Jumanji Taught Me
By: Jarret Bragg
“You’re not afraid of heights are you?”
I laughed a bit and answered while we continued to transcend, “I’m actually terrified of heights. It’s one of my biggest fears. But cuz’, that’s the thing about this whole experience. It’s become one of my favorite pastimes. Stepping out of your comfort zone subjects you to risks that go against what you’ll effortlessly attempt to go for usually. After all, it makes you defy those little things creeping in your psyche and put them to shame.”
I said in confidence, “…I get up here, to a point like this and look down… and I say, ‘look, what are fears!?’”
My cousin and I had this conversation during one of my trips here. The friends who introduced Patapsco State Park Mckeldin Area to me dubbed it “Jumanji.” Calling it that instantly did wonders for my imagination, thus anticipation was especially heightened. So, for my imagination at the time and for yours now, we’ll keep the name because this place also brought great adventure. Though the escapade was certainly board game challenging, this place brought even more than that to my life.
Hiking this location has helped me gain a little more value in life. Anytime you rip open a bit of the surface back from the world beyond what’s obvious, there’s a land wide and full of new experiences. While hiking, I made the decision to explore a little more past the surface of everything out there. It was all unknown and unfamiliar until I did it. Albeit, some individuals simply fear unknown outcomes; that’s natural, and they’re completely understandable, organic emotions. What if, though? Those individuals who feel that nudge or notion to defy those fears and emotions and find out what sits on the other end of the “what if” can sometimes be abundantly rewarded. While hiking Jumanji I would continually question myself, “What if?” I found myself learning to lose my inhibitions with life and sometimes, just sometimes, give risk a chance. Jumanji taught me to occasionally succumb to curiosity, and putting this into motion brought new sights, and audio bytes that once only lived in my imagination; it unveiled fresh value of who I am in life. There’s a substantial contrast between being able to somewhat shimmy your way into a conversation for relevancy purposes and then being able to speak from experience about the specific sights, sounds, and happenings of a place. There’s no way you can short nature and you mustn’t short Jumanji.
Going Down and Giving Risk a Chance
“I like to think that in every fearful situation we face, there is a curiosity within us that wants to see what happens if we can see this crazy situation through…”
I have now traveled here several times. The very first thing that always strikes and pulsates through me is the immense stillness of Jumanji. Stillness tends to be described as the absence of sound or noise, and disturbance. This place is not that definition of stillness, though, because things could be heard. Seemingly far off from disturbance and disorder, this place is peaceful and perfect. Within it, the sounds can be heard, yet the stillness is unable to be disturbed. Leaves sway, pebbles get pushed and tossed and we come to step all over this place but the stillness still sits.
The greatest and worst parts about this place share the same bed. As soon as you choose your path to descend to the bottom (where the trail begins), that’s where you’ll experience the most adventurous aspect of Jumanji land. Whether you choose easy or challenging, the sights are the same once you get there. However, each time I come, I ask my companions, “How do you want to go down, the easy or the hard way?” How one answers the question can then help me determine for the rest of the hike what type of person you are immediately in terms of risk-taking. The easy way down was, of course, convenient little steps, while the other option was to brace yourself down a slope of dirt paths, first. The dirt paths were certainly rough and easy to lose grip on. They were occupied by branches with leaves that seemed like they’ve been waiting all day to swing and swipe you across your face. Even so, the branches helped; they would hang over the sides of the paths and essentially, become a handlebar or helping hand to keep traveling toward the bottom. Then, once the bottom level is reached, a stampede of the loudest love, and the deepest depiction of euphoria and elation rushes right forth. It’s not exactly fast-growing, man-eating vines and stampedes of random animals on this level of the game, yet… I do caution. You may find trouble trying to escape the tumbling stream of water slapping against stone formations and fallen boughs. It’s loud. Yes, the roars of the water are loud but nothing you compare to it beats the very sight and sound.
It was destined that I take time to relish in the moment and appreciate the euphony and visual perception of what sat right beyond my “what if.” This time traveling, right when I thought I reached a point in time suitable for deeper surveillance, I was apprehended by a voice. “You have to wait ‘til we get over there, bro,” my friend pointed. “It’s beautiful. That’s where we can just take a minute to chill and look at everything.” Those words from my friend slightly threw me off because I wanted the moment to myself in the first place, but I trusted him. After he said that, I traveled back in my memory to about two hours prior where I recalled him cajoling about scaling rocks. Even though rock scaling seems cool, I had never pictured it making sense for my life. While I was captivated about possibly having an even more ideal spot to take in the beautiful glimpse of the rapids racing downstream, I ordered steps that led me closer to the rocks and water and further from solid ground to keep my feet over. Before I knew it, I was scaling rocks on the sidelines of a fast-paced stream.
Since I was a youth, along with a fear of heights, I was never fond of bodies of water. They creep me out. By bodies of water, I mean oceans, lakes, ponds, pools, etc. If I couldn’t see through the water, to the floor, I was turned off and disturbed by it. I would normally still go swimming in pools that I deemed “trustworthy.” Still though, in my mental processing, those bodies of water were just big cages for the creatures of the water world—big and small. Thus, I always fear being in a mass of water that appears visually murky. I’d become paranoid in the past about what else is enjoying the water with me. So, scaling these rocks meant complete defiance for me and slipping or falling meant dying and losing my metaphorical life, and I guess as a formality (staying consistent with the classic film) I would be ordered to roll again.
The rocks were high off the ground, and I dared myself to try my best not to look down. Grabbing and stepping on rock after rock to maintain balance and composure meant being slapped in the face with leaves from branches, and on one trip, I even coated one entire side of my jeans with H20 after partially slipping into the water while trying to climb these rocks. I didn’t die, however, some of my pride did. I needed to lose my anticipation for what I thought I knew. I anticipated footsteps and currents and angles and things beyond my sight—but I did make it across those rocks.
Losing Your Anticipation With Life
A travel writer well known as the Budget Traveler, or Kash Bhattacharya wrote, “I like to think that in every fearful situation we face, there is a curiosity within us that wants to see what happens if we can see this crazy situation through. It’s not easy. It definitely needs you to dredge every ounce of courage to say yes and not to escape.”
Every day, we have hundreds of choices to grow. Out of those hundreds of choices, we decide to pass up on some chances and take on others. If you make the decision to take on something, you’ll have to choose a path on which way to get where you’re looking to go. The paths we choose should first be measured by the maturity of our sight. We must be cognizant of the possibility of obvious threats and unseen threats, as well as seen and even unseen rewards. Throughout Jumanji, like I admitted before, I continually was forced to think about the “what if” and what it would mean for me to step out on curiosity and find out for myself what possible rewards lived on the other side of my fears. Be rational. Yet, understand there may be times you should distrust such certainty and play the role of the skeptic.
The road less traveled, in hiking, usually meant more trees and bushes, more unseen threats, possibly rewards too. However, sometimes a path hasn’t been made at all yet because it leads to nowhere or perhaps no one was as smart as you and dared to start that travel. I’m not sure, and even though it may appear this way, I don’t bear all the answers. I’m just an advocate of taking TRLT (the road less traveled.)
Once I maneuvered across the rocks after my friends, I was given my reward. Here, my friend found a cliff that sat right along the rapids. Some water even traveled beneath our feet if we let them hang over. At this moment, my thoughts just begin to flutter. My feelings begin to bloom. It was complete bliss. I became so attached to this scene. I remember feeling alive or at least what it does feel like to be alive. Impulses began to rush through the veins of my existence. If you are just here in this world and not living through a moment like such, your mind may not be able to escape into this analgesic-like cubbyhole of humanizing beauty.
As we left the cliff and plummeted deeper into Jumanji, I realized the world was actually silent; someone turned up the volume of nature instead.
No matter how far one walks the trails of Jumanji, escaping the clashes of water among rocks is improbable. At the sections of Jumanji that contained more stillness, though, the water would just nimbly sift its way through trickling along nonchalantly visually appearing like striations of liquid chrome. The curvy lines in the water looked like they’d been traveling along together lightly for a while now.
As we continued to trek (away from the world), the cool, breezy temperature invigorated us with more energy for adventure. Greens, oranges, browns and yellows: I spotted them everywhere. It was a beautiful sight. Notwithstanding the fact, each time I looked down, I became more startled and my degree of worry heightened. Small, 4-inch diameter holes in the ground of the trail were what caught my attention. They very well convinced me to believe one of my worst enemies were amongst us—snakes. Moseying along, I spotted two straw-like, small snakelets shimmy and sliver through the detritus and the non-living things of it. I mean, these land creatures were still the size where they could be considered “cute”, however—a sizeable however—usually when the young one’s are present, the mother or its help aren’t too far away. I made an announcement with these concerns, but no one else seemed to be bothered. We decided to keep going. It was our order of remaining in the game and rolling again, I guess.
After being here a few times, I’ve found my spot. Maybe three or four miles into it, I discovered a fallen tree with a huge trunk secured under a new foundation of living grass and dirt just tower across the quieter part of the stream. It sure sounds a little sketchy at first, but if I brought you here, you’d be regretful to not crawl your way along this tree and experience the reward. Maybe you won’t be, but I found my “tree-seat” and it took every bit of me to dredge those ounces out like the Budget Traveler put it, and crawl up that tree, over the water and slap my fears in the face.
On my third or fourth time here, I spotted much more life. More exotic wildlife, and more people enjoying and hiking Jumanji. This time, after walking along my normal route I even spotted a young woman in the sun occupying herself with work. I thought, “What a genius idea! I never thought it was practical though, until I saw it.” I decided to do the same. I walked down to the spot I knew would be ideal.
As I found my spot, and crawled down for a seat on my tree-seat, I began to observe. I had a pen in my hand but I wasn’t looking down at the paper. I just closed my eyes and let my hand move to write whatever it was I was experiencing. For me, it seemed like if I closed my eyes, I could hear more of the sounds because I was observant now. I was using my ears to look for noise—the noise above my head (cues James Blake.) The sounds were gentle, and they took form of a potential escape. Something inside me was touched, no, seized by nature.
Suddenly, the shattering of a long-nosed rifle echoed from acres over and tampered with the vibe. I repulsed nature’s clasp. The gunshots almost confiscated the calmness. The unnatural, overtaking twang that can sometimes be the epitome of destruction was certainly out of line with nature’s balance. The unobtrusive sounds of nature are sweet and relentless. As the trigger-pullers took a break for lunch, stillness regained its composure and reigned on… everything came back. The blissful peace re-entered; nothing struck me more than thought of putting experiences like this into words. It can be exacting to explain internal and intangible experiences along with feelings and emotions.
After I collect enough from Jumanji, I decide to head back. This place wasn’t as dangerous as that 1995 classic film but on the walk, I came to full awareness of what the textures, sounds, sights, and experiences became for me. It all became increased value for those things I once unappreciated in life. Pico Iyer tells us why we travel and why it’s imperative to get out and travel when he wrote, “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world.” I also realized there are wonders of this world some people will never allow themselves to experience. Whether those are real-life barriers keeping you from it or not, don’t let fear forestall you. There are few things that compare to spending intimate time with nature. It’s equipped with moments full of good energetic vibes that one would relish to relive again and again. In reality, It can seem daunting, unattractive and senseless. But, so can life. What you make out of every experience is what you get from each experience…But you already knew that.