I was drunk when I accepted my best friend’s invitation to her 27th birthday party. She sprung the question over a round of gin and tonics. “Will you come to the hot springs with me for my birthday?” The last time I went hiking was more than a year ago. My toenails fell off.
“Of course!” I replied, then cheers’d my roomie before washing down my response with immediate regret. I turned to my boyfriend, who mouthed a very stern, “No.”
The day of the hike, my roommate texted the six of us with a list of things to bring: bathing suit, towel, water, headlamp, wine—did I mention we would be scrambling in the dark?
I assumed any trek involving booze would be perfect for a rookie. I shrugged off the anxiety that had been building over the last four days, ate some pizza (bad idea) and packed my bag. By 7 p.m., we were on the road, headed toward the Gold Strike Hot Springs in Boulder City. All was good.
It started out easy—just a trek through gravel in near-complete darkness. Then a 5-foot ledge appeared, innocent in retrospect, but terrifying at the time. As my friends jumped without giving it a second thought, I began to sweat. For the next five minutes, I sat with my butt as close to the edge as possible, legs dangling, while my companions patiently coaxed me to go for it. Eventually, I did—my bewildering lack of courage met with applause and laughter.
This trail does have intense moments, especially in the dark. One Yelp reviewer commented, “I was completely unaware that there were ropes that I had to climb down and grooves that I had to shimmy through. It was definitely a workout,” and everytrail.com calls the trail “A strenuous hike.”
There are eight fixed rope sections (if you hike the full 6.5 miles; we didn’t), a few of which are relatively steep and slippery. We got to the first pool, the size of a Jacuzzi, after an hour and a half. Our group cracked open a few bottles of wine as I sat, staring wide-eyed at the 10-foot cliff I would have to climb back up on the way out. I remained sober.
On our return trip, I made it up the cliff with little hesitation. Never mind that my legs felt like Jell-O, I was an American Gladiator and the trail was my obstacle course! When I finally heard cars zipping above us—music to my ears—I rejoiced. Among all the ropes and rocks, jumping 5 feet was my biggest challenge.
We were alive, my best friend was a year older, and I had gained some sage wisdom: Primarily, do your research beforehand and always forego the pizza. As to whether or not I would do it all again—ask me over a gin and tonic.