“Risk is essential to childhood – as are scrapes, grazes, falls, and panic,” claims a recent opinion piece in The Guardian.
I read it with interest as the kids and I had just had a risky – it felt death-defying at the time – experience at 1,250-foot Ely’s Peak.
It was our first time exploring it. I had been told that there was a trail to the summit at the entrance of the old DWP train tunnel. When we arrived, we found FOUR trails. Wanting to get to the peak, we took the trail to the left going up. Seemed intuitive.
Turns out we should have taken the trail to the right going down that connects with the Superior Hiking Trail, which leads to the Ely Peak spur trail (no rock climbing equipment required).
But we didn’t know that yet.
The trail we chose brought us to a large crevice going up the rock formation so we took it. It was a deceivingly gradual climb.
Both Daley and Finley seemed to zoom up it, until about ¾ of the way when Daley, who was in the lead, commented, “Mom, this is getting challenging.”
I made the vital mistake of looking back and down.
I realized that we were no longer climbing at an angle up the mountain. We were nearly vertical. And the hand- and footholds were getting further apart.
My heart started to race. If one of us slipped…
But we had to keep ascending, as going backwards at this point would have been more difficult.
I had to boost Finley up by the rump several times and remind her to keep her body close to the wall — being the thoughtful kid she is, she kept trying to reach back to offer me a hand and help me up.
Thankfully, we all made it over the ledge safely.
This video shows the phenomenal 360-degree view from being so high. Finley even remarked at the top as we watched tractor-trailers on a road below, “Everything looks like toys.”
Not Out of the Woods Yet
We had a bit of trouble finding our way back down since the perilous fissure was not an option.
A kind UMD student, who was out with a rock climbing class, helped us find the trail when she saw us in distress — yes, when I saw the climbers in full climbing gear several plateaus down, I yelled, “Hello. Hello. How do we get off of this?!” Kaelyn happened to also be a Hartley intern who we had met before (love Hartley folks).
Perhaps if my kids were older, it would not have been so daring. I was proud of both of them for taking on the challenge. In fact, they didn’t seem phased by the danger like their mom. I do agree that taking risks in childhood is good, but it sure can be nerve-racking for parents!
Our Big Tip: Take the trail that goes down to the right from the tunnel entrance and connect with the rugged, but relatively horizontal, Superior Hiking Trail (follow the blue blazes) to the top of Ely’s Peak. It’s worth the effort! (For specific directions, check out my post, “How to Get to Ely’s Peak and the DWP Train Tunnel“)
Have you hiked to the top of Ely’s Peak? Share your experiences in the comment box below.