I saw a mass of blue barreling towards me like a semi-truck that had lost it’s brakes. The wind coming off it’s surface became stronger with every passing millisecond. Never in my life had I experienced such a gamut of emotion: fear, exhilaration, and anticipation to name a few. Death was seemingly on the line, and yet, I couldn’t help but think of one thing: My life wasn’t flashing before my eyes. No regrets came to mind. No past experiences. Pretty much all I thought was that I was going to hit that mass of blue, and it was going to happen soon.
I went cliff diving at Lake Tahoe at DL Bliss State Park. Some say that before you die, your life flashes before your eyes. They’re wrong. No such thing happened to me. Okay, seriously, I don’t know that they’re wrong. It’s very possible that your life does flash before your eyes when you’re about to die, or even when you think you’re about to die, but in all reality, I knew I wasn’t going to die. I’d seen others jump off the very same cliff, and they lived. So why would anything be different for me?
And yet, I can’t help but think, what exactly would I want to have flash before my eyes had I been about to die? What does one really want out of life? There’s probably a lot of things that people want, for me ”adventure” comes to mind. One time when I was a little boy I was hanging out at my dad’s apartment, bored out of my mind, and he gave me a book about some guy’s travels, it was called ”The Royal Road to Romance” by Richard Halliburton. I ended up reading quite a bit of it. I’m not for sure, but I believe my dad gave me that book because he wanted me to do some traveling, and thought that it might inspire me. In a lot of ways it did. It at least made me want to go, but then reality sort of set in. Travel isn’t the easiest thing, it’s basically really expensive, and also the prospect of it scares me.
Why is it that travel is what we think of when we think of adventure, though? Probably because that is what the adventurers of old did. Did not Columbus and Magellan travel? They did. Were we not taught about the conquistadors like Cortés in Elementary school? We were. True, these men had travels, but was the adventure just travel? No. I say it isn’t. When one goes to Europe, they come back and say, “I went to Europe, it was awesome.” Then when you ask them what was awesome, they show a bunch of pictures of stuff that everyone else has taken pictures of. I ”guess” that was a little adventurous, but where is the story? When Columbus discovered America, he didn’t come back and say, “I saw a beach, it was awesome.” He said, “I discovered a New World!”
So I jumped off a rock at Lake Tahoe, so what? Lots of people have done that. While it was thrilling for me, and I even made a little story out of it when telling it to my friends, it was hardly an adventure. I’m going to spend the rest of this post talking about the adventure that I did have at DL Bliss State Park, and part of the point to this is to demonstrate that adventure can be had anywhere, not just in foreign lands.
All-in-all there were about twenty of us hanging out in a Cabin near Tahoe, so naturally we split into different groups to do stuff, and I ended up in a group of seven that decided to go to the beach and do some hiking on Saturday morning. The plan was simple, walk a loop trail, see some sort of ”lighthouse” that was marked on the map, then end up back at the beach and lounge around and go swimming and such. Basically, nothing too adventurous, but good company, none-the-less.
So we saw a the lighthouse, and it was just about the lamest lighthouse I’d ever seen in my life, so I was like, “I say we bust it.” And someone was like, “No! It’s a landmark!” And I was like, “I was joking about busting it.” So we marched along, and we were up pretty high on the side of the cliffs above the lake, and I said, “Let us walk off the path.” So we did, and we looked down the cliff-side, and more pictures were taken. And a few feet away from us the cliffs ended, and it was more of a really steep incline, and I was like, “I bet we could make it down that way.” And so about half our group walked to the edge, and it was steeper than it had looked, but it still looked like we could make it, so I said, “Maybe it’s a little dangerous, only the most adventurous of us should go.” And so everyone in the group except for this dude named Adam backed off, and Adam said, “Yeah, I think we can make it.”
And so the adventure began with me and Adam. The rest of the group went back to the trail with a farewell, “Don’t die!”
I’ll admit that there was quite a bit of hesitation about going down there. I mean it was steep, but not that steep. The most dangerous part of it would be that we had backpacks on that might throw us off balance. I could see some ropes and cables further down, so I knew someone else had been down there. In any case, I figured that if we did decided to go down there, we weren’t coming back up. So I said to Adam, “If we go down there, we’re going to have to flag down a motorboat to get a ride back.” Adam seemed to think that was an alright idea. So we started down the slope.
It was a bit sketchy, or as Adam called it, “Sketch”. Naturally it was quite slippy due to the loose rocks, so we were basically sliding on our butts and using our hands to brake. The ropes and cables helped us on the way down, and while I can’t condone trusting your life in ropes you know nothing about, I did it anyways. There was one part where Adam jumped across a four foot chasm to get to the rope on the other side. He tossed me the rope before I made the the same jump, so it wasn’t nearly as scary for me. At that point it was basically a fifteen foot drop to the next landing, so I said, “If I drop my backpack we’re committed to going all the way down,” and before Adam even responded I dropped my backpack over the edge, and went down the rope after it. From there it wasn’t far to the water’s edge.
Since it was basically cliffs in the area there was no beach to speak of. Just some big rocks by the water’s edge. So we lay our gear on some rocks, and Adam said, “We jumping in?” And I was like, “I guess.” So I changed into the swimsuit that was in my backpack, and put on some sunscreen. I wanted Adam to jump in first, because I was scared of how cold it was, but ultimately we counted to three and jumped in together, and the cold was actually pretty tolerable.
Then after a few minutes, I was like, “Okay, let’s flag down a motorboat so we can get off this rock.” And Adam was like, “Okay, go ahead.” In that moment, I realized my fatal mistake. When I had I suggested to Adam that we ”flag down a motorboat to get a ride back”, I kind of figured he’d be perfectly willing to flag down a boat. I was wrong, he was just as afraid as I was to flag down a boat. And so, we basically spent half an hour saying to each other, “Should we hike back up?” “I dunno, maybe we should wave our arms.” “I don’t want to look like an idiot waving my arms.” “We should hike back up.” And so forth. In the meantime we watched various motorboats cruising around, and even one that looked like it had run out of gas. Another boat was just sort of drifting nearby, I thought they might be a good prospect but they didn’t seem to be responding to our arm waving, and they were out of vocal reach. In all honesty, we weren’t stranded. It wasn’t really going to be that hard to get back to the beach if we didn’t get a ride, but we had our backpacks with us, and we didn’t really want to get everything inside them wet because there was really no beach, so we would be swimming part of the way.
Then, we saw some cliff divers, and Adam was like, “Maybe we can swim over there, make some friends, then ask them for a ride.” That seemed reasonable, so we left our packs behind and started making our way to the cliffs. Unfortunately by the time we got half way there, the cliff divers left. So I hollered back to Adam, “I think we’re screwed. The cliff diver’s are gone. What should we do?” And he was like, “I dunno.”
Fate must have been smiling on us in that moment, though. I mentioned that there had been a motorboat drifting nearby. Well it so happened that two little girls had gotten a rubber rafter out of it, and had rowed to the very same rocks where we had left our backpacks. I said to Adam, “You see that boat over there. Two little girls just got off of it and rowed up to our rocks.” And he was like, “They did?” And I said, “Yeah, maybe we can ask them for a ride.” And he was like, “Yeah, maybe we caught a break.” And so we made a swim back to the rocks, and I was like, in a very creepy (though unintentionally so) manner, “Hey girls, can you ask your parents if they’ll give us a ride to the shore?” And they were like, “What?,” and quickly got back onto their rubber raft and rowed back to the boat. And I was like, ”Great, we’re screwed, and I look like a creepy idiot.”
Then Adam was like, ”Screw it,” and he hollered out to the girl’s parents, who had drifted significantly closer, “Hey there! Can you give us a ride?” And the dad was like, “What?” And Adam was like, “Can you give us a ride?” And the dad was like, “Where are you going?” And we said, “We don’t know the name of the beach, but it’s just up there. The first one up that way,” and we pointed. And the guy didn’t really want to give us a ride, but he agreed. And so he sent his girls back out on the rubber raft, and we put our backpacks on the rubber raft, and then we swam out to the motorboat, and I thought I was was going to drown right there, but I didn’t.
And so we got a ride back to the shore. And basically, it was really awesome. And definitely pretty creepy, and the dad made the little girls sit far away from us. And we were gone for such a long time that Adam had gotten a text that said, “Are you alive?” And I was like, ”I’m glad they cared enough to be worried.” Then we told everyone the story. No one else had much to say about their adventures going around the hiking trail the usual way. Yeah, it was an adventure, and all we had to do was ignore the rules that society had set for us, and walk off the beaten path. After that is when me and Adam made our way over to the same rock where we’d seen the cliff diver’s and made the jump ourselves.