Rope Bridge Moments

Today’s an interior design post. And by interior design, I’m referring to the kind on the right side of the picture below…

It’s about the day I decided to see Rock City and how I forced myself to move a mental mountain thanks to a wobbly walkway that I was positive I’d never be able to cross.


It was called the Swing-A-Long Bridge and I had no idea you had to cross the thing to get out of the park. It stopped me dead in my tracks, and I truly believed, with every fiber of my being, that I would not be able to cross it.

No way.

No how.

Not. Gonna. Happen.

I mean, I really, really believed it just wasn’t something that I could do.

For some reason, I don’t do well with a number of things, but extra loud places, extra quiet places, extra dark places, and extra high places are a few of my biggest fears.


And believe me when I say, the Swing-A-Long Bridge feels even more treacherous than it looks in that last photo. It had an Indiana-Jones-and-the-Temple-Of-Doom vibe and visions of a falling Harrison Ford & Co. began to run rampant in my mind.

Walking all the way back through the park wasn’t really an option though. At one point you have to go through something called “Fat Man’s Squeeze”, and as you can see in the photo below, it’s really a one-way traffic kind of a thing:


So, much to my dismay, I had to get across that bridge if I wanted to go home. (insert paralysis here)

It was about that same time, a group of young kids came running up full speed behind me. I noticed their parents walking in the distance behind them, and it was pretty apparent the kids could not WAIT to bounce their way across that scary, swingy thing.


And when I say “bounce their way”, I mean: all three kids grabbed ahold of those rope rails, and seriously shook that sucker up and down the entire way across it.

It was horrifying and comforting all at the same time. Horrifying for obvious reasons, and comforting because once they made it safely across, (whew!) I did feel a wee flicker of youcandothis. 

It was in that moment that I decided to just do it. I had to quit thinking about it, and just do it.

I looked behind me to make sure there weren’t any more speedy little bridge bouncers coming up from behind, and once I was certain the coast was clear, I grabbed ahold of those rope rails and started walking. The walkway bobbed up and down with each careful step, and I heard noises that had my heart racing like crazy. I kept my eyes firmly fixed on the finish line the whole way.

Needless to say, I made it to the other side, and I was instantly filled to the brim with happiness and adrenaline! I felt so alive, (no pun intended) and ever since then, I’ve referred to those types of accomplishments as “rope bridge moments”.

I’ll admit, I’m still too chicken to put myself in those kinds of positions more than a few couple times a year, but forcing myself through something that initially feels scary-impossible, and experiencing a rope bridge moment after the fact, does help me to remember that I don’t have to be fearless. I just need to try to not let my fears paralyze me from taking action. And even though they are few and far between- rope bridge moments sure do have a way of adding up, don’t they?

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  1. says

    It’s all about conquering those fears right? For some it’s heights (you and my husband), and for some it’s needles (that one MIGHT be me). But sometimes you just HAVE to do it … I think this was the BEST way for you to conquer it because you had NO other choice. That’s how I feel when I go to the Doctor and they need blood. I HATE it. I faint sometimes, I sweat excessively and grossly, but I have no choice … and you know what? We’re both still alive! And we’ve bother conquered, even if really slowly and one step at a time. ; )

  2. says

    Congrats to you! That is a HUGE accomplishment. Myself – I would have been paralyzed at that Fat Man deal. No way could I have squeezed through that as super claustaphobic

  3. says

    I AM impressed! I avoided that bridge in favor of the rock one. Is that one not available any more? (I was there in 2001.) I have a photo of my best friend on the evil, swinging bridge, and she took one of me on the more stable one. I bow down to your courage in tackling it!

  4. says

    Love your heart. I too am scared of heights and also claustaphobic so as I was reading I was thinking, “well, I’ll never visit Rock City.” =P I literally have a recurring dream about being in a cave and not being able to get through a tight spot so that Fat Man’s Squeeze would probably be worse for me. Congrats to you though! Love your quote! That will be burning Pinterest up soon. ;)

  5. says

    Generally, those things don’t bother me but many situations like that paralyze my husband. I will say however, that while going through Fat Man’s Squeeze would be possible, it wouldn’t be enjoyable! Have you seen the glass “deck” that goes out over the Grand Canyon? Would you go out on that? I have been to the GC and camped at the very bottom, but I’m hoping to get back to view it through that glass floor.. My husband will not even go to to the GC. He is too afraid of looking over the edge into the canyon and if you won’t do that, then what is the point of going?! Glad you made it across in one piece…and didn’t you just want to smack those no-fear kids? LOL.

  6. Trish says

    You are impressive…… just reading your post and seeing the pictures made my stomach roll. This year I tried to overcome my fear and try ziplining. BIG mistake. HUGE. (to quote an old movie) I freaked on the 2nd zipline (not the 1st one when I could’ve walked back….) and one of the pros had to take me down the next 7 lines. Arghhh…… Note to self: do NOT go to Rock City!

  7. says

    The older I get, the more scared I am of things like this. Last summer my extended family went to an amusement park. I talked myself into going on the craziest roller coaster with the young cousins. I thought I would die I was so scared, but I am so happy I did it. But never again :)

  8. says

    I needed this today. I’ve been putting my daily runs off since being attacked by the ‘Jersey Devil’.
    Time for me to cross that ‘rope bridge’!
    Your Friend,

  9. says

    I’m 65 years old and I remember walking across that bridge as a 4 year old and watching my mom’s purse slide down her shoulder as she walked in front of me holding on for dear life!

  10. says

    Love this Layla! Your writing is so thoughtful and clever and among the best out there! Great story! Thanks for the inspiration this afternoon! :-)) LA

  11. says

    Good for you girl! This is one of those “no way I could that” things…the only way I would have made it across that was to crawl. I have a MONUMENTAL fear of heights…just LOOKING at that bridge scares me. I guess I would still have to be in Rock City. Now are you up to doing a zip line??

  12. says

    Layla – what a great accomplishment! My daughter has terrible acrophobia – can barely climb a ladder, so I have observed this kind of panicky reaction to high flying stress many times.

    (by the way, this is bound to get pinned, so you’ll want to correct your spelling of ‘exhilarating’. XO)

    • Layla says

      Hi Kathy,
      I can relate to the fear of ladders also. Eek! (And thank you for the heads up on the spelling error!) ;-)

  13. Anne says

    Your experience reminds me of when I karate chopped a block of wood (after 2 attempts) and walked (ok, scurried) through hot coals. Amazing feeling of accomplishment!! Congrats & thanks for posting.

  14. Jerri says

    Hmmmm…..I swear that I remember some alternate routes to the bridge and crevices because I was pregnant and wasn’t allowed to do those stunts. Good job, though. Next time you’ll know.

  15. says

    Maybe I should read this post again right before I try swimming this summer. Maybe it’ll inspire me to take off the life vest and stop white knuckling it!

  16. Sylvia says

    Congrats! The bridge would be no problem for me but the Fat Man Squeeze? I had to scroll past that picture real fast like. I had to remind myself to breathe.

  17. says

    Forget the bridge, I think I could do that, but that crevice (Fat Man Squeeze), I’d panic. Really. I would. I’ve never considered myself claustrophobic, but just looking at that sets my heart racing. lol

    //quote//and seriously shook that sucker up and down the entire way across it//unquote//

    Never mind that they should not have been allowed to that, but there you go. lol

  18. Debbie Hale says

    Wow not sure I could have done that. I remember doing one when I was in Girl Scouts, it wasn’t nearly that long though. But that crawling thru the Fat Man thing would really get me!

  19. says

    What an inspiring post! I went to Rock City a few summer’s ago when I was living in Tennessee, and the bridge was definitely the most memorable! I remember panically telling my husband not to make it bounce!!

  20. Midj says

    Layla, I *am* you… 23 years ago, on our honeymoon in Europe, we visited the Duomo in Florence. I made it up the narrow (claustrophobic) stairwell to the observation platform on the dome… Four years ago, however, at Grandfather Mountain, NC I could not do the suspension bridge from one peak to the other. If it had of been the only way out, yeah, then maybe…

  21. TamiK says

    I couldn’t do either the bridge or the fat man’s squeeze but I wish I had your courage to try but nope not going too not never, sorry I just can’t thanks for sharing ……

  22. says

    So impressed! Rock City is the how I developed my fear of heights. We were there when I was very young (55 now) and my dad and little brother couldn’t wait to go on that swinging bridge . My mom and I decided to take the other option, a stone bridge that ran parallel a few yards over. I would be surprised if it is still there, don’t think it would pass safety standards. It was bout 2 ft.wide with a pretty little edge about 18″ high and that was it, no hand rail or enclosed sides. We made it across but I believe it scarred me for life :D Congrats on making it across.

  23. says

    I LOVE Rock City! I grew up in Tennessee and we went there for field trips and on family vacations. Those pictures bring back such fond memories. :)

    And congrats on your rope bridge moment. There truly is nothing like the adrenaline rush and euphoria that comes from conquering your fears. :)

    Thanks again for the trip down memory lane. And as always, I ♥ your blog.

  24. says

    Layla ~
    First – I needed to hear {read} this one tonight. So thanks.

    Although I am not afraid of heights, I stopped dead in my tracks and my heart started pounding ferociously when I saw your picture of the fat man squeeze. Can you tell I am deathly afraid of enclosed spaces, esp those with no escape {ie elevators}. lol. I guess everyone has their own little fears. Great job on powering through! :)

  25. Ter'e Crow Lindsay says

    Bless your heart. Methinks you’d never make it thru “The Tower of Terror” at DisneyWorld. I tried that ONE TIME! I all but climbed onto the lap of the woman to my right, who I did not know. Yeh, honey — you’d not like this either!!!!!

    Ah Layla………………we know you can do anything! Congrats for capturing your fears!

  26. says

    NOPE, Could NOT do it!!! I had trouble crossing the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado, especially when they let cars drive across it and it shook the whole time. My legs were noodles the whole time, and almost threw up!
    Good for you!!!!! ~ Kim

    • Marianne in Mo. says

      We went there this past summer, paid the big bucks, and all I did was sit around the gift shop! Saw that Gorge and said NO FREAKIN WAY! My family went over in the gondola and walked back across the gorge while I couldn’t even get to the edge of the viewing platform! I was so mad at myself, but it didn’t propel me to do it!

  27. Melinda says

    Funny. (funny strange, not funny haha) You were one of my rope-bridge moments at PW’s book signing. I wanted to introduce myself and speak to you, but I was also a little awe struck! I battled with myself back and forth and at the last moment I made myself jump out of line to speak with you. You know what, it was so worth it. You were friendly, warm, and made me feel special. Thanks Layla for just being you!

  28. Erin in VA says

    Rock City…I’ve crossed that bridge – I was close to 10 or 11. I don’t think it scared me then, but it probably would now. Way to go!!

  29. says

    I’m so scared of heights too and I’ve been trying to conquer that lately. It’s so crazy, it really does something inside you when you tackle something like that. Thanks for the encouragement! Love reading about your journey :)

  30. Daisy says

    Thanks so much for the inspiration, the interior kind! I too have alot of fears and it is so nice to see my feelings put into words, especially the rope bridge moment feelings! It always helps to know you are not alone in what is going on between our ears.

    We CAN do this!

  31. Karen says

    YEAHHH for you!!! We call those moments sphincter moments. tee hee So what gives, you get all the way across and no Kevin to capture this event on film??!! WHAT? Maybe you should go back and do it again. :o)

  32. Terri says

    YOU BECAME “THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD”!!!!! “I think I can.. I think I can…..LOL… Congratulations…. cause I will admit right here and now… I would probably STILL BE CAMPING OUT!!!!!

  33. Patricia says

    Layla, I’m so proud of you. My heart was beating so fast as I was reading – like it was happening to me. You did it!! Where is Rock City? I’m on the east coast. I visited Santa Fe years ago with my daughter & we went to Bandolier Nat’l Monument. Tried to climb to the Ceremonial Cave way, way up the top of the park – 3 ladders & narrow trails to walk. Made it up 1 ladder. My daughter had to stop people traffic so I could climb down. I was literally frozen in place. I still regret that the fear won. So good for you, strut your stuff – you did it once & don’t have o do it again (if you don’t want to). Love your blog & style!!

  34. Carol says

    The “fat man squeeze” ! Just looking at it made my heart jump and run. AWAY. Bridge, no problem. Narrow tight space, NOPE. But then again, if I HAD to, I would do it. Good for you, Layla!

  35. tracyo says

    Oh Layla! I am right there with you! You are much stronger than I am…I too have the paralysis thing going on about heights. I also feel like my legs will turn to jello and I will get dizzy and fall, not to mention, wet my pants! And then if I tried to go over a rope bridge, I think I would have a heart attack and die. I’ve got it bad! I am SO proud of you!

  36. Deborah says

    Way to go. Just grab your fears by the horns and ride away with them!! Ha Ha. Never let fear get you down. Fear is a lack of faith, did you know that?

  37. Jcrn says

    I love love love this post! I do believe some of us are just born with a tendency to fear or dislike certain things. I ave never been able to endure roller coasters in spite of several attempts, all terrifying, of forcing myself to get used to them .

    But what you describe is different. Kudos to your bravery! Iit was the Fat Man’s Squeeze that made my heart race. I am not overweight but what about the average American who may be overweight but still able to make it through the park? That looks like a thin and claustrophobic passage to me. What if the person couldn’t get through?

    I’ll be looking for your post on skydiving next. Just kidding. A other thing I won’t do unless forced.

  38. Lori Seifert says

    The swing bridge actually looks fun to me, however, there is NO way you could get me to go through Fat Man’s Squeeze, really, no way! So I am very proud of you for facing your fear!!! Did fat man’s squeeze not bother you? Yikes!

  39. Allyson says

    Well, Layla, I can tell you that if I got to that Fat Man Squeeze, that’s the point where I would turn right around and head back through the park cause I’m severely claustophobic! I went to Egypt when I was in high school and had a chance to go in one of the pyramids, but when they told me I’d have to get on my hands and knees and crawl into the pyramid with people in front of and behind me, I said “No thanks, I’ll stay on the bus”. Still don’t regret it.

  40. Kathy says

    First, you’re brave and you own that victory!
    I also want to share an important secret.
    It is impossible to be grateful and fearful at the same time. They are mental opposites. You are a person of faith so this will be easy for you to remember. Try it sometime. 100% guaranteed to help you be brave and get through more rope-bridge moments. :) GB

  41. Melissa says

    I was on that very bridge when a large group of boy scouts came running – I mean, running – onto it and proceeded to jump up and down! I was absolutely terrified, but as you said, there is a sense of accomplishment when your feet step onto solid ground!

  42. says

    This is so great. I have similar fears that I have to work to conquer. In fact, I actually could feel that panicked feeling as I was thinking of you crossing that bridge! I love how you turned it into your “rope bridge moment” though, to you remind yourself that you can overcome! Thanks for sharing your inspiration!

  43. says

    I just love you, Layla. You are so REAL! Must be that Minnesota stuff showing through. I am with a lot of the other posters……Fat Man Squeeze would have done me in. WAY TO GO!! We are all proud of you!

  44. Terry says

    Way to go, Layla! Im right there with you. A few years ago we visited Masada in israel. ( check it out on the Internet). I thought I’d endured the worst with the tram ride up to the top, until I stepped of the tram on to a narrow walking bridge built out from the side of the mountain. You could look straight down on either side and the only thing separating me from certain death were a couple of steel cables. There was no where to go but straight ahead. While my husband struck out for the adventure of his life forgetting all about his terrified-of-heights wife, I took about 10 steps and gradually crumbled to my knees in utter paralysis! I’ve never been so afraid in my life!! A wonderful couple , who I was blocking, asked if I was alright. After seeing my tear-streaked face they realized the answer was no, and they graciously walked on either side of me(picture 1 lane bridge)

  45. Hailey Johnston says

    I’ve been terrified of that thing for as far back as I can remember! I was not like those kids in your post conquering the bridge with no fear. It terrified me as a child and still does! LOVE that you were in Chattanooga! Hope you enjoyed your visit and got to experience more of the amazing things we have to offer! Great Post!

  46. Joan says

    Love Rock City! But, like you, dont love the bridge or squeezing thru those passes. Have you ever been to Ruby Falls? Now THATS scary!

  47. Wendy says

    I LOVE it!!! Great post. We need more of those “rope bridge moments” in our life to feel really “alive”!

  48. says

    I’m with you–I would rather not use them. Having to these kinds of things without showing any fear when the kids were small gave me lots of experience and confidence.

  49. Nancy says

    Good for you. I can SO relate. I’m not sure I would have made it through the tiny part in the beginning though since I’m almost as claustrophobic as I am acrophobic. I’m impressed.

  50. Rae says

    Your post brought back memories and made me smile. I am now 54 years old and when I was about 10 or 12 our family went to Rock City. When we got to “the bridge” my mom refused to go across. After a lot of begging and pleading from us kids and my dad threatening to leave her there (LOL) she finally started. She was scared to death, my dad being the prankster decided he would make the bridge “bounce”. Mom got soooooo upset she “sat down” in the middle of the bridge and refused to move. I remember a lot of crying, screaming, pleading, threatening, and heavens knows what else before mom got up and went across. We have never let her forget that day and neither did dad, she is still capable of getting mad everytime we menion it. She fails to see the humor in it. :) Memories of family vacations!

  51. says

    That’s wonderful that you were able to overcome your fears! That is not an easy feat by any means. Sounds like you made some wonderful memories on Lookout Mountain.

    For the others wondering about Rock City, or worrying about that bridge, there is an alternate stone bridge that isn’t as scary at all. Fat Man’s Squeeze comes after the bridges and there are alternative paths all around so you could avoid it too if you wanted. Don’t though because it’s not as scary as it seems. It’s mostly about the size of your shoulders.

  52. says

    I still have nightmares about Fat Man Squeeze and it has been 14 years since I went through it. My husband and I took our 1 year old twins not realizing you could not bring strollers through. We carried those girls through the entire thing and had to push them through the squeeze. I was not a happy girl that day. What were we thinking??

  53. Barbara Simmons says

    I once had a similar experience in my younger days crossing the Shenandoah River. I thought I was going die! never want to do that again.

  54. says

    Aaron and Stephanine,My heart is hurting for your loss, but in time I know are heart will heal with God’s love. He never put more on us than we can hadlne,but why is hard to understand,but some day we will. Aleena is such a beauiful girl and is she will forever be in our hearts and minds. My love and prayers are with you and I’m here when you both want to talk or see me.Love ya,Aunt Margaret

  55. Jennifer K says

    Over the past month or so, I”ve been reading your blog from the first entry forward. This post spoke to me so loudly that I had to say thank you.

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