Almost immediately, I was glad that where two trails diverged by a rusted sign, I had selected the one less traveled by. My knees, battered as they were by a sharp descent, stretched comfortably on an easy slope. My feet, which had been seeking level steps amid dusty crushed rock, luxuriated in soft pine needles. With the sound of my feet silenced, there were almost no sounds except for an occasional bird chirp. I had descended to an altitude in which I could breathe easier and my nausea and dizziness had vanished. I could not have been more comfortable anywhere other than sitting on my couch. The haze that had obscured my view at the peak had burned off, revealing a small waterfall across the valley, a jagged crest above me, and a deep blue sky.
I was a little alarmed that I was climbing slightly uphill when my general aim was to descend the mountain, but I expected, after the next rise, after the next turn, that the city of Colorado Springs would spring into view below me and I would begin a triumphant descent.
I believed that all was right with the world, whether it was or not. Such is the route to The Bottomless Pit.
I might have gone a few miles in this way before finding out why it was called The Bottomless Pit; I found that I was in it.
The trail turned abruptly to the left and I came upon a couloir several thousand feet high. The path winded its way up it at a grade far more steep than I could attempt. Perplexed by this development, I sat on a rock and studied my predicament until a party of well equipped mountaineers overtook me.
“I’m trying to get down off the mountain,” I said, jerking my thumb at the solid wall of stone rubble in my path, “and I came across that.”
“That’s not the way down,” one said; a man of few words. “That’s the way up.”
“Wait,” I pleaded, because they were already leaving me. “How do I get down?”
The mountaineer stopped and turned. The straps of his pack, the coil of rope, the carabiners, the ice axe, the water bottle at his hip, all groaned ominously.
He didn’t say a word, but he pointed down the same path I came.
“You mean I’ve been going the wrong way?”
He stared at me contemptuously for a moment and turned back to his climb. His rope and ice axe kept time to his steps.
“Wait, please, wait. Did I offend you somehow?”
He turned back again. His gear groaned again. The answer was yes.
“You have no right to be up here. You have little water and no emergency equipment. You don’t even have good shoes. You don’t know where you are or where you are going so you have to ask me. You might not even have a freakin’ map. And you’re out of shape.”
He turned away again, but then he thought of some more to say and came back.
“You may not respect yourself, but at least show some respect to the mountain,” he added. “If you’re gunna be up here, then show some respect.”
For more about respect, read Betweenfearandlove.com