Hiking and Facing Fear (Sometimes Successfully)

This is my husband conquering his biggest fear: hiking along a sheer cliff.
This is my husband conquering his biggest fear: hiking along a sheer cliff.

I thought I’d catch up with some recent hikes we’ve taken that were a study in contrasts, both in location and fear factors.

In August, we hiked the Pinnacle Saddle trail at Mount Rainier. Every time you turn around on the trail, you often see the mountain from the vantage point you see in the photo at the top of this blog. The higher you climb, the more it becomes defined that you are on a switchback trail that is hugging a cliff that will take you to a spectacular view of Mount Adams, Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens if you continue on. My husband had hiked the trail previously and never reached the saddle, terrified of the sheer rock dropoff. On this day, he made it. My video below shows the payoff view:

Some people we met on the trail had turned around for one reason or another. Most said the altitude bothered them. I was OK during this entire hike. Jim did great, too, and was proud of making it. I would recommend anyone in good shape to take this trail. For my money, this trail has the best views of the mountain and surrounding mountains.

So that hike was a success. Flash forward to last weekend, Ecola State Park in Oregon. This is where a beached whale helped Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery survive part of a very tough winter. Tillamook Head was called by Capt. William Clark “the steepest worst & highest mountain I ever ascended.”  I should have taken his words to heart.

We thought the hike would be a fun excursion as part of another Cannon Beach getaway. Let me show you what the easy part of the hike looked like:

I made it around that bend, with nothing but a rock cliff on one side and a sheer dropoff to the Pacific on the other. No big deal.

Now here is the part that terrified me to the point of a meltdown:

A muddy, slick dropoff.
A muddy, slick dropoff.

There are the remnants of a wooden stair at the top of the photo, and the bottom part shows what used to be a platform. In between is nothing but slick mud with no place to get traction. The others in my hiking party went down it like pro surfers riding a great wave with no second thoughts.

I stood parked at the top, unable to move, and whimpered like a lost dog. I was completely freaked out.

My fear of falling and breaking my leg doesn’t come through very often, but when it does it is like four walls coming down hard around me. I become paralyzed with fear. I have walked around cliffs, scaled peaks at Mount Rainier, and this muddy slope had me completely unhinged. I was able to maneuver it with Jim’s aid, only to face yet another round of more of the same a few yards away. That was it. The hike, for me, was over. Mere steps from the payoff of reaching the beach, and I could not do it.

My husband and our hiking partner both were very cool about all of it, but I know they were sad we didn’t get to complete the trek after coming as far as we did. Maybe next time. In the meantime, we still enjoyed some spectacular beach views:

The view from a picnic table site at Ecola State Park.
The view from a picnic table site at Ecola State Park.

Jim got to Pinnacle Saddle at Mount Rainier National Park. Surely one day I can make it to the beach at Ecola State Park.

4 thoughts on “Hiking and Facing Fear (Sometimes Successfully)

  1. I love to hike, but I’m more of an “easy trail” hiker. I don’t blame you for not finishing the hike, but the view of the beach is beautiful. I’d say that was far enough to go anyway! Celeste 🙂


  2. I know just how you feel. I am a very cautious hiker and don’t push myself past my comfort zone. There is always another hike to do. Love the photo of the beach. Nice shot!


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