At the top of Half Dome -for the second time!
Those of you participating in this game are starting to catch on and it’s showing in your guesses. Yes, I will try just about anything- ONCE. I proudly own a mean adventure streak and am not afraid to show it. And you know I love a good story. Without further introduction, here are the answers to TTAAL 6 -Earth Day Edition:
1. TRUE I swam with wild dolphins in the Pacific ocean. This adventure ranks as one of my top ten, favorite, life-changing experiences. My top four adventures are my wedding day and the births of my three sons, so there’s not much room left on the list. This adventure was huge.
When we traveled to the big island of Hawaii after the LOML earned his Masters degree years ago, I met up with my friend’s Mom, Trish Regan, who runs a business called Dolphin Spirit of Hawaii. She generously offered to take us swimming with the dolphins she regularly swims with for her teachings and spiritual retreats. Finding the dolphins is never a guarantee and one can’t be sure they will want to interact. We hoped for the best as we prepared for our swim.
M1 was only two years old so he wore a life vest and was in a floating saucer while we were in the ocean. The LOML, Trish, and I wore a mask, snorkel, fins, and used kick boards to help us get past the surf to get out to the dolphins. We were in luck! We could see the pod off in the distance in the bay. We swam out about a quarter of a mile from the shore, past the waves and waited for them to come closer to us. Trish instructed us to call to them in our mind and they would hear. (Okay -those of you who don’t believe in this kind of stuff need to read on and trust me. This really happened.) The pod began swimming toward us and Trish called to them using dolphin sounds underwater. They kept coming closer and then dove under us. We watched them swim underneath us and then surface, closer, on our other side. It looked like they were ready to play.
While on shore, Trish had told us about a game dolphins like to play called the “leaf game”. It’s like a game of fetch, only with a leaf. A dolphin will take a leaf on its fin and drag it a few feet underwater and leave it. Then they wait for you to retrieve the leaf and bring it to the surface to play another round. I desperately wanted to see her play this game with a dolphin.
The pod swam all around us, diving, surfacing, and spinning. It was like they were showing off for us. Trish had educated us these were wild animals and we should respect them. We didn’t try to touch them or encroach on what they were doing. At first we just observed. The LOML is a fabulous swimmer and certified lifeguard. As some of the pod started to dive and move away from us, they circled and played around him, as if inviting him to join them. Trish gave him a nod, letting him know he could go with them. He swam away with the group and I stayed behind with M1 in his safety ring.
Trish stayed with me and played the leaf game with one of the dolphins that didn’t go off to play with the pod and the LOML. Watching her dive down repeatedly, spinning like a dolphin herself, is an image I will never forget. It was absolutely breathtaking. I thought strongly in my mind, “I would love to play that game. That is amazing.” Another dolphin appeared and started swimming around me. Trish was playing with her dolphin and now I had my own. The LOML came back from playing with the pod and watched as my dolphin circled me.
My face was underwater and I watched as the dolphin turned and swam straight toward me. I felt its sonar bouncing off my forehead. I thought, “Please play the leaf game with me. Please play with me.”
The dolphin dove. It had a leaf on its fin! It understood me! It left the leaf about fifteen feet underwater and surfaced three feet in front of me, as if to say, “Your turn.”
I felt devastated. The leaf was too deep for me. I’m not a great swimmner, an even worse diver, and I have to admit a little wussy when it comes to diving in the ocean that is so deep I can’t see the bottom. I said to the LOML, “I can’t dive that deep! What should I do?” I was also scared of leaving M1 at the surface, even though he was fine with the LOML. I thought, “I can’t dive that deep. I’m not a dolphin! I can’t leave my son.”
The dolphin swam under me, surfaced right next to M1 (who squealed with delight and laughed) and swam back in front of me. I felt the thumping on my forehead again from the sonar. Then the dolphin dove, retrieved the leaf and left it below me again, this time only about five feet from the surface.
Perfect! I dove, brought it to the surface and the dolphin took it down again. We played the leaf game for a few rounds this way and then switched roles, I left the leaf underwater for the dolphin. The entire time I kept talking with the dolphin in my mind, just as Trish had taught me. I thought, “This is wonderful! Thank you for playing with me! I love this game! This is amazing!” On and on.
Finally, the pod returned, the other dolphin that was playing with Trish left and my dolphin swam off. I was so sorry to see it leave. As it swam away I thought clearly, “Please don’t go yet. I didn’t get to say thank you. I want to say goodbye. Please come back.” The dolphin turned around and swam straight toward my face, just as it had done when it first approached me. I stared as it got closer and thought, “This was beautiful. Thank you for playing with me. Thank you for understanding about my son. Thank you so much.” I thought this over and over as the dolphin approached. When it was right in front of me it dove under me, resurfaced between me and the LOML, dove again, and surfaced one final time to spray water from its blowhole right next to M1. It looked at each of us as it surfaced. Finally, it swam away to the join the pod.
Trish, the LOML and I rushed together and gushed about what happened with the dolphins. Trish and the LOML had witnessed my interaction with my dolphin. We were bursting with excitement. I still have a hard time believing it myself, but this is true.
After that story, do you even care about the other two?!? Truthfully, they pale in comparison, but let’s finish.
2. TRUE I hiked Half Dome in Yosemite, twice. First was with a group of friends in college. We were all athletes and, honestly, cocky about how easy the hike would be. Dummies. This is Half Dome, people! We started later in the morning than we should have and didn’t bring enough water. When we got to the last five miles of the hike we were in pretty bad shape: hot, tired, and thirsty. I rationed my water and still had some left. My boyfriend at the time (not the LOML) was out of water and not happy about it. He asked if he could have some of mine and proceeded to drink the entire amount. What. A. Jerk. He handed the empty bottle back to me. I can’t remember if I went off on him or not. I may have been too exhausted to exert myself. I hope I told him off. I’m sure he played it off like my anger was my character flaw. Needless to say, that’s one of the reasons he is not the LOML.
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The second time I hiked Half Dome was with a friend who was celebrating his 50th birthday. We prepared ourselves, brought plenty of water and had a fabulous, beautiful day. In the photo with this post, I am holding a photograph of our friend Luke from Australia. Years ealier, when he visited us, the LOML got to hike Half Dome with him while I stayed at the campsite with the kids. I carried Luke’s photo to the top so I could have the joy of hiking with him as well, even if it was just his picture.
3. FALSE I did travel to New Zealand and saw the Rainbow Warrior docked in Auckland, but I didn’t go aboard. The ship is beautiful, and huge. Quite impressive.
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There you have it. Thanks for all the guesses and for playing along. Scotty, I think you owe me a carbon foot-print tree! How cool are you for pledging that if your guess was incorrect? You are pretty doggone cool. I love that some of you have played from the very beginning and that others are joining in the fun. I still have a few stories in my drafts folder, so until next time, go out and have a Big Adventure! Onward!
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