Patrick Swayze

“Little hand says it’s time to rock and roll.”

-Point Break-

There I was…somewhere around 18,000 ft in a small airplane, with a man I had just met motioning for me to sit in his lap. What was I doing!?  I wasn’t about to join the mile high club…if that’s what you’re thinking, though my skydiving instructor wasn’t exactly bad looking!  He was the kind of guy that seemed too cool for school. He had a lip ring and wore Aviator sunglasses. His hair was jet black, and he opted to wear jeans and a t-shirt instead of the stereotypical skydiving gear that his peers wore (man capris aka manpris).  Until the final minute before jumping into the open air, I felt unconnected to him and closed off. But eventually the time came for me to be physically connected to him via a harness; it was time for me to sit in his lap and trust him with my life. It was at this time when he transformed into one of the most calming people I’d met. In all honesty, I felt more hesitant to about sitting in his lap than I did about jumping out of a plane…until he talked me through things. He told me, “Even if you do everything wrong, we’ll be ok and I’ll take of you.” Ahhhh, what a wonderful thing to hear!

My sister was in the plane with me. We exchanged a series of happy looks, and as we approached the main event I mouthed to her, “Patrick Swayze!” She and I had watched Point Break together a number of times, and we had both agreed Patrick was the man! Anytime we needed a pick-me-up we told each other to think of Patrick Swayze.

My partner and I walked to the small square opening of the plane, I took a deep breath, and we jumped! We did a series of flips and turns. I saw the earth below me, then the plane above me, then the earth again, then the plane again. As soon as we were in the air I felt tranquil; mesmerized and comforted by the fact that I was falling through the crisp clear sky…and I wasn’t going to die. I soaked in a view of Longs Peak and of the different patches of green land below me. We didn’t fall for long, and soon it was time to open the parachute.

Things immediately slowed down and the powerful wind against my face turned into a gentle breeze. My jumping partner loosened my harness and made sure I was feeling comfortable. We spun through the air several times to navigate toward the designated landing area. The spinning was the roughest part of the experience. Then we approached the ground and skidded to a stop.

My black haired, lip ring wearing, surprisingly calming, skydiving partner unclipped me from his harness and gave me a high five. I went from not clicking with him at the start of the day…to refraining from giving him a giant hug at the end of the day.

I spotted my sister on the ground and walked toward her. We were both slightly dizzy and quiet, still buzzing from our epic experience. We made our way back to the waiting area, where we took off our gear and got our skydiving certificates. Then we loaded into a flatbed trailer with benches and a shade cover. The boy in the truck pulling it carelessly sped over bumps and washboards in the makeshift road.

When the bumpy ride was over, my sister and I got back in her car. We were both thinking, “Now what?” I could tell she was tired and was ready to get home. We stopped for food before getting back on the highway and ending our weekend adventure: a mini road trip, a 14er summit, a visit with grandmother, and a skydive. Not bad!

She took me back to my car in Aurora and I headed out to my next climb. I ended up stopping in Idaho Springs for gas and then scoped out Mt. Evans. I was going to do a little backpacking trip in, but decided to save it for my sister’s birthday. I took in the sunset over a nearby lake and was overwhelmed by a feeling of immense grattitude! How lucky am I!?

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Then I got in my car and stopped to get dinner in Idaho Springs. Most places were closed, so I went to a bar that had little food to offer. I ordered a beer and was quickly approached by two rafting guides, probably in their 40’s. They were both drunk and full of cannabis giggles. I overheard them talking about how edibles were revolutionizing the rafting industry.

I could tell they were pretty harmless and decided to hang out with them while I finished my beer. One of them told me how he ran out of gas near Idaho Springs almost 20 years ago…and he just never left. He was from Tennessee and still had a noticeable little accent. The other man was from California. He told me how he had come out to Idaho Springs on a family vacation as a kid and he kept a picture of the town’s water wheel in his childhood bedroom. He knew he wanted to come back and live there from that time. He had dreadlocks with little silver trinkets in them. He showed me a turtle on one of his locks that was meant to bring rain. I liked his smile and his happy eyes.  I could tell that both men were pretty far down the booze and bud rabbit hole, so I didn’t bother going into much detail when I answered their questions about what I was doing and where I was going.  Sometimes their laughs were sincere and bellowing, other times I could tell that they were putting on a bit of a show.  They joked about tourists getting dumped out of boats, and fretted about the dropping water levels.

Both men invited me to go rafting for free the next day, but I knew I wanted to head over to Mt. Sherman that night. They offered to buy me shots too, but one beer was enough to get me more than buzzed. I’ve never, honestly, been much of a drinker…but in that moment I felt like Mark Twain collecting brilliant stories from drunk river rats. I stored their tales in my mind, said goodbye, and got back on the road. I have found that I am more fond of anecdotes about strangers…when I have kept them as strangers.  Duncan Trussell said, “If you can forgive yourself then you will no longer see the reflection of your own internal judgement in the faces of the people around you.  And if you can do that, then suddenly you’ll be in a whole different universe, because the universe we all exist in is the one where we’re all so terrified of the judgement of our peers.”  I know I haven’t accomplished that yet, and before too long I see too much of myself in others.  When that happens, it’s time to go!

I drove through Leadville and turned down the bumpy path to Mt. Sherman. It was weird being alone again after so much stimulation and I surprised myself in feeling a bit sad. I stopped at my destination and welcomed a drowsy sleepy feeling.  I snoozed my alarm over and over again this morning at the trailhead of my hike. By the time I got up…the weather looked questionable. I decided to explore a lower trail and found a super cool set of buildings and old mines. My phone was dead so pictures will have to wait. When I got back to my car it began to rain. I made the call to go back to Leadville to charge my phone and let my family know my new plan. Hopefully the weather cooperates Wednesday and I can make my ascent of Sherman safely.

Happy thoughts and grattitude for all the people I love! Better writing and more details to come…when I’m not typing all of this on my phone’s tiny keypad.

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