What started out as a peaceful day on the river turned into something resembling a scene out of the Blair Witch Project, and even included a skeleton right in my path!
I couldn’t have picked a spookier hike for Halloween weekend, lol… EEK! 😯
If you can’t see the video above, click here to watch it.
It was too beautiful to stay indoors though, so I packed up some work and headed to “the beach” (a sandbar on the river about 20 minutes from where I live).
I picked a nice quiet sandy spot by the water, laid out a blanket, and really DID do some work while I was there. 🙂
That’s my Inner Guide Planner which is great for goal setting and planning out life improvements and positive changes. I’m in love with this planner! 🙂
I spent about two hours on the beach, sunbathing and thinking, working, wading and exploring a bit in the river… and finally decided to swim across the river and back. 🙂
It was a warm day, but the river was ice cold and insanely refreshing!
This is where the beautiful day took a very strange turn…
It was already 4pm so I knew I had limited daylight (even less in the woods – or “down in a holler” as people might say in this area, lol).
I just wanted to peek around the bend upriver a bit.
That’s all I had in mind – I promise. It was an innocent excursion. One that required climbing a bluff – but still, innocent enough for ME. 🙂
Very lucky indeed, because I ended up getting completely drenched…
I wasn’t planning “a hike” obviously. I had just thrown on a comfy cotton dress over my bathing suit with intentions of taking it easy by the river.
My peek around the bend didn’t prove as simple as I expected.
I thought for sure there would be a trail, but the river dropped off deep and the bluff rose up high right there at the turn in the river. I decided to climb it.
Wait – I have to stop here and share something with you, so you understand the “why” behind that decision (lol).
See the photo above? Right after I took that, I turned around to scope out the landscape and it looked pretty impossible. Just then, an inner voice urged me to GO.
“There’s something I want you to see.”
Now at this point you are welcome to call me crazy. I wasn’t 100% sure myself whether I was having a gut feeling, a spiritual experience, or if those “head meds” had finally kicked in (lol).
Whatever the case, I scoped out my options and I kept my eyes peeled. I looked for shells, artifacts, I don’t know what I was supposed to find or see but I was keenly aware of everything in my path the whole way – curious.
The only way was UP, so I climbed the bluff…
I still only meant to peek around the corner a ways.
I mean, I was in a dress!
The stretch of river below was a “no swimming area” with strong dangerous undercurrents. Plus I had my shoulder bag, which was full of necessary stuffs: lip gloss, dental floss, pecans, etc (lol).
The view was amazing… the hike across the rock bluff, treacherous.
I had to get on my hands and knees and double check my next move every step of the way, watching for wildlife as I secured hand and footholds and inched along.
Yes, I know this was nuts – especially alone. I just wanted to get around the corner and see… whatever there was to see.
I was aware of the danger. I was especially aware of the fact that I hadn’t checked in anywhere, given it was an unplanned adventure. And I was aware that daylight was fading. I know the area fairly well though, so I knew there was a Blue Hole with a hiking trail up the river a ways – or I could go back the way I came.
Still, I felt driven forward. That inner voice was strong: Go.
I felt calm, curious, happy and FREE. And so I went…
When I got to the bend, I heard the waterfall. 🙂
You can’t see it here, well barely maybe, but I could… and it was beautiful!!
I’ve had this fascination with waterfalls lately, and the biggest smile crossed my face when I saw it. I thought, I’ll just explore this waterfall and head back.
It required a bit of sketchy rock climbing to get to it, but nothing too terrible.
The waterfall was beautiful. 🙂
At this point the daylight is just starting to fade, and I’m guessing I’m halfway to the Blue Hole. Guessing being the key word, lol.
Going back the way I came seemed more dangerous (in hindsight, ha!) so I decided to keep going, hike up out of the Blue Hole, then take the road back down to my car.
Looking upriver, from what I could see at least, that seemed smartest…
From this bend to the next one looked easy enough with a rocky bank.
I was very aware of the quickly fading daylight though, and carefully trotted quickly across the large rocks to the next bend in the river…
When I got around that bend, I stopped in my tracks.
HOLY SH*T. (pardon my language)
“There’s no way I’m going to make it back the way I came before dark. I can’t climb those rock bluffs in the dark. The Blue Hole has to be pretty close now. I can make it. I can do this.” … This was the conversation in my head at the view in front of me.
The rocky bank, which was only there because of our current drought, dropped off completely and there was nothing but a wall of waterfalls as far as I could see. 😯
I had a moment of panic. I couldn’t backtrack, not before dark. Could I make it going forward? I wasn’t sure. I was scared of getting caught out there on the river after dark. Cutting a path was treacherous enough with full light…
The voice in my head said go forward.
At this point I started talking back to the voice. 😛 I talked to myself, out loud even, talking myself through every step, every grab, every foothold.
At this next bend I couldn’t see around the corner and had no idea what to expect when I got there. Would it get easier or harder? Would I have to backtrack yet?
“It’s getting darker by the second. GO!”
I inched my way around this slimy bluff, which was drizzling waterfalls from above and a steep drop off into a swift river below. The water looks calm, but it’s deceiving… with strong undertows, suitable only for kayaking.
Around that corner I had to step down on a very narrow rock shelf almost waist deep. I had to tie my dress up like a halter top and strap my shoulder bag high up on my shoulders. All while maintaining my balance on a narrow ledge, mind you.
Not out of concern for getting my dress wet, because it was already soaked and caked with mud at this point (lol) – but so I could scale the crazy rock bluff with a rushing river below, without my dress getting snagged on a point.
I literally had to pull myself up and hold my body weight with my arms (using every ounce of upper body strength I could muster) at times when I wasn’t sure of my footholds. At this point in the hike, it became as much a serious exercise in critical thinking… as it was physical exercise.
So you can get a better feel for the reality of this piece of the hike, here is what it looked like from the other side:
As you can see, this bend in the bluff blocked even more of the setting sun.
And to my right/forward?
It was nothing but wet bluff with non-stop waterfalls…
I was taking stock in my head of the items in my bag, in case I did need to try to swim a piece to make it to the Blue Hole. What could I afford to lose in the swim?
I was processing every possible scenario at this point, determined to find a way out before dark – swim or climb!
I was standing there on the rare wide spot, wide enough to stand on and catch my breath and assess the situation, when I looked down and saw THIS:
WHAT THE HECK IS THAT?!
Forget swimming 😛 lol. I decided to take my chances with the remaining stretch of bluffs and slimy waterfalls. It was slick, scary, but I just took it slow – while hurrying – and hung on for dear life. 😯
The crazy was starting to set in. What the h*ll was I thinking?! I should have checked in. How long will it take them to find me out here, off trail, in the middle of the river way between any two points, in the dark.
Will they even look, or just assume my parked car is a camper? I’m wet, it’s going to get cold, can I find somewhere to wait out the night if I have to?
I took a deep breath and talked myself through the trek, one foot in front of the other, watching my step, watching what I grabbed onto, watching the daylight fade but grateful for the reflection of the sunset from the water – which provided at least some light. Just keep going, just keep going.
I was soaked, caked in mud and smeared with green slime…
I had to face fears super fast (falling, getting injured, prehistoric looking skeletons, spiders, snakes, the dark) and just push myself forward as I climbed under a huge dripping slimy tree and up a steep bluff under a pouring waterfall, watching the sun set further by the minute.
I was talking to myself (out loud), encouraging myself forward: “you can do this.”
I talked to the bluff, I talked to the rocks, I talked to the river, “don’t give out on me now” as I carefully chose my steps.
I felt confident in myself, but was definitely further out than I realized: “where the h*ll is the Blue Hole?!” “you’re fine,” “one foot in front of the other.”
As the words kept rolling out of my mouth, giving me strength and confidence with each step, next I heard myself say something very familiar…
It’s a huge note on my writing desk in large red letters, “I WILL FINISH THIS TODAY. Prove to yourself, and to the world, that you CAN do it!”
I stopped. “No, you can’t stop!” I kept going, but it was then that I knew.
As I rushed (carefully) over large slick rocks, the voice in my head that kept pushing me forward with “there’s something I want you to see,” and “I want to show you something” all of a sudden made sense.
That note that I wrote had been sitting on my desk for about 3 months, maybe 2 – I don’t know, but “finish this today” was months ago, and “finishing” hadn’t happened yet.
I was chasing the last bit of reflection of light, thinking about how many times I glanced over at that note with a deep sense of disappointment in myself.
Every day I pretended I just wrote it that day. “It’s okay, make today the day.” So many tomorrow’s became yesterday’s, so much self-defeat had set in. I hadn’t give up on the project though, which is why the note remained perched on my desk.
As this message was really sinking in for me, a revelation of defeat and achievement, of priorities and goals, I pushed through some thick brush in the fading light… to find a trail marker.
*SIGH* 🙂 🙂 🙂
My very loud “WOO HOO!” echoed through the entire river gorge. 🙂
It’s a tricky trail, marked “strenuous” and “no swimming, dangerous waters.” I got turned around in the dark and backtracked several times, but at this point I knew I could climb UP (even in the dark) and that I was SAFE. 🙂
I picked my steps carefully, but I ran most of the steep wet trail up the bluff and up to the road. The road leading out was steep too, but I was shouting and dancing in circles all the way up the hill…
I felt so ALIVE!! 🙂
This is when I got “rescued” by the park ranger, lol.
He was probably just stopping to give me a drinking citation (haha) since I was dancing in the street and off balance from exhaustion 🙂 but he did insist on giving me a ride back to my car – green sludged dress and all.
“I don’t see many people hiking in dresses around here,” he said. (lol)
I got in my car with a huge smile on my face, waved goodbye to the ranger, and danced and shouted and SANG at the top of my lungs all the way up the hill and out to the highway.
I stopped there at the market, famished, and ordered dinner. Yes, soaking wet and covered in green slime lol. I got a hamburger steak topped with sauteed mushrooms, bacon & cheese with a side of tomatoes & mayo plus a side salad:
I was freezing, shivering even, but still smiling – and cleaned my plate. 🙂
I was high on life, happy to be alive, and thrilled with my life lesson. I was so elated and full of excitement that it felt hard to sleep, but my body was exhausted.
I woke up this morning stiff and tense all over, including back muscles I didn’t even know I had – lol. That crazy adventure was an amazing full body workout! 😛
What did I learn?
Um, never do THAT again. 🙂 lol…
I learned that I am capable.
I learned that I am stronger than I knew.
I learned that no matter how many times I failed, how many times my confidence was dented, how many moments I felt like a failure over yesterday’s… that TODAY, today I can achieve ANYTHING I set my mind to.
The difference between “goals” and “priorities” was made clear as mud (that was a pun). A goal is just a wish. A priority is something you MAKE happen – like getting the h*ll out of a stupid predicament, lol.
A goal is something you want to do.
A priority is something you GET DONE.
Just like the disappointments I left on the trails of Burgess Falls earlier this week, I climbed out of the Blue Hole leaving my feelings of self-defeat and disappointment far back in the dark wet woods. I came out knowing my priorities, and with a renewed sense of confidence and ambition… to finish that d*** project.
The Caney Fork River Gorge did not defeat me, and neither will this project. I will not give up, I won’t turn back, I won’t huddle up and wait it out. One foot in front of the other – no matter what. I will get it done.
I know that my “confidence crisis” has held me back, that my disappointment and sense of defeat deflated my enthusiasm. Just like surviving that river gorge though, this project IS important. It is a HUGE priority in my life, and I’ve been avoiding it (or not giving it my BEST) because I’ve been letting “the wrong voices” affect me.
Wisdom From The Gorge…
Whatever you think you want to achieve in your life, treat it like life or death. Make it THAT kind of priority. This IS your life, right now – today.
Forget your yesterday’s, and don’t count on your tomorrow’s – they are just more today’s, and they turn into even more yesterday’s. They’ll add up on you. Forget the stack of today’s that have already passed, forget your disappoinments over that…
MAKE TODAY COUNT.
One foot in front of the other, ignore your fears, force yourself to see what you’re really made of. And don’t go tempting fate in a dark slimy river gorge to get off your a** about it, lol. I did that for you. 🙂
It would be great if we never let ourselves get unhealthy, if we never dropped the ball on something important, if we never had regrets, if we never got behind on things, if we achieved everything we ever wanted to in life with “live or die” determination, if we never put things off which just makes the situation worse…
It would be great if life were as “easy” (heh) as surviving the river gorge.
All that would be great, yes. But today, every today from now on, I am going to wake up – and know that I am more capable and stronger than I realize, and I am going to get as laser focused on my priories as I was on getting out of that crazy gorge.
You are stronger than you realize, too.
Dig deep. It’s there. I promise you…
Starting today: Make your goals a true priority.
p.s. You can’t go back. There’s no end (success) in sight. You don’t know if you have what it takes to keep going. You feel mad for getting yourself IN this situation. You have no idea how (or if) you can get out of it. There’s no one to rescue you. It’s up to you. One foot in front of the other, it’s now or never. Victory dance at the end… or miserably cold and wet and lost in the dark and pissed at yourself for it? It’s up to you.
Discount Code: LOWCARBTRAVELER