ghost ranch, hiking, kitchen mesa trail, sabbatical

Free Day Hike, Part 2

Before I made my way out to unsuccessfully hike Box Canyon, I asked the woman at the front desk about the Kitchen Mesa Trail. (I realize my error now – instead of asking about a trail I might do another day, it’s best to ask about the trail I’m going to hike today. Good to know). Here is the Kitchen Mesa trail description: The trail goes behind the Kitchen Mesa before it ascends to the top. This more difficult hike includes a 15-foot chimney through a cleft in the cliff. This 3-4 hour trip climbs from 6,500 to 7,100 feet. Round trip – 5 miles.

It was the “15-foot chimney through a cleft in the cliff” that caused me to pause. “Is it really hard?” I asked. “You’ll be on your hands and knees.” Ok, no need to go any further. Hiking alone should not involve hands and knees. So I moved forward with Plan A. But, as we already know, Plan A didn’t take place. Plan B did. After I accepted that the sign for Box Canyon was nowhere to be seen, I decided to head back to the beginning. Maybe I could do just part of Kitchen Mesa? I really had my heart on hiking this morning and I didn’t want to quit yet.

I easily found the sign for this trail and the first step was down into a creek. I actually didn’t mind since I still had mud caked on the bottom of my sandals. Right away I climbed up and up. I decided at this point that I would give myself 45 minutes to hike on this trail. By then it would be 11:15 and that would give me time to retrace my steps and get to lunch.


I started thinking about how the sheet at the front desk shows I’m on Box Canyon trail, not Kitchen Mesa. I began to wonder how my husband or mom or workshop leader might feel if they knew I was out on this trail alone. Thankfully, this blog post is proof that I made it back safe and sound, so there was no need for anyone to worry. 😉

It was a breathtakingly beautiful morning. Not a cloud in the sky. Although, if I’m going to be honest, the breathtaking part was more about the rocky climbs in high altitudes than it was about the spectacular views. I reached a ridge, I’m not sure what else to call it – there appeared to be a path. I suppose it was a path, but when I reached it, ‘path’ wasn’t the word that came to mind. There were logs lying horizontally all along this route, giving one a place to walk very slanted-like along what felt to be the side of the mountain. Then I had to climb (using my hands and almost knees) to get over the hill. Do you see the log at the bottom of the climb? Yeah… let’s not think about what that is for.



But I made it and I was feeling pretty good about myself. Screw lunch! I’m on an adventure! I had two granola bars and plenty of water, so I decided to ignore my timed hike and just go until I couldn’t go any further. I had no idea what this chimney rock experience might be like, but I just scaled a mountain for goodness sake – I can handle a chimney rock! As I entered some flatlands I began to realize how alone I really was. I could no longer see buildings and unlike Chimney Rock trail, I had not passed a person yet. I was alone. And, it made me feel so brave! Was I brave? That’s questionable, but I felt it!


There were green coffee cans along the way that helped me know I was on the right path. I just kept going like I knew what I was doing – I did not know what I was doing. Eventually I found myself checking my watch more often. The screw-lunch-I’m-a-survivalist mentality started wearing off. I got to a fork in the path and was annoyed. I had to climb rockier inclines and I was weary. Soon the path was a little questionable. I saw a huge rock ahead and decided to take a break there. It was 11:10. I really couldn’t tell where the path continued to and I was starting to think that maybe going much further alone wasn’t the best choice. But, I had 5 minutes before I could turn around due to my arbitrary rule, so I would just sit there and take it all in.


11:11. I know, I’ll at a granola bar while I wait. 11:14. Seriously, it hasn’t been 5 minutes yet? Yes, I realize, I have a problem. There I was, essentially sitting on top of a mountain, and I couldn’t appreciate the moment. Well, I appreciated it, I saw the beauty, but sitting down isn’t my forte – at least it’s not if I don’t have a book or someone to talk to. Something to work on…there’s always something to work on.


I started back down and had a hard time finding the trail. I back tracked a bit, but eventually saw the path and got on my way. I was weaving in and out of trees and rocks; I was navigating downward rocky paths. Now, lest you start to think that I really am the adventurer, survivalist person that I like to pretend I am, let me reassure you, I’m not. I may hike in Chacos with my North Face backpack, but let’s be real – this backpack has never seen a North Face! I know if I were reading this blog and it was yours, I’d think you were amazing. I’d wish that I were as brave and strong and badass as you are. Illusions, my friends, they are all illusions.

I think my bravery consisted of one part stupidity, one part naïveté and one part I-am-woman-hear-me-roar. I rarely do things like this – the most adventurous thing I’ve done in the last month was taking our dogs on a walk down the Monon trail…with my husband helping. And finally, these pictures don’t reveal what’s happening behind the camera. I thought some sound of me breathing hard might make you feel a little better too…

Don’t get me wrong – I know this was cool! I know I was being courageous when I stepped on this trail. However, I don’t want you to think that you can’t do it too – you can. If you want to be somewhat stupid and somewhat naïve and somewhat badass and call it bravery, you can do it too.

I had to pass back over that crazy side-of-the-mountain trail then I’d be in the clear. For some reason, a reason that never makes sense, I looked down. Never look down! And when I did my foot slipped, only a little but, it slipped. “Don’t.” That’s all I said – no more was necessary. Whether it was to my foot or my brain or to God – “Don’t” was a sufficient response.

And then, before you know it, I was back in the little creek washing off my dirty feet and sandals. I’m back on the road to the dining hall. When I walk in that room, no one sees the change, but I feel it. I know what I’ve done – something brave, something new, something I’m not sure I could have done before today. I walked into that cafeteria a little taller, a lot braver. I was tempted to get everyone’s attention: YOU GUYS! YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT I JUST DID! I’M BRAVE! CAN’T YOU TELL HOW BRAVE I AM?? I opted not to take this approach. I figured something subtler like getting in the lunch line and sitting at the table eating by myself might be more effective.

Whether they know it or not, I know and that’s all that matters. I know that I’m brave and strong. I know that a few rocks slipping under my feet won’t hurt me. I know that an unmarked path won’t scare me. I know that choosing to stop and turn around doesn’t make me less than. And if no one reads this and no one ever hears my story, I know it and that’s enough, more than enough, for me.


4 thoughts on “Free Day Hike, Part 2”

  1. I heard. I am impressed. I think you are very brave and standing a little taller for it. I love the thought of making a plan with all the unknowns, walking the path (sometimes foolishly and sometimes with assurance) and moving past the questions. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I just caught up on all your blog posts and your adventures. Wow! So proud of you for hiking bravely by yourself. I dont know if I could do it. Your blog posts-stories-thoughts are so raw & honest and eloquently written. You have what it takes to write a book. 😉 I pray Jesus continues to reveal himself to you on your journey.💜

    Liked by 1 person

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