Today, after a night out dancing in DC (I don’t know why the person who never drinks thought it was a good idea to mix three different types of liquor), on another date, I visited Great Falls Park for the first time. This rocky water wonderland is a mere 16 miles outside the city. That is one thing I love about here – you can feel like you’re out in the country yet still live in an urban environment.
But in visiting the Maryland side of the park (and as my date would point out the better, less crowded side), I successfully climbed the Billy Goat Trail (and yes, I use climb for some very specific reasons). I had heard stories of the Billy Goat Trail and how I should definitely give it a try. What no better time than in my hungover state?
For some reason, I imagined this trail was like any other paved pathway, a little debris and uprooted branches but nothing strenuous and then at one point the trail would become a short ledge one would have to maneuver around before getting to the top. Yeah that was what I imagined. Clearly I did not think about the words “Billy Goat” in the name.
Being Like A Billy Goat
I don’t have the greatest balance in the world but fortunately I was not alone. I had my new running water bottle strapped to my hand. And my date. We jumped over rocks (these were huge rocks that literally made up a cliff along the canal’s edge), and I almost twisted my ankle a couple of times.
But then we reached a wall, and I watched in horror as people attempted to climb down this wall of rock. Yep I had been warned by a sign at the start of the trail speaking of its difficulty and the fact that people had died (yeah, I think it actually said that). Fortunately, we were attempting to climb up not down, but my palms were clammy.
“You’ll be fine,” my date reassured me. And so we began the ascent. I just kept focusing on the next step in front of me, and the climb did not seem as strenuous as I anticipated.
“How are you doing?” my date asked me.
“I’m good, just not looking up.”
“Wait, aren’t you supposed to look up, not down?” he laughed.
But I never looked down. And there were a couple of spots where I took his hand, and he helped me up. Even though I’m usually stubborn and like to prove I can do anything myself, over time, I have come to accept certain limitations.
When we reached the top, I shook the dirt from my hands and thought that wasn’t so bad. After jumping down from another large rock, I realized my insulin pump had come out of its clip. I took a minute to fasten it back in place.
“Anyone ever mistake that for a pager?” my date asked.
“All the time, actually. To think 10 years ago I would have been cool.” I smiled.
T1D In Perspective
Just a week ago I was volunteering at a walk near the Washington Monument to raise money for research and a cure for Type 1 diabetes. The JDRF One Walk was mostly geared towards younger kids and their families (most people with Type 1 are diagnosed at a young age).
Whenever I attend any of these events, I feel comforted by all the insulin pumps I see but this event in particular made me sad. Because these weren’t just adults attached to a cannula system feeding them insulin to live — these were kids.
And maybe they would never know any different, but when I saw a young boy reach for the chewy granola bar at the post-walk snack table, I nodded my head and let him take it. I don’t know if he had diabetes, and his parents were right there with him, but I wondered then did he know his own restrictions at seven or eight? Or did he just know that eating certain things was wrong, even as he watched his friends and classmates indulge in those things?
I don’t know what it’s like to grow up with Type 1 diabetes. I only know what it’s like to live in its shadow. But after successfully completing the Billy Goat Trail at Great Falls today, I stared down at the aqueduct from the overlook and felt thankful that with this disease I still could.
“Do you think 200 years ago the Great Falls was ‘great?’” my date asked, leaning over the metal railing next to me.
I stared at the calm stream below me and watched as it dipped over the edge and became rapid.
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