The day after, as I sip my coffee surrounded in nature and starting at IT, rather IT is staring down at me, I feel proud with maybe a tinge of defeat.
Since I arrived in Carbondale, Colorado two weeks ago, Mount Sopris (IT) has occupied my thoughts. The massive local centerpiece that takes over the entire sky and is front and center no matter where you are in town. It’s stunningly beautiful and also gloriously terrifying. Terrifying because I had my mind set since the day of arrival that I was going to hike that mountain. I’ve hiked before, I like hiking, I enjoy the activity of hiking – this was something new though. I have never taken on a level rated by AllTrails as very difficult, that you can hike in a day but for new-ish hikers would be better suited to do in two days. My first initial thoughts, “Can I hike that? I can!? I am all in and I want to do it in one day!”
This wasn’t something I had planned to do when trekking to Colorado. I wasn’t even aware of Mount Sopris before arriving to visit my brother in Carbondale. I am someone that plans. I geek out over schedules, itineraries, and routines. The past 4 months have taught me a lot including, plans will change, duh COVID, expect the unexpected (COVID) and keep moving forward with one foot in front of the other (LIFE). In the beginning of the year, if you would have told me, I would be living and enjoy living in rural Iowa for a few months, I would have scoffed at the idea. Earlier this year, I had no plans to live in Iowa, no plans to road trip to Colorado and I did not plan to hike an almost 13,000 foot mountain in a day. These events happened with very quick decision making and planning as an afterthought/along for the ride.
So back to this mountain, lesson for the week, it isn’t about the destination it’s about the journey. The days leading up to the hike, our housemates, 7 in total, talked in circles about our expectations, who is in, who is out, as we gazed at the mountain that was a focal point from the back of our Airbnb. Throughout the week, we hiked smaller mountains, ran trails, we stayed active, and we worked on our adjustment to the elevation. Breathing heavy with every step I take as I try to keep up with my brother and sister-in-law, who can run up mountains like it’s a walk in the park. Just about every day Mt. Sopris would be brought up, mostly by me, as I contemplated my athleticism in the mountains. My brother and sister-in-law reassured me over and over that I would be fine, “You are thinking about it way too much.”
The night before as we were dressing up our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for our adventure, conversations again began to circle. What I realized by being around the constant conversation of other novice hikers that typically live at sea level, is that it was adding unnecessary anxiety and doubt. I was letting other people’s emotions occupy my original confidence of “I am hiking that mountain because I can, and I am strong enough.”
The morning of the hike we were down to 3 of the 7 housemates plus our guides (my bro and sister-in-law). We got to the trailhead later than we planned, we were slower than we hoped, my mental took over when my body was strong, we were running against time to prevent being stuck on top of a mountain during a storm, and hello altitude! We finished our journey in 8 hours by hiking 13.5 miles, climbing an elevation gain of 4,272 feet and our destination, well our destination ended up being 400 feet shy of the top of the mountain.
The steepness of the mountain was tremendous as it slowed our gains. The strain of carefully placing our footing as we hiked on a mountain ridge covered in scree (hiking term for a mass of small loose stones that cover a slope on a mountain) was challenging. The body and mental buzz of the extreme elevation as we stared ahead to avoid the discomfort of the steep mountainside on either side of the “path.” At times we scrambled up and down the mountain ridge on both hands and feet to claw our way up. We slowed down substantially as we got closer and closer to the top. We made it mid-way to the false peak (climbing to a high elevation that you think could be the tip-top but it’s not). My brother was concerned about our pace and by nearby thunder. I thought I would have been much more distraught about not making it to the top, but I welcomed his authoritative words of “I am calling it, we are turning back now.”
Am I bummed I didn’t make it to the top, yes! Do I feel proud of what I accomplish, yes! Are my legs beyond sore, yes! Was it worth it, hell yes!
Your challenge this week: Embrace the journey and try something that scares you.
Life is a journey of ups and downs. You learn and grow from the downs and are grateful for the ups.
An exercise I’d like to challenge you to take on is to choose something this week that is out of your comfort zone. Have a difficult conversation. Reach out for help. Sign up for a challenge. Find that one thing that you have been thinking about and just try. You might not actually make it to the arbitrary destination you put on yourself, but you will learn, grow and be a better person for it.
Life is too short not to try something that scares you. It is not going to go as planned, accept that, and move one foot in front of the other.