Written by: Connor Buss
It was early spring in Central California, and the weather was spectacular as my roommate and I departed from the base of Bishop Peak in San Luis Obispo, CA. As I began walking up the marked path, I heard Josh exclaim, “Wrong way bud, we’re taking the ‘adventure’ route.” Oh of course, how could I have been so narrow minded? Josh walked over as if he hadn’t even noticed the original trail. Did I know what I was in for? A little bit. But for the most part, I was letting my buddy lead me blindly up a mountain I had never been on before. What could go wrong?
As we scaled the side of the mountain, made our way through tall brush, potential poison ivy, and the occasional cacti patch, I started to question what benefit this might have on our adventure. A couple extra calories burned and a better idea as to the circumference of this hunk of land, but what if Josh’s directions were wrong completely wrong?
What if we were just walking in a giant circle only to end up back where we started? Finally, we found a driveway that led to a small trail. “Oh yeah buddy…this is it!" We departed into the woods.
About 10 minutes later, I found myself crawling through a tiny crevice formed by 3 adjacent boulders, hoping to hoist myself up onto a platform about 3 feet wide to continue our ascent.
This was the first time during the climb that I looked down and saw the meadow we had traversed about 30 minutes ago, the fence we had jumped to get to the trail, and my black Tacoma sitting peacefully about 1000 feet down. No turning back now.
A few minutes later, we had scaled around the side of another pass to find some opening to the trail. Now, an hour and a half into this hike, I’m starting to think less of the risk of tumbling to the ground below and more about the triumph of standing on top of the peak, knowing that we skipped the footpath and took to the vertical. You could tell Josh was starting to giddy up as well, a few more steps and the excited jump in his voice. Soon enough, the rocks leveled off, and for the first time, we were hiking rather than climbing. We saw the peak in the distance, and knew it was within reach.
We were elated, not only to make it to the top with our own hands and feet, but that we ventured into the unknown and came out better for it on the other side. That is, until Josh decided he would crouch under a boulder for a photo, only to rise quick enough to slam his head on the sharp point just above his skull. As I prepared to go into emergency mode, we noticed Josh’s plastic sunglasses shattered on the ground below. They may have saved his head that day.
Finally, the time had come to “knab the peak” as we coined on the climb up. Taking carefully planned steps at this point, our feet crept closer and closer to the edge, until we felt the wind nearly sweep us away. We reached the summit, emotionally and physically exhausted, but overjoyed as we watched a hawk ride the wind thermals around us. Maybe this adventure route Josh had suggested wasn’t a plea for death, maybe it wasn’t such a risk. Maybe the risk was in my head, maybe I created it…
I learned a lot about myself throughout this simple experience. Sometimes going into the unknown (within reason) means coming out better on the other side. As frightening as it may be, sometimes the only real risk involved is the one you create in your head. But if you move foreword with confidence, with strength and tenacity, and with the hope that you will grow from the experience, then you will be fulfilled. For me, it was a simple hike turned climb, but it could be anything for anyone. There is a saying, “Do one thing a day that scares you.” If you can channel that fear, that feeling of being “scared” can turn into an energy, into an impetus, it can propel you foreword, past those feelings of doubt and fright, and towards the light at the end of the tunnel.
I’ll never forget the feeling of standing on that peak and looking out at Creation, my heart so full and yet my mind so open. It’s that feeling I want to share with the entire world.
“Greatness is a road leading towards the unknown.” – Charles De Gaulle