Archive for the ‘Thoughts from the Trail’ Category

Life is like climbing a mountain

Friday, September 9th, 2011

I often hike solo, because it gives me the freedom to go as fast or as slow as I want, and it gives me the flexibility to change my destination on the fly. Don’t get me wrong, I also like hiking with people because I love discussing things as we’re walking up the trail – especially what I learned from my solo hikes.
🙂
During those hours when I’m the only human around, I often reflect on different aspects of life in general and of my life in particular. Those are the hours when I am “recharging my batteries”. Seriously, it feels just like that. (new tagline: “Stressed? Go climb a REAL mountain”). Anyway, last week I hiked up to Enniss Peak, the peak west of Lone Peak. As I stood in the parking lot at the Orson Smith trailhead, I saw the mountain, and thought to myself, “How am I ever going to get up there”. But as I started walking up the trail, the way presented itself. That’s when I started thinking how climbing a mountain can be (and often is) used as a metaphor for life. The fact that I actually climbed the mountain that day drove some of the following points home for me.

So here’s my metaphor – Life is like climbing a mountain. People look up at where they need, or want, to go and think to themselves “how am I ever going to get up there?” Some people come to the conclusion it simply can’t be done, and they give up without even trying. I think to myself, “I don’t know yet if I can make it to the top, but I KNOW I can make it to that next turn in the trail, or over that next obstacle”. Goals aren’t meant to be easy, but if you take them in small segments, they’re not that bad. I reached one part of the trail, looked up and saw nothing but steep jagged rock walls. I asked myself, how am I going to get through that. As anyone who has hiked with me knows, I’m Ok with heights until there’s a big dropoff on one or both sides. But, I kept walking up that path and pretty soon I was above the jagged rock walls – another life lesson: someone has climbed that mountain before you. They’ve found the easiest route through the obstacles, and have created a path for you to follow. All you have to do is stay on the path, and it will take you to your goal – it’s as simple as that. Some people think, “I don’t like all these switchbacks“ (which are meant to make travel easier, in addition to preventing erosion), “I’m just going to leave the path and make my own route.” Maybe they like the challenge, or think they know a better way, but ask anyone who has bushwacked for 3 hours to go half a mile. Most would rather have a trail to follow, especially after the 3 hour detour. Shortcuts might seem easier, but in reality, you usually end up working harder and are more exhausted than if you would have just stayed on the trail.

Most of our mountain peaks have trail going all around them, but very few have a beaten path all the way to the top. The conditions are so harsh near the top that most peaks are void of plant life or even dirt. Trails are marked by cairns – stacks of rocks. As you get closer to your goal, it might get harder. You have to climb over rocks. The air is thinner, so you have to breathe harder to get enough oxygen to your already tired muscles. This is when it gets exciting. You’re almost there. Think about all the hard work you’ve put into this journey to get this close. If you just keep putting effort into it, there’s euphoria waiting for you up there – a HUGE sense of accomplishment. You prove to yourself that if you can do this, you can do anything. The reward is well worth the effort, despite the doubts you may have had at the trailhead, or part way up when you didn’t think you could go on. Well done – no one can take this away from you, and you’ll always have it to reflect back on when life down there presents you with challenges.

See you on the trail.

Sharing a Passion

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

I went hiking with some friends earlier last year.  As we walked up the trail, it seemed I was continually spouting off a plethora of information:
“What are the clouds and wind telling us?” “That tree is a pseudotsuga menziesii – talk about an identity crisis!  It’s not a fir or a hemlock!” “How do you know if you’re getting enough water?” “Trekking poles can be useful at times.” “I only buy hiking boots with Vibram soles”
 
I went on and on, observing the environment and talking about hiking techniques.  At no point did I get any indication they tired of my ramblings (unless that’s the reason they started walking faster).  They told me “You should share your passion on the web; other people might find this stuff useful too.”  The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea – I work in I.T., so I know my way around computers; I’ve hiked Wasatch and other trails my whole life, so I know how to walk in the woods – why not share it!  So here it is.
 
My goal is to share knowledge and experience in 2 areas; day hiking basics and hiking Wasatch trails.  I’ll focus my comments not only to solo hikers and groups of friends, but also to families.  I have a wonderful wife (who lets me hike a reasonable number of days each year) and 3 growing boys.  They don’t like to hike the distances and elevations I do, so I’ve found a number of trails that are ideal for families of all ages and fitness levels.  I hope these pages help you gain the knowledge and appreciation so your passion for the activity grows.
 
I welcome your comments, knowledge and experience.  My opinions are formed from my experience, in which case, I might have come to the wrong conclusion on a subject – if so, let me know.  Or better yet, agree with me wholeheartedly.  🙂
 
Oh, one more thing, why Day hiking, as opposed to overnight hiking; well, because you can reach most places in the Wasatch without the need to camp out, and I like sleeping in my bed at night.
 
Happy trails, Eric
eric@wasatchhiker.com

Hiking Is Not Exercise

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

Hiking is not really exercise.  Exercise is what you do to get fit, and it usually involves dreaded hours of staring at a wall while doing something on a hamster wheel.  Getting fit as a result of hiking is just an unnoticed side benefit, and can be more effective than exercising on purpose.

 

 Yesterday while climbing a hill, I noticed I push myself to keep going until I can’t go anymore.  Then I stop and rest just long enough to catch my breath before taking off for another stretch.  There’s no way you would see me doing that on a treadmill. 

 

When you’re hiking, there’s no need to reach down inside yourself and latch onto a goal to motivate yourself to continue.  Each step is a reward in itself.  You look up the trail, and you just want to get there.  Then you reach your destination, all tuckered out and happy – proud that you got to where you wanted to go.  You pushed yourself as hard as you physically could and you made it! . . .  now you get to turn around and take yourself back to your truck – which is by now several miles away and thousands of feet below you. 

 

Exercise?  What does that have to do with hiking?

A Father’s Proud Moment

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

 In 2009, I hiked approximately 135 miles, climbed 50,000+ feet and reached 6 peaks over the course of 17 trips.  Of all that, this was my proudest moment:

 

 

Me with my 2 sons – Alex and Sam – near the Mount Timpanogos summit.  They worked hard, and reached their goal.  It was a great day.

 

Here are more pictures of the hike: http://picasaweb.google.com/ericbean/Timp2009ScoutHike

 Eric