There’s a scene in the third Indiana Jones film, The Last Crusade, when Indy is asked to step off a cliff and take a literal “leap of faith.” I always thought that was kind of crazy. Okay sure, his dad is dying and there’s no time to lose. (You don’t say no to Sean Connery!) But really, stepping into an abyss because your father scratched out a rough picture in a journal? I sure wouldn’t do it, not without at least throwing a rock or something! (Spoiler alert: Indy doesn’t die. In fact, he survives to make two more crappy movies, but that’s another story.)
My point is, it takes a lot of nerve to plunge yourself over the edge of a cliff. I’ve never gone sky diving. I’ve never bungeed. As I mentioned before (Wow Place #87), I didn’t even figure out how to dive into a pool until I was 18 years old. But there is one place where I am willing to hurl myself into an abyss – the Marin Headlands, just north of San Francisco.
Here’s the scoop. You drive up a narrow, two-lane road hugging the cliffs of the Marin Headlands, an undeveloped area in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. As you rise up the hillside, you’re afforded spectacular views of San Francisco through the Golden Gate Bridge – a majestic sight. By the time you reach the top of the Headlands, the Bridge is far below you, with the entire Bay spread out at your feet. It’s one of my favorite views in the whole world, and not all that well known by tourists. If all you see on your trip up the Headlands is this one eye-popping view, you’ve had a supremely successful visit. But wait, this is where the Leap of Faith comes in. From the parking lot there at the summit, the road continues up and over the peak, plunging down a steep, one-lane, cliff-hugging, roller coaster of a path, all the way to the Point Bonita Lighthouse. I’ve driven this road by car a million times, but I believe it’s best experienced on bicycle, when you crest the hill and feel like you’re going to lift off and fly across the moon, a la Elliott in ET, the Extra-Terrestrial. Every time I take friends here (like I did this past Saturday), I always hear a collective gasp in the car. “Have you checked your brakes?!!” It’s a Wow place, and a Whoa place, and afterwards, a Whew place, all in one!
(When was your last Leap of Faith? Was it a physical action, or something more internal? What Leap of Faith is looming in your future? Just remember, before its first flight, a chick takes a small jump, a leap of faith, believing that its wings will work. And they always do. Take the leap!)