The peak of Mt. San Jacinto is10,834 feet in elevation, about two miles above my home in Palm Springs, California. I have often gazed at the peak, in awe of its grandeur and getting a slight sense of vertigo from my intense fear of heights.
At a towering five foot one myself, this mountain has always been vastly intimidating. So I made up my mind to conquer my fear of heights, my scaling this monstrous mountain and hike up to the peak. Armed with a pack about half my weight and my best friend, I set off from the palm springs aerial tram way toward the peak.
That morning was spent grunting and wheezing up the mountain (I have asthma and hiking in the thinner air was very difficult). Finally reaching the camp ground in early afternoon, the rest of the day was spent exploring the nearby surroundings, minus the pack, which I could not have carried another mile. The next morning we continued out quest toward the peak.
The trail became increasingly steep and the air thinner the higher we climbed, making it very difficult and the inhaler and water breaks more frequent. The pleasant escapade up the mountain seemed more like rock climbing without a belayer during the very last 3 miles of the journey. Finally we reached the peak of the mountain and gazed down in awe at the magnificent sight below.
I was on top of the world, literally as well as figuratively, looking out endlessly in every direction. I sat next to the plaque to have lunch and felt amazingly invigorated for I had just been standing at the edge of a cliff 2,000 times my own height and was not scared. I was empowered.
While eating lunch, my friend and I me a very nice fellow climber who closely resembled Kelsey Grammer. This very nice man began telling stories of his own numerous climbs to some of the tallest peaks in the world. This paled my own accomplishment in comparison as he continued on about an acquaintance of his whom had glided to the top of all three of the tallest peaks nearby in one day.
After lunch, we left the pleasant and informative company of the Frasier look alike and headed back down to camp. One the way down, having already completed 10 miles that day, I was very tired and turned toward inward contemplation of attempting the next highest peak in the valley for a future adventure. Upon arriving back at camp, we cleaned and packed up heading back to the tramway.
The closer we got to the tramway, the more common human voices and sightings became. People, mostly tourists from palm springs, pointed and stared at out dirty and disheveled bodies ,strangely large packs, and looks of exhausted accomplishment set us apart in the crowed. After a while fellow campers inquired as to how long we had been up, or how much water was at the camp site.
To the average tourist, we looked like the average camping enthusiast engaging in impressive and dangerous ventures. I felt a surge of pride in the fact that hey, I did have an adventure. I had conquered my fear of heights and not once allowed my debilitating asthma to bring be down.
We made it to the top of that enormous mountain, and looked down at the wide expanse of land and ocean beneath. The ride down the tramway was the most rewarding part, looking one last time at the summit as we descended down the mountain face and knowing that only hours before, I had been at the top.
Later that day, after arriving home and showering, I was looking through the pictures of the peak and realizing that I had accomplished something I never thought possible with my fear of heights and asthma. Because of this thought overcoming a personal hardship, I felt truly accomplished, I was still on top of the world, only this time within the confines of my room.
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