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Just Make the Next Best Move

Updated: Feb 21

Several years ago, my family of 5 (myself, wife, and three daughters) did an epic road trip out West.  We began our adventure by flying into Wyoming and headed back home from New Mexico.  During our trip we traveled through 9 different states and saw some of the most spectacular sites America has to offer.  We experienced the magnificent sites of Yellowstone to Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse.  We drove through the Canyonlands and hiked Arches National Park.  We white water rafting and heard the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  We picnicked in Monument Valley and along the edge of the Grand Canyon.  We saw towering mountains and descended deep into the Earth at Carlsbad Caverns. 


During these adventures, we also climbed Devil’s Tower. 


Devil’s Tower is a monstrous and monolithic column of rock jutting out of the Earth in Wyoming.  This mysterious rock tower is 867 feet tall from the base to the summit.   A few fun facts about Devil’s Tower:

·         Devil’s Tower was the first official US National Monument.

·         It is considered to be a sacred site by the area's indigenous natives.

·         Exactly how Devil’s Tower was formed is still somewhat of a mystery!   There are many different theories on how this unique geological wonder came to be, but no one theory can be agreed upon by experts.  (More information here),magma%20through%20other%20rock%20layers).


Perhaps some of you may recognize Devil’s Tower from the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  This 1977 movie directed by Stephen Spielberg featured Devil’s Tower as the location where Earthlings made contact with alien life forms (sorry … spoiler alert).


My family booked a Devil’s Tower climbing expedition with Devil’s Tower Lodge (, an awesome bed & breakfast and climbing company located near the base of Devil’s Tower.  


We began our climbing adventure by being outfitted with harnesses, helmets, and climbing shoes by a team of the company's experienced climbers.  We then made our way to the base of the colossal tower of stone that appeared to somehow be holding up the sky as we had hundreds of yards of coiled climbing rope, water, and other climbing gear.


I remember feeling both excited and a little scared to attempt to climb this iconic and unique anomaly of nature.  My wife and three daughters were feeling the same way, but this didn’t stop us because we know if you are not slightly uncomfortable, you probably aren’t getting out of your comfort zone…and if you aren’t getting out of your comfort zone, you probably aren’t growing.


We did “top rope climbing”.  This is climbing while wearing a harness connected to a rope that runs through a fixed anchor above you and then back down to the ground where one of the climbing guides is holding the rope and taking in the slack as you progress up the tower.  This way, even if you fall while climbing you will likely only fall a few feet until the rope becomes taunt preventing you from falling further.


Our guides were full of experience and were able to yell up to us suggestions to coach us through tricky areas where progressing higher was challenging.  Sometimes just holding on to a crack in the stone wall in a different way or shifting your foothold could suddenly make a difficult area more manageable.


We began our day with some easier climbs and progressively got higher and more challenging.  We didn’t summit Devil’s Tower, but we climbed high.  Really high.  While climbing, you could take periodic breaks to catch your breath and take in the amazing views.  We all climbed high above the treetops which offered a view that spanned miles and miles over the expansive prairies of the beautiful Wyoming countryside.  Far below you could see the climbing guides at the base of the tower as well as the roads and cars far away in the distance.  I remember the breeze blowing and seeing birds flying below our location as we ascended higher and higher.


As the day progressed, we welcomed more technical and difficult climbing routes.  One of the routes we did required traversing over a section of the rock wall that protruded out from the vertical wall. This was definitely a tricky part of the climbing route.


From the ground far below, I watched as my youngest daughter, Kamiko, climbed her way up to this route.  At times she would move faster and at times very slow and deliberately as she experimented with different hand-foot holds on the cracks and rocks that presented themselves as opportunities to lift herself higher and higher.  One hand hold and one foot hold after another she slowly scaled the steep stone wall. 


As she reached the challenging overhang area in the wall I could see her struggle to find the right grips.  Several times she lost her hold as her hands and feet gave out.  She never fell far as the rope attached to the harness around her waist was always pulled tight from our guide, Gabe, far below her on the ground.  Gabe yelled up some suggestions on where to place her hands and how to move her feet in an attempt to successfully help her traverse this challenging part of the climb.


Over and over, I watched my daughter try his suggestions only to slip from the wall.


“Okay, I’m done. I can’t do it.  I’m going to come down.” She yelled from high above.


Our guide, Gabe yelled back, “You can come down if you want, but first why don’t you just sit back in your harness and take a break?  I got you.  Then you can try again.”


Reluctantly, Kamiko hollered back, “Okay…”  


After a few minutes, Gabe asked if she was ready to give it another try.   Again, she started to try to make her way over this obstacle that was between her and her goal of reaching the top of the route.  Again, she slipped repeatedly.


“I’m done now.  I’m coming down.” Kamiko yelled down with a hint of fatigue, disappointment and fear in her voice. 


Gabe shouted back up, “How about just take another break first?  Just relax in the harness.” 


After a few more minutes, Kamiko yelled down, “I don’t want to do this anymore. This part is too difficult and I can’t do it.  I want to come down.”  The disappointment of reluctantly accepting defeat was evident in her tone.


“Kamiko…”, Gabe yelled up to her.  “Will you try something first?"


Gabe continued, “You don’t need to focus on getting to the very top or even making it over that overhang.  All you need to do is focus on the next best move.  Just look at what is right in front of you and just make the next best move.  Start with your right hand.  Where is the next best place it can go?”


Kamiko reached her arm above her head and after feeling the contours of the rock wall found a study handhold. 


“Great, now what will be the next best move for your feet?”


Once she found a good foothold, she was able to lift her body one foot higher and closer to her goal.


With one small “best move” after another, Kamiko made it over the obstacle in her path and ultimately achieved her goal by ascending to the top of a very challenging climbing route.


I was… and continue to be... very proud of Kamiko.   


We all learned a valuable and beautiful lesson that day…


Sometimes we may not know how to overcome an obstacle…

Sometimes we may not know we will reach our goals…

Sometimes we may not know how to overcome our fears…

Sometimes we may not know how it will all work out…


But we can always make the next best move.


The next best move always moves us forward. 


Sometimes it’s okay not to know how everything will unfold or how our choices will influence what we do next.


But we can always make the next best move.


And the next best move always moves us forward. 



PS* My youngest daughter who appears in these images as a little girl, is now driving and visiting prospective universities.   It has been said, “The days go slow, but the years go fast.”  It is so true.  My youngest… my baby… will be leaving soon for her next adventure… As it should be.   And while my heart breaks, I also welcome a new era. I don’t know what life looks or feels like without my children being present in my home every day.  This is a new adventure for me as well.  And I suppose through this process, the best I can do….


 Is to make the next best move. 



Article by Quinn Akira Takei, Doctor of Oriental Medicine(NM), Licensed Acupuncturist, Chinese Herbalist, Functional Medicine Practitioner, and Holistic Health & Wellness Coach.
The Center: Natural Health Specialists, 8404 Six Forks Road, Suite 201, Raleigh, NC 27615. (919) 848-0200.

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