I was hiking in the Rocky Mountains with my boyfriend. I was 25 years old. We were taking a steep trail. I had always felt that I had weak legs, being short and stocky as I was. But as we ascended the mountain, I could feel the muscles in my legs working harder and harder than they ever had. I could feel muscles I never knew I had. I am strong, I said to myself. I am a small woman but there is a lot of strength in my entire body. Otherwise, how could I climb this steep mountain like this?
We walked and walked and walked. I thought it would never end. Keep going, keep going, my boyfriend said, you can do it! Finally, we got to the crest of the mountain. We looked down, and, startled, realized we were at the top of a 500 foot waterfall! The sheets of water were spilling down with a violent force, spiraling and curling, twisting and knotting up. It would take too long to backtrack. We would be hiking in the dark. We had to climb down the ladder next to the waterfall!
I was afraid of heights but I had no choice. We started down the rickety ladder, my friend ahead of me and I was okay in the beginning. Then, suddenly, my legs locked, my knees froze and I could not move. I was terrified. Looking down, all I could see was the cascading waterfall with no end in sight. Suddenly, I summoned the feeling I’d had hiking up the mountain. My legs are strong, I said to myself, stronger than I have ever imagined. I can make them move me down this ladder. It took a few minutes, but slowly I made my knees unlock and I began to take tiny steps down the ladder.
It seemed like it took forever. My boyfriend was egging me on. I was telling myself I could do it, that I was stronger than I thought, stronger than ever, that my whole body was working in unison to summon the strength to walk down the waterfall. Little by little, clinging to the sides of the ladder, drowning out the furry of the spilling water, I inched down the ladder until, at last, the end. I did it! I did it! I had walked 500 feet down a waterfall in the Rocky Mountains and I was still alive! I felt stronger than I had ever felt in my life!
-Joyce Lucarotti (Age 65, San Francisco CA)