Teamwork leads to success on and off the trail

Stacey, Bleack Bear (Me) Darnel

     Last week Stacey and I narrowed our weekly hike to yesterday. It was the only day that worked for both of us. She suggested a hike in the Baxter area. I was excited to explore some new trail. Stacey is an experienced hiker with a vast knowledge of trails.

     When finishing my shift I overheard Darnel mention to another coworker, she would love to be able to hike Mt. Katahdin but her fear of heights held her back. She went on to explain the severity of her syndrome with a tail about an experience she had hiking in Acadia where she was left behind clinging to a tree crying for two hours while her hubby hiked on not realizing her struggles. It wasn’t until a another hiker approached her and helped her along. I empathized with Darnel and reassured her I truly understood where she was coming from and only two years ago I also experienced a similar feeling while attempting to traverse knife Edge on Katahdin. Instead of clinging to a tree I had a panic attack within the first 50 yards leaving the summit towards knife Edge. I yelled at the dozen or so teenage hikers following me to stand back and move out of my way I was coming through!!! If they had not have back up, I just may have run them over.

     I have had a fear of heights all my life and another such episode in Germany climbing to the top of the tallest free-standing steeple in the world. Tourist climb and climb up this famous Cathedral and it gradually narrows as you approach the top, then you are packed into an enclosed 18 inch narrow, one way, cat-walk around the steeple which is about 8 feet around. Not only do I not like to be in high places I don’t like enclosures. That was a double-wammy. Try having a panic attack in a place like that and no one speaks English. Actions always speak louder then words and I just shoved them all to the viewing side of the narrow path as I literally squeezed and pressed myself behind them until I got to the stairs to descend.

     You maybe asking yourself “Why do I keep putting my self in such situations if I know they scare me?” The answer is simple, I like the view. Sometimes I can handle it, most times I can’t. There came a time when I decided enough was enough and I was tired of letting that fear keep me from experiencing those jaw dropping panoramas. I told Darnel about my personal transformation and would love to help her.

     The next day or so I texted Stacey to see if she wanted to help Darnel reach the summit. And she was game. I extended the invite to Darnel and she was excited to accept the offer. The three of us work well together at the Bangor L. L. Bean Outlet store. Yesterday we proved to work well together out on the trail also. 

     Here we are posing with the model of the mountain as the ranger made us laugh when he said, “Here is their last known location.” 

     We enjoyed a leisurely hike to Chimney Pond and after a snack continued on our way up Saddle. The incline was steep. Here we are taking a break while the stunted trees still provided visual security helping Darnel feel safe. It was foggy and while most hikers don’t consider that enjoyable it is quite beneficial for the hiker who does not like heights. Darnel could not see just how high we were.

     Stacey and I kept Darnel sandwiched between us. As she put it, Stacey and I were her guardian angels. We let her set the pace. As we scrambled above treeline Darnel became more clingy to the rocks keeping her profile as low as possible and had as many points of contact as she could manage. I reassured her, just two years ago I was in her position as I tackled the same trail with my guardian angels helping me. Darnel was doing great. With not much further I encouraged her it wouldn’t be long. A few steps later Stacey so lovingly said “Darnel look up!”  There was the sign and the scary part was over. Later in the day Stacey had said the look on Darnel’s face when she saw the sign was priceless. 

     We were not at the summit but it sure did feel like a great accomplishment! We had worked together as a team to help our friend accomplish something she never thought she could do. It was such a great feeling. If for some reason we had to end the hike there and skip the summit I think we still would have felt like it was a success. But that wasn’t the case and we hiked on to the infamous Baxter Peak and to “The Sign”

Black Bear



     Darnel was overcome with joy as were Stacey and myself. We were so proud of Darnel. Teamwork leads to success. We get the job done at work and we proved the same as a team out on the trail. There is something to be said about “where two or more are gathered”.

     As we hung out at the peak, the clouds drifted away exposing a rare 360 degree panorama. The sun kept us warm as we enjoyed over an hour taking photos, eating, resting and chatting. We could have stayed longer but is was getting late and we still had to get off the mountain.

     Soon after we started our descent Stacey was concerned about an acute pain in her knee. She told us later she secretly feared she was going to need to be rescued. A descent is no time for knee pain. Teamwork back in action. I removed one of my knee braces for her I use as a precautionary device on the downhills and dosed her some Aleive as well. Darnel spared one of her poles to assist in the downward steps. It wasn’t long and Stacey began to feel relief. And we were off. 

     Darnel’s fears were not over. We still had to go down the rock slide area. Stacey and I again made a Darnel Sandwich with me in the lead this time. Before we knew it we were back in the security of the trees. 

     For those who have hiked up and down Saddle trail to Baxter peak you know it’s the never-ending trail. It’s like the Eveready Bunny and just keeps going and going and going. At one break point when I had to rest my weary feet. I had a flashback of my painful A. T. hiking days, Darnel had a heart felt moment with us expressing her gratitude in what we did for her. To Stacey and I it was just fun to do, but it meant the world to Darnel. It really is amazing what teamwork can do. Whether it’s at work or out on the trail, when differences and pettiness are forgotten and a group of people are working together for the greater good, individual efforts are combined and  great things can happen.

11 miles round trip and a whopping 12 hours and 20 minutes later we signed out at the ranger’s station at Roaring Brook. It was a few hours longer then we had anticipated but it was a fantastic day. 

Happy Hiking

Emily M. Leonard

About Emily M. Leonard

I am a 50 year old Maine native and lover of the outdoors. Former Physical Education teacher and soccer coach. I am Married to the best husband ever and gave up teaching and coaching to raise our two wonderful sons. I have always enjoyed being outside and on the go.