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The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.
With two weeks at the time of this recording between me and the very scary day in the Grand Canyon at the time of this recording, I’m still feeling a little raw in some surprising ways — and I think it’s important to talk about it.
First, a recap of what happened, in case you didn’t catch the story, plus a quick ask related to that. I headed to the Grand Canyon a few weeks ago for a rim to rim hike with a friend and her friend. Without using any names — I also didn’t use any in the other episode I recorded on this — one of the hikers was grossly unprepared for the adventure and put all us — herself, me and our mutual friend whose birthday we were celebrating — in serious danger because of her choice to not train and then hike anyway. And I put myself in danger by going on the hike with someone I knew was not prepared, but choosing to believe the best about the situation.
At the end of the day – literally it was midnight when we finished – we spent 19 hours on the trail, five of those at the end of the hike relying on only 2.5 liters of water and ending in near-hypothermic conditions. Between the bottom and the top, the temperature dropped more than 40 degrees and all of the many layers I brought were insufficient against wind, rain, thunder, lightning, hail, being soaking wet and basically standing still as this hiker struggled mightily up the trail.
The situation was a lesson in following your intuition — I should never have ignored mine and gone on a hike with someone I suspected would put me in danger. And it was a lesson in the importance of honesty. If you’re not ready for an adventure, you have to be honest with yourself and ask if going anyway will put you, the people your with and, at worst, the people who have to rescue you in danger. Yes, the outdoors is for everyone — but some spaces require that you work on yourself before arriving so that you can safety be there.
If you want all the hairy details, and there are a lot of them, you should go back and listen to the episode. It’s a dram with important takeaways.
I noted in that episode that this other hiker had declined to take responsibility for her choices. And her response to the episode which, again, did not name her and did use her photo, was that it was public bullying by me and outright lies. And that’s fine — she can think that of course. But one fallout of me recording that is that suddenly I have some bad reviews for this podcast, Humans Outside, on Apple podcasts. Is it related? I dont know.
I’ve received tons and TONS of messages on Facebook and Instagram since publishing that episode — all folks telling me about their own dangerous encounters or sharing their expertise on just how crazy the Grand Canyon truly is. You guys are incredible and it’s been so validating. But I need some more help.
Podcasts live and die by their star reviews on Apple Podcasts, as crazy as that sounds. Before I published that episode I had many, many five star reviews, one four star and a single one star review and honestly sometimes things just be like that, and that’s fine. Today, however, the podcast is for the first time showing more than a single one star review.
And so I’m hoping I can look to you, my fellow Humans who like to go outside, to help me out with that. Will you leave me a five star review and, better yet, a five star review and a note about what you like about that show?
So that’s my ask and little drama. I’m hoping you can help a girl out, would you?
OK – and now I want to talk about how it feels to come off something scary like that adventure was and heal — and how crazy long it seems to be taking.
Two weeks ago seems like yesterday and also a lifetime. Just two weeks ago at this moment I was still in the Grand Canyon, hours and hours away from the top and really just getting to the part where things started to move from upsetting and high pressure to actually dangerous.
The morning after we got out I immediately recognized how raw I was feeling — I felt like all nerve endings, as if you peeled off all your skin and only nerves were exposed. Every little stress made my entire system shudder, and in fact that evening I noticed I was still shaking. The next day felt similar, but this time the nerves were primarily emotional. Day three I was back at work, but unable to fully focus. I felt like that for a few more days that week.
I also felt irrational — like I was afraid of things and peoples’ reactions that made no sense. For example, I was worried my friends had stopped trusting me. I was worried that I had stopped trusting myself. I was on an emotional rollercoaster rethinking every step of that hike, what went wrong, what I shouldve done, the mistakes I maybe made or didn’t make. Periodic reality checks with my friend who was there were necessary.
And that sounds crazy now. Why would I think those things? Why couldn’t I just be my usual gut-led, confident self as I looked back on it?
As the days have gone by I find myself more and more back to normal — sort of. Even two weeks later I’ve noticed that I’m still more sensitive than normal to circumstances that feel unsafe or uncertain. I KNOW, for example, that I do not melt in the rain and that the only run I regret is the one I don’t take. But the idea of going and risking being wet and cold still feels like a bridge too far. I KNOW that every day I go outside for 20 minutes no matter the weather.
Yet multiple times I have found myself delaying and delaying, lingering in the safety of my house. I get out there anyway, of course, but I have to think that this fresh hesitancy I’ve been feeling isn’t just suddenly cooler weather outside, nor is it me being busy at work. I have to think it’s tied somehow to the long haul very scary thing I did not even 15 days ago. I have to remember that it’s OK to pause and say, yeah, that really was bad and, yeah, it might take me a hot second to be ready to go out and do even small things that feel risky.
It doesn’t mean I’m not getting out there and trying, it just means I’m acknowledging that muscles aren’t the only thing that recovers after a big adventure –nervous systems do, too. For me the Grand Canyon wasn’t a physical test, it was a nervous system one. And I’m still working through that even if I don’t realize it moment by moment.
Maybe you’ve experienced something big outside too recently, or maybe you can think back to a time something crazy happened and it took you longer to fully recover than you thought it would. If that happened or is happening, that’s OK. I’m out here doing that too. And I have to believe any given circumstance or experience is not just a me-thing. And it’s not just a you-thing. It’s a human thing. And there’s comfort in that.
If you want to see photos of the low-key outside things I’ve been doing while I work through this, check out Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram. And thanks again for taking a second to counterbalance the bad rating vibes by leaving a 5 star rating and reviewing telling folks why you like Humans Outside. I sure do appreciate you. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.