“Let’s go to Ricketts Glen today,” I said to my hubby. It was Sunday afternoon and, after spending all week inside (sometimes working from home had its disadvantages too), I wanted to get out into nature. He didn’t seem as impressed. I’m pretty sure John would have preferred a nap, but being the good husband he is, we gathered our things and headed out the door.
Ricketts Glen is a state park about an hour away from us that boasts great walking trails highlighted with beautiful waterfalls. But Ricketts Glen is not for the faint of heart. The Falls Trail is 7.2 miles of hiking over sometimes slippery and difficult conditions. The trail goes along the canyon and spotlights all of the waterfalls, but is often difficult with sheer drop-offs. Numerous people have been hurt trying to attempt this hike and it’s important to wear proper gear and take along snacks and water.
John and I did not do the entire 7 miles, but we did determine (once again really…because we’ve done hikes before and have come to this same conclusion) that every couple should try one of these hiking adventures before getting married. You see – I’m afraid of falling down steep slopes and John is afraid of heights. Why go hiking? you ask. Good question…because for one, I love the outdoors. Being in the middle of God’s creation is indescribable. Everywhere you turn is something different to see. Plus, hiking tests not only your own abilities, but the relationship between you and your hiking companion – a good precursor for marriage!
I can hike upwards for days. Give me a steep slope UP and I’m good to go. But coming down is another story. The odd thing is that it’s not the height that typically bothers me – it’s the slipping down to my death that stresses me the most. (FYI – I hate ice for the same reasons.)
John, on the other hand, hates the heights. He does okay on hikes up and down – if the height isn’t a factor. Most of what we did on Sunday was within his “okay” scope for hiking. There were two places that John was unsure he could handle, but he did so with valor.
This picture does not do the falls justice. Let’s just say, John did NOT take this picture. That’s a long way down. The falls range from 11 feet to 94 feet in height. This is one probably somewhere in the middle.
John and I appreciate hiking for another reason despite challenging our fears: we help each other every step of the way.
When we’re ascending, I go first. I look out for spaces and heights that might freak John out along the way. I keep track of him behind me and I often call out, “Is this okay?” if I think it’s an area he’ll have trouble with. If there is a space that seems too close (or, in his case, too far away) for comfort, I’ll position myself closest to the edge (safely, of course) and guide him behind me until he is in a spot that he deems comfortable. We agree ahead of time that if he needs to go more quickly, he can or if he wants to turn around, we will.
John followed me like a trooper for almost 2.5 miles with very little issue. I wanted to hike the entire length, but my brain was bigger than my abilities and at about the 2.5-mile mark, I decided we should turn around and head back. The trail is designed to go around a loop for the 7.2 miles, but after already an hour on the trail, I realized I was too drained and hungry to go on. We sat for a bit, snacked on some granola and water and then turned back.
Now this was the time for John to take the lead. We’d already traveled this trail on the way up, but now we were descending. My footwear was not entirely suitable (sneakers as opposed to hiking boots) and I slipped a few times. John goes first in these situations to test out the best places for me to step. When we come to a steep step down, or a slippery section, John stops, holds out his hand and guides me down and into his arms.
It’s stressful for both of us and yet, we both know the other person has our backs (and our fronts) so as we travel along, not only are we getting exercise, but we’re also building our relationship bond.
In addition, we learn to communicate on a whole new level.
“Do you want to stop?”
“There are people coming. Find a side step area to let them pass.”
“Here, hold my hand.”
“Take a deep breath. It’s okay. I’m right here.”
By the time we reached our car again (a very welcome sight) we were both laughing, cracking jokes and wiping the sweat from our brows. We had survived both the hike and with our relationship very much intact.
Ricketts Glen is just one of the many hiking and nature areas in this part of Pennsylvania. Don’t feel overwhelmed by the entire hike – you can break it up into many sections – just know your limits and take the right kind of gear. You’ll enjoy your time in nature as well as feel a sense of accomplishment in the process.