Evans Off Camber: Life As Risk

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By Evans Brasfield

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I found myself at the top of the longest staircase I’d ever seen. My family and I were on a six-mile hike along the Great Wall of China, and we’d just traversed miles of the unrestored wall, clambering over stones that had fallen out of place and pushing through the trees that had grown in the centuries since the Wall’s construction. I’d expected the going to get easier once we reached the area that had been restored just 45 years ago, but this length of stairs pulled me up short. We’d encountered similarly steep sections of steps in 20-30 foot chunks along the wall but nothing like this. In the time of the wall’s construction, the terrain it traversed dictated its shape since the high explosives and heavy machinery we take for granted in modern construction weren’t available to lessen the mountain’s angles to suit those of humans on the wall.

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As I stood at the top of a staircase that I’d estimate to be an eighth of a mile or more of impossibly steep, unevenly spaced stairs, I found myself almost consumed with fear. Although I am essentially a cautious man by nature (motorcycle shenanigans aside), I wasn’t afraid for myself. It was for my 10-year-old daughter. Was she capable of maintaining the mental focus necessary to descend these steps without incident? With no handholds or ropes on the staircase to interrupt a fall, a missed step could prove fatal. So, I took a moment to impress upon her the importance of paying attention to every step and began to lead her down, telling myself that if anything happened, I’d throw myself on top of her to stop her from tumbling all the way to …read more

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