Blue Planet Special

Yellowstone Bound

A flatlander climbs

In late September, I flew to Billings, Montana, rented a car and set out for 11,000 ft. Beartooth Pass in Yellowstone, Wyoming. I got a few thousand feet up the pass when I suddenly got vertigo big time. I guess I've been a flat-lander too long. There are no cliffs with 1,000-ft. drop-offs in SW Florida. I slowed to a snail's pace and became an obstruction for every car going my direction. My hands were sweating so bad I couldn't keep them on the wheel. There was no way I was going to take my eyes off the road to look for wildlife. I was absolutely terrified.

This after bicycling 6,000 miles in the 80s and climbing 11 mountain passes without fear, including those in Yellowstone. I had become the proverbial old fart, bent over the wheel completely focused on the pavement ahead, oblivious to horns honking behind me. Even a tortoise passed me on a double-yellow line.

I lasted two days, instead of the three weeks I had planned, flying home early with my tail between my legs.

After a week home, I determined this height thing was not going to get the best of me. First I climbed onto our roof. Okay, so that wasn't much of a challenge. But it was start. Then I drove to the highest point within 90 minutes of my home: a hill in Wauchula that tops out at 120 feet above sea level. I was getting there.

Then I booked a flight to Raleigh, North Carolina where a friend and I drove into the Smokies to see the leaves change. Although I didn't do the driving, I slowly started getting comfortable looking out the window and over the edge of the mountains. I walked trails close to drop-offs. But not too close. And I walked creeks in the valleys. In fact, that is where I was the happiest.

I rather like being a flat-lander! But I'm returning to Yellowstone first chance I get.