Wednesday, January 26, 2022

A Hike I Will Never Forget

 Sparky is going to divert from her usual third person narrative and tell you about an amazing hike in her own words. It was one of those moments that is life changing and heart felt so here it is....

This year I turn 72. I've been fighting my age since I hit 65. The mind says I feel about 25 years younger, the body says differently. I've had bad sciatica for some time, but just keep pushing myself to keep moving. I am beginning to realize my physical limitations but I'm not ready to call it quits for hiking and other adventures! I saw this hike which seemed not too difficult. "Devil's Bridge is a moderately difficult, 1.8 mile roundtrip journey that takes you to and from a 50 foot high arch. At a height of 4,600 feet at the trailhead, the Devil's Bridge trails is a roughly 500 foot climb with an aesthetic that should leave you breathless." That sounded very doable to me, so Eldy, as thoughtful and generous as he always is, not being able to hike because of bad knees, offered to drop me off and pick me up later.   I wore my Merrill hiking shoes and took one hiking pole with me.

The drive to the trailhead
There were some precautions in other literature...the drive to the trailhead once you get to the location is for "high profile vehicles only." That means four wheel drive with good clearance underneath your truck. But as the parking lots were full, and it was a one lane drive into them, Eldy dropped me off at the bottom of the parking lots near the main road, and off I went. It was over a mile walk just to get to the trailhead. The lower parking lot (overflow) was full in the early afternoon, no surprise there. You walk the jeep road to get to a fork in the trail. Here is what the road to the trail looked like. I wouldn't have wanted to try that even with our Dodge Ram 350!
A bad entry road to the trail for ANY vehicle

The path slowly takes you uphill and steeper. Three quarters of a mile from the parking lot, the trail divides. Go to the left and you will hike to the base of the bridge. Take the right and you climb to the top of the bridge. I took the right. The going wasn't bad at first, and the views off to the left were stunning.

It really wasn't a bad climb in the beginning at all. I passed several older people coming back down and I asked them how the trail was. At least a half dozen said there was some rock scrambling involved and it was too much for them. I thought, well, I've scrambled across boulders and rocks before and climbed very steep trails, I wasn't too worried. The views continued to amaze.....

There were not a lot of people on the trail, but enough that I wasn't worried about hiking by myself. Not only that, but people with dogs were coming back down, so I felt reassured that it would be fine. Around every corner was something to take your breath away....Here the sun was hitting the sandstone rocks and they really were that orange!
It started getting rockier the closer I got to the bridge. 

And this is where two guardian angel hikers join my journey.....

I was starting to slow down just a little and apparently showing some hesitance. Russ and Anne Dick, from Peru, IN, were ahead of me. I was carefully watching them pick their way through the rocks and when the rocks REALLY became narrow and steep, Russ turns around and says something about hey, why don't you hike with us as we make our way to the top? And I thought you bet, as it was starting to get a little nerve wracking. I wish I had taken photos of how narrow the rocky steps were. The steps were not much wider than your two feet placed side by side with THOUSANDS of feet dropping off to one side, and the same on the other side. My focus had to be TOTALLY on watching where I placed each foot, and where I put my pole. I got to one point where I was going to stop and turn around and for me to admit, hey, this is going to be too much for you, you need to quit because this is VERY scary and precipitous, is saying a lot. My balance is TERRIBLE. One faulty step and I could have easily fallen off the cliff. Russ and Anne kept encouraging me, and since they were close to my age, (younger for sure) and they were going steadily up the cliff face, I thought, OK, I can do this, but what I didn't know was the hardest part was coming. There were more cool views to keep you motivated. Here is a tribute of sorts, to the trail....

The last 300 yards is NOT a moderate hike for seniors. It is difficult. We just took our time and with my hiker guardian angels, we made it to the bridge. Here is where my second thought of stopping and just taking photos of everybody else crossing the bridge would be enough, I was NOT going to get on that bridge. I was going to be the official photographer and take everybody else's photos! And I would have been content with that. Ann and Russ traversed over to the bridge, came back and said, "Hey, the actual bridge is quite wide. You can do this!" And Anne offered to walk with me to the bridge and back. So we did. I got to the bridge, Anne graciously stepped back so a fellow hiker could take my photo so I could be alone on the bridge, and I raised my arms in excitement, and shouted out, "I DID IT!" Everybody on the other side, waiting to cross to the bridge and get their photo taken, cheered and clapped. 

The bridge may only be 50 feet tall, but the bridge is 4,600 feet up in the mountains. You just can't capture the scale and dimension of what you are seeing with a little phone camera, but you get the idea. After getting everybody else's photos, we started the equally challenging trek back down. Here is Russ....

and Anne, taking his photo....

All the way we were together hiking, Russ would position himself between us or behind us, taking turns looking out for Anne and for me, offering little tips like how to carry your pole while clambering amongst the rocks, put your weakest foot forward first, follow up with your strongest. We talked about a LOT of different things, our careers, our travels, etc. and it really helped calm my nerves during the most difficult parts of the hike. Thank you so much, Russ and Anne Dick, for helping me achieve a hiking goal I almost didn't make. Here is a view of the bridge from heading back down....

This was a day I will never forget. I faced my fears with the help of kind companions and I worked through my fears with their help. It was kind of a life lesson for me, that if a community can look out for its members, care about its members, and support them, whether it be a a neighborhood, a 

this took real planning!
school, an RV park, or a hiking community, it makes the world a better place. For me, it gave me hope and a little bit more confidence, that even at the age of 72, I can still try to achieve goals and dreams and that it's ok to keep trying, no matter what your age! Hey, if Grandma Gatewood at age 67 can hike the entire Appalachian Trail, and a lady in her eighties can bike across the United States (whom we met in our travels), I can still dream! Thank you to my Eldy, who never waivers in his support of my hiking and adventurously wanting to wander off in the wilderness.


  1. Wonderful story and achievement Jeannie. This story should be published in the Kindness Pandemic page on Facebook.

  2. Absolutely wonderful, Jeannie. I would expect nothing less from my fellow 1964 AOTY! Bravo!

  3. Great story Jeannie !! You made it to the TOP ... Blessings from Nancy Smith

  4. Great story Jeannie, and very generous with your praise. Enjoy the rest of your trip and I'll check in on your blog periodically.

  5. So glad we met you! So nice to hike with you. Thanks for your kind thoughts. Blessings to you! Anne & Russ