I had the rare opportunity to go to the top of the Yukon’s Best Mill on Tuesday.
Was it a great experience? Yes. Was it frightening? Yes. Am I glad I did it? Yes. Would I do it again? No.
I am naturally afraid of heights, so standing on top of a 10-story building with no railings on the sides pushed my fears to the limit.
Yukon Chamber of Commerce Director Pam Shelton asked me about six months ago if I would like to go up on the Mill sometime.
Being the managing editor of the Yukon Review, I had to say yes. We had made plans to go up three or four times throughout the summer, but we always ran into issues with the weather that prohibited us from making the climb.
After the last trip was cancelled, I thought to myself, “This isn’t going to happen.” Knowing my fear of heights, I honestly was just fine with that.
Then out of the blue, Shelton called me around 2 p.m. Tuesday and asked if I wanted to go up on the Mill at 3:30. She was taking several workers to the top to fix the lights on the Yukon’s Best sign and thought she would take advantage of the opportunity.
I didn’t bring any extra clothes to the office that day because I had no idea I was going to get that call. I didn’t have a hard hat with me, but I knew this would be my only chance. I quickly responded with an “absolutely.”
I met Shelton and the workers at the bottom of the Mill around 3:30 and we went inside. The Mill was running, so the noise was deafening inside. We all put masks over our mouths and noses, so we wouldn’t breathe in as much dust.
We began the climb.
I was third in line and suddenly figured out why I had been advised to wear a hard hat. The dust that had accumulated on the old, winding staircase was being kicked down on top of my head and was getting in my hair.
I could feel the dust getting in my eyes and the masks we were wearing were doing their best to keep it out of our lungs, but I could still feel some getting in.
After 138 steps of a shaky, squeaky, dark and windy staircase, we made it to the top — the top of the inside of the Mill that is. The next step was getting outside.
We had to climb a 10-foot ladder at an angle and crawl through a hole I could barely fit through. As soon as I squeezed through, I leaped out onto the roof and felt like I was on top of the world.
We could see for miles in all directions. We could see the Devon Tower in Oklahoma City and see the water tower in Mustang. Looking down Route 66 was quite awesome, seeing all the cars coming into Yukon from Oklahoma City and the ones leaving town.
It was a beautiful sunny day outside, so trees were bright green showing off the natural beauty Yukon provides.
The repair crew immediately went to work on the lights, while I walked around in awe of what I was seeing. My fear of heights kicked into high gear the closer I would get to an edge.
Our news editor, Terry Groover took photos of us from the ground. We all waved and smiled knowing this would be an experience we would never forget.
Then it was time to go back down.
Getting through the hole to get back on the ladder was a challenge, but we all accomplished it without any bumps along the way.
The walk down the 138 steps was much easier than the walk up, but with every step, the staircase swayed, squeaked and added another element of fear on the trip.
Finally, after what seemed like an hour of a walk down, we made it to the bottom. We took our facemasks off and looked at each other with expressions that we had just conquered death.
We walked outside, all covered in filth and coughing from the dust, excited to get to go and tell this story to our friends and co-workers.
I got in my car and had a big smile on my face. I didn’t mind that I was covered in dust and knew my allergies were about to start flaring up. I knew I had just done something not many people can say they have done.
Going to the top of the Yukon Mill was more than just a fun trip, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.