Sometimes, when reaching a longed-for destination there stands disappointment.  Crazy as it sounds, mine was when I went to visit a waterfall.  A waterfall, one of the most beautiful things you can witness. 

The walk in was easy, the walk up terrifying.  Why I decided to go for it I’ll never know.  I studied the path first and determined it didn’t look that tough.  But it turned out harder than it appeared, and my stupid balance issues proved that to be true.  But I went for it.

It started out okay but as I worked my way up, I had to use both my hands and feet to crawl up the cliff in what had to look like a yoga pose.  I cussed myself out for leaving my hiking poles in the car, but for this journey, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have done the trick anyway.  I was overcome with fear, doubt, and what the hell was I doing?

I should’ve called it off and turned back, but I didn’t.  There was a waterfall at the top and I just had to photograph it.  After all, I was in Vermont on vacation, I couldn’t miss out on it!

I was grateful that at each spot I froze, a hand reached out to help me.  A lady took my camera so I wouldn’t crash it against the rocks.  There were words of encouragement; “you can do it Cheryl, we got you.”  Then there was “don’t look down” which was pretty easy to heed.  I kept telling myself I could do it.  I said that a lot, a whole lot.

There were places in the path just a few feet wide.  There were rocks, roots, and boulders to get over.  This all caused me more than anxiety; I was scared shitless.

Many places I had to hold back tears.  Not just from the fear of it all, but from having to struggle so hard.  Why the hell couldn’t I do it? 

It wasn’t only that I was terrified, I was angry.  Haven’t I recovered enough to make it up this cliff?  I may not be as strong and steady as others, but why couldn’t do it?   

Thankfully with the help I received, I did make to the top for the prize of the waterfall.  But… to see it you have to stand on an outcropping with a sloop and lumps and bumps all over it.  I went as far as I could but the feeling that I was going to go over the edge moved me back.  I went to brace myself against a tree, well, I wrapped my arms around it.  The slope of the outcropping took my hopeful stability away.  I was literally shaking.  

From the little bit of a look I could take, the waterfall was lovely, but no way was I going to get a shot standing on the outcropping.  Near the tree that I was strangling, I found a place I could sit down.  The catch was, I had to sit backwards to avoid sliding down the sloop.  With my back to the waterfall, I raised my camera high over my head, took a guess on my zoom and settings, and fired off several shots.  I figured at least one of them might work out. 

Then sitting there, I had wave of grief come over me.  Why couldn’t I just stand up, chat with those wandering around sharing the awe of what we were seeing.  I desperately wanted to take in a view that would take my breath away.  I just couldn’t do it.  It really was true; I’ll never be able to do it.  In all honesty, I never should have attempted it in the first place.

Then came the time when I had to go back down.  There was no way I was going to do this standing up so, with more help from my friends and people I didn’t even know, I accomplished it.  I grabbed onto the roots, slid over rocks on my rear end, and dug my boots in the dirt.  I had to reset my courage several times.

When I finally reached the bottom, I let out the biggest sigh of relief of my lifetime.  Then, off to my left I saw a beautiful setting I had overlooked.  It was like a gift for surviving my terrifying experience.  I thought to myself, that experience I had going up and down that cliff led me to a new destination, this one, and it was here I made one of favorite photos on my trip.

So, here’s what I learned from this experience; sometimes the journey to a destination is shadowed by fear, doubt, and grief.  We can be exhausted yet hopeful something good is at the end of the journey.  But when it’s reached, you may find that it isn’t at all what was expected, nor was it worth the pain you went through.  But, perhaps it was worth it.  If I learned anything about this experience, it’s that my strength and determination continues to be intact.  Even though it was terrifying, what I found at the top of that cliff was another level of resilience.  I made it up and I made it back.   

The prize I was expecting wasn’t at the top, it was waiting for me at the bottom.  It was right there that I learned when one destination falls short of the expectation, the next one can be incredible. 

We all have many journeys yet to travel, some will be terrifying, some exciting, some slow, and some fast.  As crazy as this sounds, no matter what the experience, where we set our journeys will lead us to bigger and better destinations and, magnificent prizes along the way.

And yes, one of the shots did work out, sort of.

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