Deep within the mountains of Yunnan Province, the mighty Yangtze river cuts its way through the snow capped peaks creating one of the deepest and longest river canyons in the world. Somewhere along these cliffs, the distance across the Yangtze River was narrow enough that a tiger was said to be able to jump across and escape a hunter’s wrath. Such is the legend of the Tiger Leaping Gorge.
Contrary to its name, there are no real tigers to be found in this gorge. Perhaps there was a time when they really did roam these lands but on one afternoon in 2008, I was the only tiger on the gorge.
I had just graduated from college and this hike was my last big adventure before I needed to find a job and become a real working adult. As I walked up and down the precariously narrow trail, I couldn’t help but feel like time was running after me. Like the hunted tiger, I was desperate for my freedom. I wasn’t ready for the chains and shackles of adult life. I did not want to think about a career, or money or anything about the future for that matter. At that moment, all I cared about was walking. I walked until the trail got steeper and narrower. I walked until the only land left to walk on was just a few inches away from the edge of the cliff. The only thing I could afford to think about was walking because one wrong step was a matter of life and death. Each step felt like a gamble and one mistake meant that I was going to fall 7000 feet down into the river rapids. I continued walking until I saw that the trail had opened up to become a large grassy meadow and instantly, I was overcome with a feeling that I was safe. I looked behind me and I saw how far I had walked. That was when I realized that my adventure was already over. The tiger had already jumped over the gorge.