I stood there terrified doubting if I could even move forward. Tears streaming down my face, my breathing making that high whistling sound that you would expect from someone suffering from an extreme asthma attack, frozen between moving forward and giving up. All of this from a little thing called FEAR!
A couple of months ago my husband Steve and I headed out on our first real nature hike in Southern California. We were excited to get out and blaze the trails. We found a local wilderness park and started off by having a great conversation with Ranger Susan. Ranger Susan was full of knowledge about the park and helped us pick the perfect route for a long hike.
That’s where things kind of went sideways. You see, as we began to walk away from Ranger Susan, she called out, “Oh by the way be really careful at the top, there was a very large diamond back spotted up there this morning!”. For those of you that don’t know, a diamond back is a rattlesnake and I am very afraid of rattlesnakes!
I felt my pulse quicken as we set out hiking but quickly began rationalizing my chances of coming across said snake (besides the trail was almost as wide as a single lane road). Surely I would spot the snake with plenty of room to spare. Then a funny thing began to happen. That nice wide trail became smaller and smaller while my fear became greater and greater. Before I knew it I was closed in on both sides headed into heavy scrub brush with nothing but a tiny footpath to guide me. I came to a dead stop, paralyzed by the fear that had taken over.
At this point I felt like a complete and utter failure. How would I ever make it on the Appalachian Trail if I couldn’t even hack a local hike here in California? My husband was a little irritated and reminded me of this fact but he was patient and hung out waiting for me to make the call. Do I move forward or let fear win?
I think the universe gave me a little nudge because just at that precise moment a cute twenty something couple came bopping down the hill through the brush, Zen music and all emanating from their backpack. In the most pleading panicked voice I reached out to the woman and asked “Did you see any snakes”? They assured me they encountered no snakes at all while they made their way down the trail. I thanked them profusely, took a big breathe and made my decision. I took one small baby step forward, then another. Still unsure, still feeling a little panicked not knowing what lie before me.
The ultimate moment came when we finally reached the wide open fire road at the top! As I moved forward I began to feel stronger. I began to feel like I could do this. I felt accomplished.
I know it probably seems like a silly thing, a panic attack over a snake, really Sherry? I’m sure you can probably think of a time or two where something has stopped you in your tracks. Did you freeze in place, turn around and run in the other direction or take that one huge baby step forward?
I’m just an unlikely wanderer learning a little more each time I put myself out there. It’s not always pretty and it’s certainly not perfect but it is progress.
Happy wanderings my friends!