Confessions and Denials: I turned around at 13,800′

I met someone on the internet.  Today I met him face-to-face.  His name is Bill Deitzer.  I found out this afternoon that we have a lot in common.  We both stood on top of four state high points (actually, he’s been to 45 of them!).  We both hiked Bright Angel Trail from the South Rim to the floor of the Grand Canyon.  We both made it to the summit of Humphrey’s Peak, the highest point in Arizona (12,600′).  Finally, we both turned around on our summit attempt of Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the lower 48 states (the contiguous United States).  Have you ever experienced altitude sickness?  It can be very dangerous, though probably not life-threatening at 13,800′.  But why risk it?  When you are physically exhausted and lightheaded, you choose to descend rather than continuing to ascend.  Bill put it this way:  “The mountain will live to see another day.  Will you?”  I really liked Bill and Rosemary, and I appreciated their three-hour delay at Rhea County Academy.  I also appreciated his willingness to admit that he failed in several attempts to summit various heights.  Bill shared about his conquests, but it was clear that he was not on a mission to praise himself.  He was friendly, humble, instructive, wise; a good guy who lit up as he was talking about his grandchildren.  In his own way, he genuinely tried to make a difference today.  That was an example for me on a day that saw me focused on simply making it through.  Don’t be afraid to turn around at 13,800′.  Don’t be afraid to visit the high point of a state as you travel (http://highpointers.org/).  Don’t be afraid to say “Yes” to the unexpected opportunities which present themselves (“Hey…you don’t know me, but would you be willing to stop by our small school to talk about your adventures?”  “Sure, we’ll do that as we travel from Ohio to Alabama.”  “Great!“).  You never know when you might make a difference.

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