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.