I had no intention of jumping off a cliff that afternoon. None at all. In fact, the idea of jumping off a 20-foot cliff sends creepy crawlies up my spine.

But, as we were cruising around Red Fish Lake in the Sawtooth National Recreation area in Central Idaho, our guide casually mentioned a spot towards the back of the lake that is known for jumpers.  Young and old, these are people who want some good old fun and for those who want to test their adventure levels, and heart pace, by cliff jumping.

Red Fish Lake is a gorgeous glacial lake located in a National Forest area that reminds me of an era gone by with clean, wholesome fun for the whole family. 

The Red Fish Lake Lodge was built in 1929 and has modest cabins around the main entrance to the lake. It is known for excellent bird watching, mountain hiking, biking and all sorts of water activities on the lake. It seems to be populated mostly by families and multigenerational family groups too. It is easy to see why so many people love to spend a few summer nights up here and on the lake.

Right out front of the lodge is where most people congregate, although you are free to move around the lake as you please. We joined a small pontoon tour that took us around the lake and pointed out a few spots to check out later on our own.

As we entered the back portion of the lake, with the lodge now completely out of view, the scenery seemed to change as well. The forest was thick, lush and green. The water was a brilliant blue green that was cold but refreshing. As we boated closer to the jumping rocks, more and more boats were anchored nearby like an audience watching the next brave jumper.

Our guide slowly settled our pontoon boat and asked who in our group was going to make the jump. Watching a few teenagers and kids jump fast one after another, I was hesitant, to say the least. Actually, I wasn’t even wearing my bathing suit. I had shorts and a t-shirt on and wasn’t thinking about getting in the water at all.

But then something happened. One of the other tour attendees jumped up and said, ‘I’m doing it.’ His wife seemed impressed and nervous. “You are?” “Yes, and who’s going with me?” His wife laughed but shrugged off making the plunge.

This is where I’m not sure what exactly happened. Without control over my body and my mouth, I jumped up and shouted, “me too! I’ll go with you!”

Just as shocked as everyone else, I handed my camera off to a friend and timidly jumped into the water off the boat. 

It was freezing. The cool, refreshing water the guide had mentioned earlier was actually bone numbing. Forcing myself to swim, I made my way over to the shoreline so I could climb to the top of the rock and then somehow jump off.

What was I thinking? As I climbed the rocks, one after another, getting higher and higher, and looking out over the water, this 20 foot jump felt like 100. The small knot in my stomach was taking over my entire body, I felt paralyze and I was starting to breathe a little heavy. I was scared.

Several kids ran passed me, throwing their hands up in the air as they flung their bodies over the edge of the rock. I walked to the edge, slowly, and looked down. No, no, no. There was no way I could do this. But looking back towards the rocks I had just climbed up, there was no way I couldn’t do it either.

Just as I was toying with the fact of living up on that rock for the rest of my life, two teenagers walked up and asked if I wanted them to jump with me. I don’t know why I thought that would make the situation better. Maybe if they jumped too we would all be okay.

And as quickly as he asked, he was screaming “I…2… 3…JUMP!”

The next few moments were a blur. I do remember moving my legs and jumping far out from the rocks. I remember looking at the horizon and watching it quickly move. I remember the first second I hit the freezing cold water and I remember the way it felt like my heart stopped for a few seconds while I tried to remember how to swim.

The cold water knocked the wind right out of me. I floated on my back, trying to quickly catch my breath.

Floating there, I watched as many other jumpers took off and jumped in around me. While I seemed like I had been floating there forever, it was only a few seconds later when I heard the guy from our tour boat say he was going to do it again, and did I want to join him. 

Was he crazy? Again? I was lucky I survived the first time.

But again, and just as quickly, I agreed. There was something terrifying about making that jump but it was also one of the most thrilling moments too. It was strange how fun it was to overcome a huge fear like that; to prove to myself that I could do it.

Barely getting any cell service, I had to wait until we reached Stanley before instagramming my jump.  But I already knew the caption, “Red Fish Lake: the lake where I overcame my fear of heights”.