First things first: I do not like heights. Ask anyone, especially the Benson boys, who never tired of pointing out how everyone else would jump off the Grotto walls while I stayed on the rock in the middle. There are certain heights I've never had a big problem with. Climbing trees, scrambling around on Otter Cliffs, and even hiking, for the most part, is fine, as long as there are some trees around so that I don't have to look at the base of the mountain.
Today I decided that it would be a great Sabbath activity to go hiking the Jordan Cliffs Trail up to the top of Penobscot mountain and then taking the Penobscot Trail back down. It would give me time to pray, read my scriptures, sing some hymns, and just get away from the usual filth of every-day life. I've already hiked to the top of Penobscot and down the Jordan Pond North-Shore Trail, so I knew I could do that much. It was the Cliffs I had never laid eyes on before. But I thought to myself, how hard could it be? People do it all the time! And besides, I'll be able to tell people what it's like easier if I actually hike it. So off I went, all on my lonesome, which is a very stupid idea if you've never done a trail before, but I figured since I couldn't find anyone to go with me I would just have to deal with it. Like I said, stupid.
It was a beautiful day! A clear, bright, August afternoon. The sun was behind Penobscot which made it nice and cool since I was walking in the shade until I got to the top of the mountain. I took a backpack with a water bottle, a light vest, scriptures, True to The Faith, my hymnal and a notepad. It sounds like a lot, but really it was very light. Near the beginning of the trail I found a very peaceful spot on a rock off to the right of the trail over-looking the pond. I read some out of True to The Faith, and sang some hymns. Fifteen minutes later I got going again. It was a great trail. Pretty easy and empty of all other hikers.
Then I came to the sign: CAUTION: STEEP TRAIL WITH EXPOSED CLIFFS, LADDERS, AND FIXED IRON RUNGS. Being me I said to myself, I'll be fine. I've been hanging out at Otter Cliffs from the time I was 9. And off I went.
Still, it was a wonderful trail. Leading quietly through the woods, shadowy, and mossy and glorious. Then I came to the rocks. They ware very bare rocks. Very rocky rocks. Very scary rocks. I'm a tree person, I hate rocks. I thought about turning back but decided to climb up to the level above me (there were no ladders at this point; I was rock-climbing... On rocks). When I did I found that the view was great and right ahead the trail went back into the woods. It was beautiful. So I continued.
In the woods I began to automatically hike upwards. Whenever I came to a fork I would simply choose whatever went up... I always knew I was going in the right way because of the markers I would continue seeing around each corner even if I wasn't paying attention at the forks. At one point there was a fork that went down towards some rocks, or up through some trees. The path into the trees was vague, but it went upwards (which made sense) and it went through some trees (which made me feel safe). Right before I made the mechanical decision to go upwards I saw out of the corner of my eye a vivid blue, vertical line on a tree - a trail marker. It was going down to the rocks. If there's one thing my parents taught me it was follow instructions. "Mallory, read that recipe through before you start." "Mal, you should probably read the instructions before you start on that project." Not that I always followed those words of wisdom... In fact I rarely did. But in this case I did, and just kept saying to myself, "It's been proven to work. People do this trail all the time. They're still alive. Rocks are okay. This trail's been proven to work!"
I was doing fine now, even on the rocks, until I came to my first ladder. Ladders. LADDERS. Suddenly those cliffs looked so much bigger than before. I'm talking "The Cliffs of Insanity!". I clung to those rungs and ladders like a baby to it's mother after a cool shower. I could feel my feet slip slightly once in a while, mostly because they were shaking a little. Again, I thought seriously of turning back. I knew I could do what I had just done. But I really didn't want to have to turn back when I was so close. Just take it slow, take it slow. It's been proven to work.
I finally came to the top of the Cliffs. Again, I went off to a quiet place and sat looking out over the magnificent view. The sun on my back with a soft breeze. A song. A prayer. Peace.