I’ve spent some time over the last year exploring mountains…and testing my body and my endurance. I’ve walked for miles, enjoyed wildflowers, listened to birds, noticed clouds, smelled pine trees and the musky aroma of sage. I experienced California’s drought, seeing hundreds of dead trees and dangerously low water levels and reveled in the beauty that nature has to offer.
As I walked through downtown Chicago over the weekend, I found myself thinking about how the skyscrapers are like urban mountains standing tall and proud, shading one side while the sun shines on the other, reflecting the sky and creating canyons and valleys between them.
I’ve logged lots of miles in the last few days and I love the way that walking brings me up close with the city. Old sits next to new, the homeless rubbing shoulders with the wealthy, sweet smells of Garrett’s carmel popcorn on one block, sour smells of trash and filth on the next.
And I was seduced into joining the throngs of other tourists (from all over the world) to experience the view of Chicago from 103 stories above. What was formerly Sears Tower is now known as Willis Tower, the tallest building in the US (and there are some who insist in the world). 110 stories tall with radio towers making it taller, this building is a feat of engineering that was built in the 1970’s. And in spite of having been in Chicago a number of times before this, I had never gone up…or even walked by this building before!
I was determined to not only brave the long lines and go up…but while up there I decided to battle my intense fear of heights and walk out on the plexiglass sky bridge, looking straight down at the ground so far below my feet!
Yeah, it was scary…hand sweating, vertigo-inducing, catch your breath scary. I’ve been up high before…the Space Needle in Seattle, the Empire State Building in NYC, but the sky deck took away the comfort of window ledges and railings, leaving me with clear plexiglass as safety from falling. But I went out there not once, but three times. Each easier than the one before, although I can still feel my hands dampen as I write this.
I was even able to snap a few playful selfies with my husband, who enjoyed every minute of this sky high experience.
Once down, we circled the building to find those plexiglass outcroppings from the outside. The height is even more impressive looking up–the sky deck is barely visible from the ground! (Look closely–maybe even click on the photo to bring up a larger version to see them!)
You don’t have to be in the wilderness to enjoy the outdoors. There is lots to see and experience right outside the door. And I fell in love with the interactive art in the park spaces in downtown Chicago. The bean in Millennium Park encouraged people to come close, stand back, group up…and of course, take plenty of photos, while also reflecting the beauty of the urban mountains.
And on a hot summer day it was fun to watch people interacting with these tall brick fountain structures that also include projections of faces, facing each other.
I’m glad we spent time exploring the urban mountains of Chicago, walking miles and seeing the city up close. It might not be a National Park, but it was fun exploring the great urban outdoors!