In the last two days I have been in the bowels of Carlsbad Caverns and on top of Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas at 8749 feet. My conclusion: I suddenly felt incredibly lame in my pursuit to see the national parks. Here I am, a well educated white girl (Amy Cole will tell you I make a terrible white girl since I don’t drink green juice, I haven’t tried Kombucha and I don’t have a TV), running around the country in my cozy little camper, toilet included since I don’t care for communal bathing. In the mean time, I am visiting places discovered by people with far inferior resources to say the least. There is simply no way that I would descend into the cave with a rope latter and a headlamp. Just walking down and back up was a challenge with a paved pathway. I couldn’t even bring myself to go on the guided tour given my claustrophobia! In full disclosure, the elevator was broken so everyone had to take the 1.25m path in and out. Admittedly, no small feat. It was rather frightening to see people huffing and puffing going DOWN the trail. I have no idea how some of them made it back up. I tried to scoot by them as quickly as possible before they started clutching their chest. (Hey kids, granddad needs his stress test. Let’s go to Carlsbad!).
Guadalupe Peak was no different. Again I found myself on a rocky but well trodden path with no question about my destination, no trail finding or bush whacking required. Who was the first to think getting to the summit was somehow important or interesting? It is ironic that my choice of audible book should be Into Thin Air about the tragedy of the Everest Climb in 1996. There the threat of death became very real. My feat was rendered even less remarkable. Many people I passed on that peak were not athletically inclined and still hobbled to the top. While I, too, struggled with tired legs and burning calves, I can only imagine their discomfort. All of us in it for a brief glimpse of life from the top of the world, or at least Texas. Like I said, so many people tougher than I am.
What I recognize in all the pioneers and explorers who were brave enough to be first is a sense of curiosity. It is easy to write them off as thrill seekers. Yes, the danger to them was many fold greater than what I will face but the possibility of death isn’t what gets people out the door. It is an insatiable need to know more and have the world make sense, even if just a small piece of it. I have set out to do nothing extraordinary by taking my trip but I do hope to live life with a profound sense of curiosity and the courage to find the answers.