Wednesday, August 7, 2013

No Public School Day

Panic at the thought of doing a thing is a challenge to do it.
~Henry S. Haskins

Public school began on August 1st in our county, but most counties surrounding will be starting within a week or two. On the first day that public school starts in our county, my daughter and I have a tradition of taking a holiday, a Mama and Daughter Day. This year we called it Mama and Daughter "We Don't Do Public School" Day. We could not do it on the first day as it was our errand day, so we planned it for Friday.

Last year we kept it low-keyed, shopping for used books and eating cupcakes in a very small historical area of a nearby town, which used to be a train stop with a few store fronts. It was a nice quiet afternoon and within our budget as we were still working on paying off our debt then. This year I wanted to do something really special with the Princess. In fact, I decided that she and I really have not done fun things together for far too long so we might have a Mama and Daughter Day once a month, something simple or educational but the main thing would be to go somewhere to enjoy the day and each other without formal homeschooling or housework.

We decided to go to Stone Mountain, even though I knew there still would be a lot of children because so many were still out of school. We had not been there in years, seven years to be exact. Here is the Princess at Stone Mountain when she was five years old.

The park is about an hour and a half drive mostly on the Atlanta by-pass. I bought the tickets on-line with a discount. We arrived as the park was opening at 10:30 am.

We both wanted to hike up the mountain this time, but it was really hot with very little breeze. It would have been better to have done it earlier. Still, I was hoping that the train that goes around the mountain stopped at the trail head for the hike up, but it does not. The first thing we did is took the train ride around the mountain, which we had never done before; the Princess still loves trains.

A little later we took the Summit Skyride to the top of the mountain, which is not one of my ideas of fun and the pictures on the link are not realistic. First, they pack too many people in to be comfortable, not like there is this one family alone as in the pictures posted there--I do not like being closed in. Second, it goes up off the ground by 825 feet--I do not like heights. But, I have been on it before a few times and so for the love of my daughter.... She loved the top of the mountain.

At the highest point of each mountain a marker like this is placed. We make a point of finding the markers, if it is possible. On Stone Mountain it is easily accessible and out in the open. All we had to do is find the highest point of its rounded top.

Generally, there is nothing much up there to thrill a child, but my daughter can always find something when she wants to do so and she did. One thing that I find particularly interesting that is not well known and not really advertised is that there are two kinds of tiny shrimp, clam shrimp and fairy shrimp, in the seasonal water pools there. I find it as another piece of evidence that our earth was completely flooded, because there is just nothing explains how tiny shrimp get on the top of mountains that makes any sense.

Since she enjoyed the mountain itself so much, we decided we would come back on another cooler Mama and Daughter Day or on a day that her father could join us and just pay for the parking to hike the mountain and the other trails as well as rent paddles boats. This day we did the attractions and shopped.

We walked around the Antebellum Plantation and Farmyard areas, saw a 4-D movie, and fed and played with butterflies to name a few of the activities. We had a light lunch, a turkey and cheese deli sandwich and iced tea that we split, and then the Princess was introduced to a funnel cake, her very first experience with one.

We also did the craziest thing I have ever done in my, I am not kidding! When I say this, I used to be pretty daring with a motto that I would try almost anything at least once, and maybe twice if I liked it--my thoughts were how would I know if I would like it if I did not at least try it once. Now that does not mean I intentionally go thrill-seeking or do something illegal for the experience, but there is something to facing your fears and face a very big one I did that day.

The Really Crazy Thing I Did at Stone Mountain Park

Little did I know that waiting for me at Stone Mountain Park was the hardest thing, mentally and physically, that I have ever done in my life...well, up to this point at least.

There is an attraction call the SkyHike. Go ahead and click on the link...I will wait for you.

So, you read it over, right? The Princess really wanted to do this and had talked to a girl, who had done every level telling her that the highest one was the hardest, but the lower levels looked pretty easy to me...from the ground anyway. Now when you are in line you cannot really see it well, but watching people that I could see, I was pretty confident that we could do either of the lower levels without much trouble.

We rented a locker and put everything in it except for my sunglasses, as we were instructed to do. I write this so you know why we have absolutely no video or pictures to prove what I am about to tell you, but in retrospect we could have tucked the Princess' camera in a pocket.

We had waited nearly an hour in line with the last five minutes being fitted for a harness. I want to point out that I did not see anyone test their harness, but the Princess and I did; people are so much more trusting than we are, I guess. There is a track above us in which the harness is attached and it determines where we can go.

We get up to the first level, but the Princess goes up the stairs to the second level. Okay, we are higher off the ground, but I am thinking...well, I really was not thinking actually, because if I had been thinking, I would not have asked the Princess which of the levels she wanted to do when we got on the second level. I thought she would pick the second, but forgot what a risk taker she can be. I heard the little daredevil say she wanted to go up to the third level and the next thing I know the attendant had set us up on that track.

I could have said "No. Let's just do this level." I should have said no. Why, oh, why did I just not say no?

I said something to the attendant as she opened the gate...I honestly do not even remember what, but I heard her responding, "Well, you have done the other levels, right?" as I watched my eager daughter walking up these narrow steps made of boards suspended on ropes that were surprisingly stable. The "no" that I managed to voice was so full of uncertainty that I thought (maybe "hoped" would be the better word) she might advise against it, but instead she said nothing. She did not even look at me.

That is when I had this feeling of cold-sweat dread come over me. I began to think maybe I should not be doing this, but there is my daughter waiting for me on the platform...all by herself about 40 feet in the air.

As I ascended the stairs, I began to realize with absolute clarity the distance I was from the ground. By the time I reached the platform, I was wrestling with vertigo and thinking I was going to pass out or throw up or freeze up completely or babble incoherently or something else as embarrassing! (What a memory any one of these would have been!)

Before I could say anything, my daughter had turned and was walking out on a rope. As I watched her carefully step her way toward the next platform, it did not escape me that there was no one else up on that level at all, which concerned me as the other two levels had people waiting in line.

Now this challenge had two ropes on which to hold, one on each side but they were angled so that right one was very low and the left high on the starting platform and that is reversed at the next platform. In the middle, it is advisable to switch your hold between the ropes. The Princess was doing so well. She seemed so confident. Until...

She was just two steps away from the platform, but she could not really hold onto either of the side ropes. One was too low and the other too high for those last two steps. She turned and looked at me with an expression of absolute terror.

There are times when really bad moments seem to bend the time-space continuum--this never happens with the good moments, just the really bad ones. In that moment, she seemed twice as far away as she was and time seemed to slow to a crawl and she was younger. All I could think of was that was my baby girl all alone clear over there standing on a rope that seemed 100 feet from the ground!

She was frozen in fear and I cannot help her or even go to her until she gets off the rope. This in real time was probably only a few seconds, but it felt much longer. Inside I was in terror with her, but outwardly she only saw me do the motherly thing she needed from me. I looked at her with all the loving encouragement I could muster in my pallid, queasy state and told her that she could do this. She turned still looking a bit unsure, but she figured out a way to take those last two steps. I let out the breath I had been holding in relief.

And then I realized it was my turn....

My daughter, now safe on the platform, was facing me and saying, "Come on, Mama. You can do it!"

Mama was not convinced!

I took a breath in and stepped out on the rope, which began shaking from side to side immediately. Since it had not done this for my daughter, I deduced that it must be myself causing this. I know I certainly felt shaky from the very core of my being about the idea walking on a rope about 40 feet up.

Once I reached about halfway and switched which rope I was holding, I found myself thinking the craziest things, like "Why am I doing this when I don't even have dinosaurs chasing me?"

I was just two steps from the platform and I had the same dilemma that panicked my daughter: the ropes were too high and too low to use. I had been using one hand on the guide rope and the other was firmly grasping the tether to my harness. I decided to grab the tether with both hands and just go.

Yes! I made it to the platform and began immediately looking for an emergency exit. My hands were sweaty and I was a wreck. I had absolutely no intention to go on. I was done. But, there was no emergency exit and my daughter had started out on the second challenge.

The next one was walking on a 4" x 4" wood beam. They say that you never forget how to ride a bike, I guess that goes for walking a balance beam from teenage gymnastics also. I found myself wishing I was barefoot, but other than that it felt familiar and I began to forget about the height and just focus on each of the tasks.

I would not say it got easier, just oddly familiar. The other ropes I did were not shaking like when I did the first one; I assume I was a bit more relaxed after surviving the first panic attack. Every time the Princess made it to a platform, she would call out to encourage me, "Come on, Mama. You can do it!"  It was so precious--encouraging the old, frighten woman behind her.

There were eight challenges in all. Oh, and there really was an emergency exit, the turn around platform halfway through the course. Watsupwitat?

One of the attendants came out to the middle platform to help a small boy when we were on our way back and I said something about the difficulty. She said that I had already done the one where the ropes we walk criss-cross and it was the hardest. "No, that was not the hardest. The first one was the hardest!"

They have brag T-shirts about conquering the mountain, but none about conquering the third level of the SkyHike. They are missing out on a marketing opportunity there, if you ask me. I would have bought one.

When we were again on solid ground, I noticed that my fingers ached and my low back was a bit touchy for just a hour or so, but it would be a good 24 hours before I felt all the soreness in the rest of my muscles. I recuperated mostly by the next day, so I guess this 50+ year old body did alright for doing the hardest and highest level first.

Was it a crazy thing to do having not done anything like it before or even doing the lower levels?
Absolutely! I would not recommend starting with the top level first.

Would I have done that top level if I really had looked it over before we went in line?
Absolutely not! Not knowing what to expect probably was working in my favor in retrospect.

Was it worth doing?
My daughter and I will never forget it, so, yes, I think it was worth it.

Would I do it again?
Hm, well, I lived through it so...uh, maybe?

At the very least, my daughter knows I love her enough to walk the hardest and highest level of the SkyHike even with my paralyzing fear of heights.

~ My Lord, thank you for such a lovely day with my daughter and for the opportunity to face one of my fears. It was quite challenging and enlightening for both my daughter and me. ~


  1. lol. Well, I don't like heights BUT....I have done all this sort of thing. I abseiled for years. We tied our own harness from a length of webbing & then pushed the crabs through the webbing, so harnessed & high holds little real fear for me. However we did the sky walk at O'Reilly's one time. Rainforest. Damp. Unharnessed. No supervision. They have metal cylinders you climb inside to get really high. In the wet they were slippery & none of us, including Libby, were brave enough to do more than a few rungs. A very icky feeling.

    HOwever I think you both deserve the T~shirt. Why don't you make yourselves one each? Another mother/daughter project! ☺

    1. It would not have been on my bucket list, but it is a better rush than any amusement park ride, that is for sure.

      Projects for us to do together I have a plenty, but this one might be worth squeezing in.

  2. OH LINDA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Girl, you are a better woman than I, that's fer darn stinkin' sure *whew*. I have seen those ropes courses and there is just so way I would have gotten out there. Hats off to ya woman! What a great story :-)


Thank you fellow travelers for walking and talking with me along this journey.