Getting my WFR on Gay Island, ME

Maine is stunningly gorgeous. A few years ago when Joe and I visited Acadia National Park, we were amazed by the scenery. During my five-day Wilderness First Responder course, I was floored once again by the fog, the water, the trees, the weather, the everything!

The course was held on Gay Island, off the coast of Friendship, ME (In the map below, look in lower right corner).

friendship maine map

About a mile long and a half-mile wide, Gay Island has no roads, no stores, no nothing — just docks for private land owners. It was really incredible to be slightly “cut off” from the world in a physical sense. I still got okay service on my phone, which meant I could post photos and check in with Joe, but it was really nice to be just a little distanced from “civilization” in such a stunning place.

The course was held within and around the lodge in the image below. About 12 of us stayed in rooms in the lodge, and the other 7 people camped nearby. There was a private beach area, a patch of flat grass where delicious blueberries covered the ground, and woods areas.

The cabin:gay island cabin from the woods

The room I shared with another course attendee, Joy:bed at gay island

Scenery along the path to the blueberries!plants and treets

The view of the ocean from the cabin:sunset trees and ocean

The view from the ocean when fog started rolling in. On several days, the fog would sock us in, and we wouldn’t be able to see across to the other islands:clouds rolling in panorama

The tides on Gay Island were really interesting. The tide went out about 30-40 feet (if not more?) and it went in and out FAST. Probably within 30 minutes. Sometimes, when people hopped in to swim after dinner, they’d forget about the tides and within 10-15 minutes, their clothes and shoes would be getting soaked. All the seaweed below was covered by water later in the day.emerald green

There were snails everywhere. EVERYWHERE! It was awesome and, in cases like this massive snail graveyard below, a little disturbing:   snails everywhere

So that’s what we were surrounded by during the course —  pretty, right? We all felt very lucky to be surrounded by such beauty the entire time we were there, though we all also wished we had more time to enjoy it! Other than a few 10-15 minute breaks and breaks for lunch and dinner, we were head down working almost the whole time.

Breakfast was generally served around 7:30 a.m. with “class” starting at 8 a.m. A general schedule would be that we’d have “lecture” from about 8 a.m. to 11/12. We’d all been required to read the Wilderness Medicine textbook prior to arriving at the course, so these lectures were part reiterating what we’d learned, as well as providing real-life accounts of rescues. Jon Tierney, who was our lead instructor, shared so many stories with us. Jon has been involved with wilderness rescue and medicine for years and years and his experience was invaluable. The number of examples he gave provided us with a more practical view of how to handle issues in the field. And his wealth of experience meant that when we asked questions, we could trust his answers.

class in session

After morning lecture, we’d generally have an hour-long practical lesson where we would either learn a skill (like splinting techniques, rapid patient assessments, litter carrying, improvised carrying mechanisms and patient packaging) or have a small “scenario” in which we would act as patients or rescuers. Jon and the supporting instructor, firefighter and paramedic Cameron Balog, would guide us in learning these skills, and in scenarios would work to make the patient problems as real as possible.

Learning how to package a patient and carrying them out on a litter:packaging the patient

Jon running a sample patient assessment scenario:patient assessments and clearning

One of my “injuries” during a quick scenario:grossly contaminated wound

We’d have an hour lunch break and then around 1:30 we’d start up with lecture again. Around 4 p.m., we’d break out and do a full-blown two-hour-ish scenario. During the scenarios, the class would generally break into four groups – two groups of patients and two groups of rescuers – and Jon and Cameron would create parallel “accidents” in which 2-4 people were injured. If you were the rescuer, you’d come across the scene and then implement what you’d been learning.

You’d start with assessing the scene safety (making sure no other members of the rescue team or public became patients) how the patient was injured, and the number of patients.

You’d do primary assessments, checking the patients for severe bleeding, a pulse, if they are breathing and their consciousness level. Sometimes, care started right then. If the “patient” was severely bleeding, you’d put pressure on the wound or perhaps use a tourniquet for awhile while you continued your assessment. If the “patient” wasn’t breathing and there was no pulse, they’d get CPR. If they had been stung by a bee and their throat was closing up, they’d get epinephrine. It was stressed during these scenarios the importance to triage patients — learning to put aside the open fracture on one screaming patient to deal with the unconscious pulseless patient instead, and to not get tunnel vision on your patient if someone else needed help more urgently — this was SO hard to do for s lot of us. At this point, you would start to assess whether the patients’ problems were serious or not serious, urgent or not urgent.

Then you’d do a further assessment of the patient –  a physical exam, check their vital signs, and, if they were conscious, their history. With all this information, the serious/not serious, urgent/not urgent categories would be revisited. You’d continue to monitor the vitals of the patient and if they changed, revisit the categories again.

If anything was urgent — something that could not be handled in the field — the patient required a rescue and would either need to be carried out or removed by helicopter. You’d have to handle organizing this rescue. 

After the scenario, we’d come back to the cabin and do a little recap of what went wrong/right. Then we’d have another 2 hours of lecture or so. And then, around 8:30/9 p.m., we’d be done. They were crazy days!

In addition to being able to ask Jon questions, one of the best and most helpful parts of the class was learning about the logistics of a rescue. Over time, it became easier to categorize problems as serious or not serious, urgent or not urgent. But once you categorized something as urgent, you actually had to get the patient out of there, and there were lots of logistics to think about. Is the only way to get the patient out to carry them down in a litter? Okay, then you need about 30-40 people to come help you. Who do you call to get those people? What do you need to tell them? How long will it take? Will you need more water or food for the rescuers if it’s a long rescue? Can a paramedic meet you on the way down to provide any medications or additional care? Or are conditions favorable for a helicopter rescue? Is there a landing area? Great, then you need to start working through the emergency response system to request a helicopter, which takes time. But maybe a medical helicopter can’t land and you can’t carry the patient out either. Then you might be able to call for an extraction team to come and pick the patient up on the end of a rope.

During the scenarios, Jon often acted as the initial rescue contact. He made it a point to try to help us understand how tough it can be to get the right people on the scene. If you called 911 and didn’t describe the fact that you were in the wilderness 4 miles from the trailhead, they might send an ambulance to the trailhead and then realize that wasn’t good enough and you’d have to start all over again. He stressed that it was up to us to help make sure the right resources were dispatched. He helped us learn how to talk on the radio, when to call for a helicopter, how to ask for one and what information you needed once you did (like patient weight, a landing zone, and your coordinates). He did a great job of being SUPER annoying on the radio to show us what kinds of things can happen — either radio transmissions not going through, people talking over one another, how plans can change and go wrong and you have to adjust, how misunderstandings can develop.

We also learned that just because you want a rescue doesn’t mean you’re going to get one. The first step in any rescue process is the scene safety check. If it would be dangerous to send a helicopter to the area (maybe because of bad weather), or incredibly risky for a rescue team to reach a patient, you might not be able to get help. Or you might have to be the help, providing whatever help and improvised transport you can as quickly as you can without becoming another patient yourself.

I think throughout the class we all came to realize that rescue is complicated and there are a lot of moving pieces and a lot of things you can’t control. You have to be able to improvise, to know what information is important to relay, to understand the process and to provide the correct support and care to the patients in the meantime.

Now that the class is over, I miss all the wonderful and dedicated people who also took time out of their lives to learn so many new skills and who made my time in the class so much more valuable and interesting. I miss Jon and Cameron’s awesome teaching and so appreciate their ability to make the course interesting, engaging and practical. 

Throughout the course my confidence grew. It’s still scary to think about coming across an emergency in the wilderness and it’s hard to know that in some wilderness accidents, you might not be able to save the patient. But I feel really good about having concrete things I can do to help improve the odds, and I think that this class will continue to pay dividends throughout my life and my time outdoors. It’s also very exciting to now have this in my pocket!:

WFR card

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Anxiety and Me

Anxiety and Depression are seen as scary words. Mental illness is stigmatized. Seeing a therapist doesn’t seem like the norm. Taking medications instead of fixing a problem yourself seems weak.

These are the things I grew up thinking, that I think a lot of us grew up thinking. And what that meant was when I started experiencing anxiety myself, for a long time I suffered alone. I was ashamed to talk about my anxiety, to face it and to treat it.

But in the last five years, I’ve shifted. I’ve grown less afraid that people will view me as fragile and breakable if they know I struggle with anxiety, less concerned that employers will find me risky or unemployable because of it, less worried that people won’t want to be my friend if they know about it.

I’ve found that the more open I am about my anxiety, the medication i take to control it, and its symptoms, the more people open up to me. The less alone people feel in their own fears. The less alone I feel in mine. I’ve grown sure of the idea that if those of us who face anxiety speak up about it, society as a whole will grow to be much more accepting and kind towards those who struggle with it. The less stigmatized they will become.

So, with that in mind, here’s my anxiety story: how it grew, manifested, and took over, how I approached it, and how things are going now. I hope that my story helps those who don’t suffer from anxiety understand what the mental illness looks like. And I hope those that do suffer from it feel like I’ve done justice to what it can feel like.

Generalized anxiety disorder, defined as a disorder characterized by “persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry about every day things,” is estimated to affect “6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the U.S. population. Women are twice as likely to be affected. …And biological factors, family background and stressful life experiences can all play a role in anxiety affecting a person.”

People who experience anxiety often expect the worst, even when there’s no evidence telling them they should. They worry about money, health, family, work, and more.

You might say that this is called being human. Humans worry. And that’s true. But some humans worry a lot. And for some humans — like me — that worry causes extreme stress and physiological reactions on a daily basis.

(To be thorough, I should note that in addition to generalized anxiety disorder, I also have a panic disorder, which is “diagnosed in people who experience spontaneous seemingly out-of-the-blue panic attacks and are preoccupied with the fear of a recurring attack.” And at various times in my life, I’ve experienced depression. And finally, I have a specific phobia to bugs.)

Going way back to the beginning, I don’t remember being a worrier as a kid — elementary school, middle school. I had a lot of friends. I was not in the popular crowd, but I liked the people who liked me.

In high school, I started to unravel a bit after losing a bunch of weight swimming. I was always used to people not looking at me much, but when I lost weight, everyone started paying attention. Especially guys. This was unbelievably exciting, but it also really screwed with my head and my definition of worth. I ended up cheating on a boyfriend of mine and when I confessed, he responded by calling me all kinds of names. I went into a deep dive of depression that lasted several months after that. I wasn’t treated for depression at the time, but looking back at the things that happened at that time and the things I did to myself, I probably should have been. When I graduated, my parents were in the midst of a divorce and my relationships with them and my understanding of marriage and love were shifting.  Halfway through college, I started regularly experiencing what I now know were panic attacks.

When I started skydiving and spending my time outdoors before my senior year of college, my anxiety became a bit more noticeable. When camping, I worried about where the nearest hospital was (which wasn’t the worst idea, but I was positive I would need it). If I felt sick after having too much to drink, I panicked, “knowing” that I would need to go get my stomach pumped, fearing I might die. When hiking in the dark in Moab back to my campsite with flashlights, I became convinced I was about to walk off an edge into the abyss. After a bad landing skydiving, I became unable to remember the period of time between flaring and the ground on my future skydives. When I tried to imagine landing correctly, I couldn’t. I only saw the worst-case-scenario.

Nevertheless, in other areas of my life, I felt somewhat fearless. I moved halfway across the country to be with my new boyfriend, with no job and no prospects, and with no interest in getting a job in my degree field. That was in August of 2009.

Over time, that fearlessness unraveled. I didn’t have a full-time job, so I didn’t have health care through a company, and i didn’t have enough money to buy it independently. I lived in Massachusetts at the time, where health care was mandated, but I didn’t know that I could be eligible for subsidized plans. In August of 2010, Joe got in a massive BASE jumping accident and at the same time, our relationship faced one of its biggest tests. I became managing editor of the South End News, responsible for pages and pages of content about a community of people who really cared. Despite a total lack of experience, I worked day and night to create something worthwhile. I also finally got healthcare.

Nevertheless, I began to worry all the time about my health. When I developed a cough, it was tuberculosis. When I saw a bruise, it was leukemia. When I felt a pain in my stomach, it was a tumor. When I laid in bed at night, I felt my throat start to close up and was convinced that if i fell asleep, I would asphyxiate and die. So I stayed up. Night after night I read WebMD, searching all my symptoms, discovering more things that my ailments could point to until exhausted, trying to prepare myself for the worst. Those nights, I would finally give in to sleep while still gripped with fear. I had many, many panic attacks, some of which occurred after arguments with Joe, and many of which occurred out of nowhere.

I told Joe about my health concerns and he was the first person to ever suggest going to see a doctor, a psychiatrist, about it. I thought he was crazy for suggesting it and freaked at him. These were normal, reasonable fears, I felt. I was preparing for the worst. That was what you were supposed to do. There was nothing wrong with me. I didn’t go see a doctor.

Then, my anxiety started progressing further. All day and all night, it felt like there was a lump in my throat that was growing, threatening to block my breathing. (This is called globus hystericus, I later learned, which is defined as “the sensation of having a lump in the throat when there is nothing there.” It is an intense feeling.) Soon, I was in a constant state of panic. My adrenaline was always pumping. My throat was always about to close up and block my airway and kill me. My thoughts screamed at me. I was on edge all the time, every single minute of every day.

In January of 2010, after talking with Joe and his mom (who is a psychiatrist), I finally made an appointment with a psychiatrist. Before I could make my way in, I had what I can only describe as a week-long panic attack and I needed to see someone, now. At my PCPs office, I told them what I was experiencing, sure that they would look in my throat and find the biggest tumor they’d ever seen. Instead, they told me that the sensations and feelings i was having were classic anxiety and panic symptoms – just what Joe’s mom had said. Knowing I was about to go see a psychiatrist, they prescribed a medication called Ativan — a teeny little pill they said would be a gap measure I could take while the medication the psychiatrist put me on started working.

I can’t quite describe how that first Ativan felt. It’s a controlled substance – which means its addictive – and I was scared to depend on it, to take it, to need it. But that night I took one of those teeny pills, and for the first time in such a long time I felt calm, like I could think and react normally, like I could breathe. I felt like me. It had been such a long time since I felt like me. It was such an incredible revelation, such an emotional moment, one that still makes me tear up. That night was my first real glimpse into the fact that my anxious thoughts were not truth and fact. They were manifestations, suggestions, ideas based on no evidence and made worse by the physical sensations.

Since that first night, I’ve seen a series of psychiatrists and therapists, and it’s been really difficult to learn to navigate that world. There was one guy whose method was silence; he didn’t ask questions or offer suggestions but instead just wanted me to talk at him. It didn’t take long to realize that this method did not work for me, but I stuck with him for a long time thinking that the problem was me, not his methods. I saw a therapist in Boston who helped me through Joe’s move to Providence and started working with me on my bug phobia, but I had to leave her once I headed to Providence. And then in Rhode Island, it took me a year to find a psychiatrist I liked — and to find her I had to experience (and pay for) sessions with one completely incompetent woman and one completely mean doctor. With this new psychiatrist, I found a daily medication that worked better than the one I’d been taking for years. I finally stopped taking Ativan on a daily basis. Then, a few months ago, the real game changer happened: I found a cognitive behavioral therapist I liked.

Since taking to Joe’s mom in 2010, I’ve been aiming to participate in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a method of therapy in which you work to identify, understand and change your thinking (cognitive) and behavior patterns.

With my therapist we started with examining the scenarios that created anxiety, working to nail down what exactly about that scenario made me anxious. This is called Down Arrowing.

So, for example, if my boss wrote me an email in which they were shorter with me than normal and that made me anxious, the question I would ask myself is “Okay, they wrote a shorter email than normal, why does that make me anxious?”

My boss sounds short in their email to me

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It means my boss is annoyed with me

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Which means my boss thinks I did a bad job

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And that means my boss doesn’t like me

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Which means that my boss will fire me

With down arrowing, you’re supposed to stop when you *feel* like you’ve hit the mother load, the real concern that makes you shake in your boots. Maybe the initial concern was that you thought the email was short, but the real worry is that you will be fired. The next step is to write down your fear/anxiety so that you can clearly see what initial and final thoughts you have.

“My boss sounds short in their email to me, so they will fire me.”

First of all, doing this can really put your anxiety in perspective and give you insight to why you’re getting all worked up: you may intellectually know that one short email doesn’t equal that they will fire you. Whether it’s this “obvious” or not (and it’s often not), the idea after getting to this place is to review the evidence. What’s the evidence for and against the phrase “My boss wrote me a short email”? What’s the evidence for and against the phrase “My boss will fire me”?

If the evidence for my boss writing a short email is that some past emails have been nicer and more “warm”, then the evidence against would be, or maybe they were in a hurry. or maybe they aren’t effusive in emails. or maybe they were distracted. Evidence against “my boss will fire me” might be, last week I got praise from them. or I got a raise this year. Or, they haven’t shared any concerns with me. or, even better, in the past they’ve written short emails like this that haven’t led to my firing.

The idea is to amass evidence for and against — evidence that you could (theoretically) use in the court of law and that aren’t colored by your perception of things — and examine what is real  instead of what your thoughts suggest. And the point isn’t to take all your anxious thoughts and tamp them down and say, “Don’t worry about it.” The point is to come up with a more realistic conclusion. In this case, maybe, “My boss was short in their email to me, so they may have a busy day today, and they’ve written emails in the past like this and it hasn’t meant anything bad.” Sure a short email might indicate annoyance with you and it might indicate they don’t think you’re doing a great job which might one day lead to you being fired. But does one short email likely mean you’re going to be fired? In this case, no, it doesn’t.

This might sound really simple to some people, but when you find something you’re worried about, it’s hard. It’s hard to look your thoughts in the face — things you truly, completely believe — and say that they’re not as real as you feel they are.

In addition to this kind of CBT, we’ve done work on controlling the panic emotions and the physical panic sensations that come with it. A physical sensation might be that my throat feels like it’s closing up, or my chest feels tight, or I can’t get enough breath. Fearing those sensations creates a kind of feedback loop. Because you’re afraid of those sensations and what they mean, your adrenaline and panic rises, creating stronger sensations. And so on. The work I’ve started to do with my therapist is to disconnect the feedback loop by removing the fear attached to those sensations. This is hard, uncomfortable work full of awkwardness. Like breathing through a little straw for as long as possible until I no longer feel panicked, or wrapping my chest with an ace bandage to simulate a tight chest and waiting through my panic until i feel normal again.

We’ve also worked on my bug phobia, which has been some of the most uncomfortable and upsetting work I’ve done, if you can believe it.

My initial interest in CBT was that it could fix my anxiety in such a way that I would no longer have to take medication. Instead, it’s given me a whole new lens with which to view the world. I’ve started to really understand and accept what it means that I can’t control anyone’s emotions or reactions but my own. I’ve started to really be able to understand myself, my thoughts, my fears, and my past, and I feel more capable of handling my stresses. It’s also humbled me. There’s nothing like having someone else succinctly (though kindly) lay out why what you fear or think isn’t reasonable, no matter how real it seems.

I’ve also let go of the idea of needing to stop my medications at some point. I used to think if I had to take medication my whole life to handle anxiety, I would be a failure. I know now that it’s possible that to live my life to its fullest, medication might be part of the package. And that that doesn’t mean I’ve failed. In fact, it doesn’t really mean anything. I know that my anxiety will not be cured or fixed, but that through CBT methods, I can increase my happiness and ability to interact with the world and my friends and family positively.

Over time, I’ve also learned not to be ashamed of myself, or of my anxiety, or of taking medications, or of seeing psychiatrists and therapists.

Instead, I’ve grown proud of myself. I’m proud of wading through the murky waters of anxiety and medications and therapists and psychiatrists to finally find a combination that works for me, that makes me me. I’m proud that I’ve looked my anxieties in the eye and wrestled with them, attempted to view them in a different light, and, ultimately, come out a happier, better human.

Don’t want to be lucky 

This past weekend was supposed to be the culmination of my training program for Kilimanjaro — two days each of hiking 5,000 feet of elevation with a full pack. The plan was to hike Mount Adams and Mount Madison on Saturday, camp and then go for the biggest mountain in the northeast, Mount Washington, on Sunday – three peaks in two days to strengthen my legs and mind and give me more confidence in myself.

Instead, I bagged 0 peaks, was humbled and my confidence took a huge hit.

So what happened?

On Saturday, I woke up a little late to get going and ended up at the base of Mount Adams and Mout Madison at 9am with my map in hand and about 10 liters of water in my pack to add weight.
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The start of the hike was great. Not as beautiful at Mt. Haystack’s trail (is anything?) but green and pretty nonetheless.

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The trail was tough but I made great time and was feeling pretty awesome. Halfway up, I took a break to have some snacks and gave myself a little pat on the back. I was feeling real good about myself (despite the immense amount I was sweating).

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It was right after this break that i started making decisions I’d later regret.

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After the break I came out into an opening at the bottom of kings ravine. The ravine is like a three-sided bowl and I’d walked up the lowest side. The three high sides of the bowl rise up around you and the feeling and views are just awesome. The feeling being surround by that kind of elevation is so great and after losing the trail a few times during some rock jumping moves, I snapped some pictures.

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At this point I’d hiked about 1800 ft in 2.8 miles, which is a pretty easy grade. The next 1.3 miles, though, had an elevation increase of 2000 ft. After that, another .5 miles and 600 ft would get me to the top of Mt. Adams.

Now, I understood 2000 ft in 1.3 miles was significant but i didn’t really understand how significant until I actually started up the trail.

At first, I thought, wow this is a lot of rock scrambling! And rock hopping! And my large pack isn’t really helping! But I can do this!

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 However, the higher up I went, the steeper it seemed to get and the smaller the rocks got under my feet. The smaller rocks meant it was easier to slip as the rocks slid underneath me. It also meant the rocks were easier to dislodge, sending them flying down the ravine into either other hikers or other rocks.

As I went up and up, I kept thinking to myself that I wouldn’t feel very safe hiking down the Kings Ravine trail. I didn’t quite feel super safe hiking up it either. But, Instead of turning around (I was sure things were get easier and turning around meant if have to go all the way back to the beginning and start over), I pushed through. With every step, though, the way down and the way up became more treacherous.

I started to feel trapped, no longer wanting to go up or down. The wind kicked up and clouds started rolling in — which the weather report the day before had predicted wouldn’t happen until much later in the afternoon/evening. My fast pace slowed to a crawl as the ravine steepened and I had to carefully pick my way up. Every time I thought I’d reached the last pitch of the scramble, there was more, with smaller rocks and fewer sturdy foot holds.

After some point hiking, I lost it. Maybe it was when a particularly chilly wind swept by. Or when I couldn’t tell if I’d just heard thunder or a plane. Or when I crested what I thought was the worst of the rock scramble only to find the path ahead much worse.

Either way, I started to break down. I’m prone to panic and anxiety and a panic attack — my first in months — began. I left my medication in the car so I was left to try and breath deep as my throat closed and chest tightened.

The next hour felt like a nightmare. I’m still not sure how much danger I was actually in – people I met that night agreed that the Kings ravine was a scary and dangerous hike, yet online there’s many blog posts and forum posts of people describing the hike as “a little airy” but super fun. What I do know is the trail was outside, way outside, of my comfort zone.

And, I knew I was in at least a somewhat precarious situation. I was hiking alone, I had no cell service in the bowl, I had left my anxiety medication in the car, I was at times frozen and at other times rushed by panic, clouds and possible rain and lightning were seeming more possible and would make my travel much more dangerous, and going down was now not an option since it was very steep and would take much longer to go down.  Making myself move upwards, convincing myself to slow down, to trust myself, to breathe — it took all I had.

What ended up being about 200 feet from the top, I saw a hiking group ahead of me that was also scrambling over the rock field. I screamed out to them over the wind and asked them to wait for me because I was scared. I felt like I needed someone to know I was there, to be waiting for me, to be aware if something happened to me. They waited, and after scrambling up the last set of rocks, I was at the ridge, out of the ravine and off the rocky slope.

The Appalachian mountain club has a series of huts stationed all around the white mountains along the Appalachian trail and one of those huts was just over the ridge. I walked in and, still crying, asked for a room. They had two beds left. I thanked them and went to the bunk bed and slept for hours, exhausted and shaken from the hike, from how easy it would have been for something to happen, for me to disappear on that hike, for no one to have known for hours that something was wrong.

That night, I was surrounded by hikers at dinner who sympathized with me, who told their own horror stories — when they’d bit off more than they could chew or overestimated themselves. I had great conversations with people who I may never meet again, and using a telescope at the hut I got to see Venus and the rings of Saturn.

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The next morning, after breakfast and well-wishes from my fellow hikers, I hiked down a different, safer path and back to my car. But even when on flat ground , it took days for the panic levels in my body to subside.

With a few days perspective it’s clear the mistakes I made:

#1 – I didn’t turn back when I noticed that I thought going down king ravine would be dangerous/scary. It’s generally a good idea to be willing to go up when you hike down and hike down what you’re hiking up. That way you don’t get trapped in a situation that you feel unsafe in, like I did. Is told my friends this countless times but when it came down to it, I ignored my better instincts and thought I could handle it.

#2 – I packed oodles of water instead of a tent, extra food, more clothes: I thought that packing my bag full of water to add weight was a great idea, but in doing so I ignored the rules of hiking in the high country — brings the things you’ll need to survive if Hingis go wrong. Luckily I had my sleeping bag for that night and there was a hut with food and water and shelter at the top because all my extra food and clothes were sitting pretty in my car 4.5 miles away.

#3 – I didn’t do enough research. Friends had told me their hike up Mt. Adams featured a rock field that was very difficult and very tough. The map I downloaded from the hiking website though, looked really pretty and easy with its happy greens and easy yellow lines to follow. I didn’t do enough to make sure the specific trail I was going to go on would be safe, and had I done just a little more searching I would have known what I was in for and been able to adjust my plans before I even started hiking that day.

All in all, I was overconfident. In this case, I came out okay — I luckily didn’t slip. It luckily didn’t rain. And luckily there was a hut.

But I don’t want to be lucky. I want to be smart!

And you can rest assured that these lessons are learned and I will be doing everything I can to never have to learn them again.