Let’s go break into the next McDonalds we see and rob them of their Big Mac’s.”
Then he started singing the theme song from Supersize Me. “Rock-n-Roll McDonalds, Rock-n-Roll McDonalds” was all we could get him to say for the rest of the way down. But, I totally agreed with him. By the time we got down to the ranger’s station, all of us were singing Rock-n-Roll McDonald’s. We never did have time to go, but that’s okay.
I learned many things about myself that day, climbing to the Keyhole on Longs Peak, Colorado. I learned that perseverance is the best thing for accomplishing something. I learned that I could do anything, even fly, if I took the time to try. Well, maybe not literally fly. I mean I could, but who jumps off a mountain trying to learn to fly?

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