Taking That First Step… Vertically

Catch Kevin in the premiere of Northbound and Around: Friday, April 28th at 8:00 pm on Mountain Lake Journal or watch it online!


Much of our early lives are recorded meticulously in “Baby Books” by eager parents who want to commemorate our “first step,” our “first word,” or for some even their first solo trip to the potty.  As the second born child, my baby book was quite a bit thinner than my older brother’s.  To be fair that makes sense, since frankly for my parents it was no longer a “first.”  For the record, I was a whirlwind on two feet early on, a babysitting uncle taught me the word “cookie” (not “Mommy”) to my mother’s chagrin and I’ve been going potty solo for several years now.

At some point along the way we start losing track or taking notice of our firsts.  I suppose we feel we have marked off all the big things “to do” on the list of life’s accomplishments. It tends to be only the big ticket items that we remember later in life. Riding a bike solo, jumping from the high diving board, driving a car, first kiss, first day at work… all get a place of honor in our memories but other firsts probably end up forgotten: first time eating peanut butter, first time stung by a bee or first time we took an aspirin.  Though all “firsts” they are somewhat forgettable moments… well, unless you are allergic to any of the above.

I still use an inflatable tube in the pool. It is just good safety.

When I think about it, most of our memorable “firsts” are somewhat frightening things. Usually, in retrospect we can’t remember what the fuss was about. But, that first step, first bike ride, first kiss… are as much markers of our growth in courage as they are mile markers in our life’s journey. They are the static points in which we can mark our growth as people.  But growth.. is not always a comfortable or an anxiety-free experience.  At some point in our lives many of us, myself included, start returning to the things we’ve tried and stop seeking out the new, because it is just easier.  So how did I find myself clinging for dear life to a rope at The Crux – Champlain Valley Climbing Center in Willsboro, NY?

I’m very grateful that my work as a reporter for the last decade has given me a chance to try a lot of new “firsts.”  I’m thrilled to announce I have a whole slate of them in store ahead.  As the host of a brand new series of local adventures in the North Country on Mountain Lake PBS called “Northbound and Around,” I will be tackling a slew of new experiences for me. The list makes me both excited… and a little anxious!

I’m not good with heights.  Even watching an action hero cling to the side of a building in a film, while I sit safely on my sofa, makes my stomach do backflips. I am no action hero.  So I entered The Crux with a very real, very serious expectation that I would either fall to my death or go to the potty in front of an audience for the first time since childhood.

What struck me immediately was the sight of children, of an age when I was still struggling with training wheels, climbing the walls of the indoor climbing center with the grace and speed of comic book super heroes.  And yes, like so many firsts… it was peer pressure from children (and a TV camera) that motivated me up that wall.  I was frightened.  But let me underscore that… I WAS frightened.  That did not last long.

The staff at The Crux, the other climbers and even the kids were so unbelievably encouraging and understanding, that halfway up the wall I stopped mentally rewriting my last will and testament and realized I was having fun.  Tremendous fun!  It was a first I only wish I had done much, much earlier in life.

The age range at The Crux was wide; the stories of how they came to climbing equally varied, but one thing universal to us all was a smile.

This kid was a far braver child than I ever was.

Exhilarating, extraordinary and exhausting… it was perhaps as proud a “first” as I can remember since I stood on two feet and took my first wobbly step.  Though it was my first attempt at rock climbing, I can guarantee it won’t be my last.  I highly recommend giving this wonderful experience a try if you never have before.  As my attempt proved, you don’t need to be terribly strong or in great shape, you don’t have to be terribly brave or mentally fierce… you just need to be willing to take that first step, albeit a vertical one.

The Crux – Champlain Valley Climbing Center is located 56 Rogers Rd Willsboro, New York. Give them a call at (518) 963-4646 or visit them online at http://climbthecrux.com. Find out more and plan your adventure!

So that was my most recent first.  To see what is in store ahead, follow along with my adventures in the North Country on “Northbound and Around.”

What did you do for the first time recently?  A new food, a new destination, a new activity?  Share your story in the comments!

– Kevin
Kevin Cooney is a writer, reporter, and digital-dude. Recently re-patriated to beautiful Northern NY.