Thursday, August 25th 2016
“Don’t look ahead. Don’t look at how high you need to climb. Don’t look down – Just look for your next best move…what is the next best step…” Gabe, our climbing guide.
Rock climbing Devil’s Tower was the climax of our family’s trip. We have all agreed on this collectively. Rock climbing, like other outdoor challenges and sports is a metaphor for life! Climbing the tower was an ambitious family goal. The lessons and connections that each of us experienced in the 6 hour experience will be with us forever – they were life changers.
Our day began with us waking and packing up our car and checking out of our cabin. We knew we would be finishing our climb after check-out so that needed to be handled first. After completed, we walked over to Frank’s house for breakfast. Kamiko, our youngest, loves to write inspirational quotes and right before our trip, published her first book, “The Book of Life – Stuff You Can Follow to Have a Happy Life.” (available on Amazon.com – lol) https://www.amazon.com/Book-Life-Stuff-Follow-Happy/dp/1535436247/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1476645218&sr=8-1&keywords=kamiko+takei We knew we wanted to do something special for Frank, so Kamiko signed her 1st copy of her printed book for him!
When we walked in his front door we were greeted by the most beautiful display of shoes…shoes of all backgrounds, walks of life and stories sitting outside his main door. All the lives that fill those shoes already inside around a huge family style table enjoying an enormous home-cooked family style breakfast. Filling those shoes were an older couple on their anniversary, a young man attempting to ride his bicycle across country, three rock climbing guides, Frank, the amazing cook Jennifer, and an awesome family of three stopping for some adventure on their way to return their daughter to college.
When you walk in to Frank’s house you immediately feel at home. He has tons of books, paintings, climbing artifacts and wonderful words of inspiration on his walls. The dining room is an enormous glass room that faces Devil’s Tower. He plays piano and there is a beautiful grand piano in his living room.
Lucky for us, when we walked in Frank was right at the door as we entered. He greeted our family and after a few minutes of introductions and hugs, Kamiko presented Frank her 1st signed copy of her book. Frank was floored. He genuinely was moved by the gesture and immediately got down on Kamiko’s level to express his gratitude to her. He explained to her that he was having a bit of a tough time right now and this book was exactly what he needed to receive and he thanked her for this gift.
Kamiko does not realize the power her words have had on people. She is a deep, wise, sensitive soul and I have witnessed healing with her words. To see Frank’s face soften and his eyes tear up was magical.
Frank gave me a very long hug and expressed how much he appreciated our stay and the gift of Kamiko’s words. Frank. I truly have no words for what an inspiration he is to me.
After our greeting, Frank walked us to his community dining area. He has a huge table and everyone sits together and enjoys their meal and connects over food. The room is enclosed in all glass and overlooks Devil’s Tower. Food is served family style. Breakfast was delicious. Frank sat at the head of the table, engaging and encouraging connection.
We sat next to “biker dude”, the couple on their anniversary trip and two of our rock climbing guides for the day. It became very clear from our conversations with the guides (who return annually for rock climbing season to work for Frank) that they are not “employees” but family at the Lodge. Frank and his young guides have an unspoken respect, trust and affection for one another. You can tell Frank trusts these young men and gives them autonomy to run the show. I can not say enough about the quality of men of our guides. They are young, insightful, engaging, smart young men. They are able to connect with all ages and push each person just passed their own ‘comfort zone.’ Interestingly for my girls, one of the guides, Gabe, was homeschooled and they thought that was pretty cool.
I had several “Gabeism’s” on this trip. Stories or expression Gabe would share and I would be struck by the stunning insight. For example, it was obvious Gabe had done a lot in his young 20-something years of life. He shared that his parents let him ride across country with friends when he was in high school! He is a very accomplished outdoors kind of guy (already!). So, I said (in my mother mode)….”Wow! You must have amazing parents to allow you to have such freedom to do something like that in high school!” He said, “yea, they were cool….but I knew it…I knew I had a good gig…my parents gave me a really long leash and I never wanted to mess that up…so I tried not to mess up….I wanted to keep my freedom.” Brilliant, right?! Because he was trusted by his parents and he appreciated what that meant, Gabe has had experiences in his 20’s that many will not have their entire lifetime. Gabe, and the other guides, are so alive…so engaged…living their lives. They laughed and remarked many times about their lack of money or funds, but my husband and I said to them many times, “you all are the richest people we have ever met.” Secretly, I think they know it too. 🙂
Every single one of us overcame fear, frustration, exhaustion and anxiety to climb the tower. I did not climb as high as Quinn or the girls, but I climbed my own Everest and was so proud of myself. After the first climb, in my mind, I was done. I was content that I did it, but truly did not think I had anything left in my muscles. But, like life, I did…I could keep going… and, I did. I did a more challenging pass and reached that summit too.
My girls were amazing. Each one had struggles during their climbs. I will never forget witnessing my little nine year old accepting the challenge of the most difficult route. It took her almost an hour to complete it. When she was about 3/4 of the way up, she yelled, “I want to come down!” Gabe, in his wisdom, shouted back “Ok, Miko…but before you come down, maybe just hang there for a minute…I got you…just relax for a little and then you can come down..” And, of course, after a little while she yelled down, “Ok, I am going to keep going…” THAT. That…she said, “I’m going to keep going.” Relying on another who is wiser, holding your rope to say “I got you – rest – you got this.” And, she did…she struggled (all on her own), lost her grip, struggled to find where to put her hands, her feet, banged her knees till the bled, knocked her knuckles, grunted, sighed in frustration….but She. Did. Not. Give. Up. She did it. Here are some of my favorite images of Kamiko.
When she came down, there was that exhausting look of absolute pride. Accomplishment. I whispered in her ear, “Miko, I hope you never forget this. This is the metaphor for life…you can do anything you set your mind to, little girl. You are smart and you are strong.”
Kayah had a similar experience as she did the most difficult climb as well. She yelled down to Gabe that she had had enough and Gabe used a different approach. Kayah was ‘stuck.’ You could tell she was struggling and could not find a way to get passed the most difficult part in the climb. There were areas of the climb you would wedge your fingers in rocks and sometimes really had to take a leap of faith to the next rock or ledge. Gabe said, “Kayah…I want you to only look for your next best move…just the next step…don’t look up….look straight ahead and only look for your next best move.” BRILLIANT. She listened to him, she searched and my gosh, she found her next step…and then her next one, and her next one and before you knew it, she completed the run! She came down, bleeding, banged up and bruised. She high fived Gabe and then came over to me and while giving me a hug, lost her emotions and belly cried for a few minutes.
As with Kamiko, I told her how proud of her I was and how I hoped she never forgot this climb and when life felt overwhelming to remember not to look so far ahead, but think and look for that next best step, the next best move. I told her to know she has the strength and intelligence to do this on her own.
Kira and Quinn are adrenaline outdoor soul mates and naturally, immediately took to rock climbing. Kira is hoping to continue rock climbing when we return home!
When we finished our climbs we hiked back down and enjoyed a feeling of accomplishment. Many people would stop us and ask, “did you all climb that today?”
And, all of us still garbed in our climbing gear kind of felt a little like rockstars, a little bad-ass, as we all said, “yes!”
We went back to the lodge, unpacked our gear, played on the slack line with our guides and said good-bye to Frank and the cabin. Such an awesome day.
Rock Climbing Life Lessons:
- When life starts to feel too much, too big, or overwhelming and you may want to quit or feel paralyzed – don’t look ahead…don’t look up…don’t look down — just look straight ahead and ask yourself….what is my next best move? And, then do it. One move at a time.
- You are not alone. There are people who have been there who will hold your rope while you rest and gather your strength and courage to go on.
- You can do it. You are strong. You are smart.
- Everyone (especially young people) need to have big challenges. We need to succeed at difficult challenges. We need to know we can trust ourselves.
- In rock climbing, sometimes the climbs that look easy can be deceiving and sometimes, the more difficult level climbs can be easier than expected. Approach life in the same manner…only you can determine what is ‘hard’ and what is ‘easy.’
- And, once again, my most favorite lesson of all…ask yourself…always…”what is my next best move…”
No matter your age, size, physical capability or experience, I would highly recommend attempting this experience at Devil’s Tower. The hike to the base of the climb may be all the challenge you need, but go for it! The guides have taken people with zero experience (like us) all the way to the very experienced climbers. They do some lessons and review in their indoor climbing gym prior to climbing the tower and will always have your back.
As our day came to a close, we got in our minivan and said farewell to Frank and his crew and headed out to our next destination, Deadwood. Deadwood is a historic Western town, home of Calamity Jane & Wild Bill Hickok in South Dakota. Due to the fact we drove in later than expected, we did a quick tour of Deadwood, checked in to our hotel, ate dinner and decided to really explore Deadwood after a good nights rest – more on this tomorrow.