when i was hiking earlier this week i realized that one of the things i've missed most, that went by the wayside when i became a busy mama, was backpacking. and that one of the greatest gifts my father ever bestowed upon me was never letting being a single father with three girls stop him from doing what he loved, and backpacking was what he loved. so from a tiny girl to a teen to a young adult i always backpacked. first with my father and then with friends. i've gone with the boybarians, but not nearly enough. not by a long shot.
and as cliche is it sounds as i type it here, much of what i learned about life i learned from backpacking.
1. eat when you're hungry.
2. rest when you're tired.
3. take care of your gear so it can take care of you.
4. keep moving forward, no matter the pace. one step in front of the other will always get you there.
5. don't forget to stop and take a look around. to appreciate your surroundings. it's not all about making the daily miles.
6. get up in the morning and do it all over again.
when i was on the very hardest part right near the very end of the trail i was on the other day i came upon a woman from florida. now, i've never been to florida, but when i think of florida mountains don't generally pop into my head.
this woman was older, but in no way elderly, and she had her college age grandson with her. she seemed in okay shape, BUT not the kind of shape this trail demanded. ask me how i know.
so her predicament was that she and her grandson had driven to the top of the mountain to see the view. they were coming down to see what other views there were to see. i'm guessing that's the florida kicking in as one generally does not come down a mountain to see a view. AND there was no thought to getting back up. he in flip flops, she carrying the hugest pair of binoculars i've seen in a long time. neither had water. and it was a 1/4 mile back up to the top. the steepest 1/4 mile of the trail.
she was trying to catch her breath on a log. i had hiked behind her long enough to know she wasn't going to do very well getting back up. wasn't doing well getting back up. when i reached her on the log, i offered her one of my water bottles and some chocolate. i chatted her up to help ease her worry, you could tell she didn't know how she'd make it back up and she seemed nervous. after a time i asked her if she wanted me to hike with her, but she said no, her grandson was there and that would be fine. so i kept making my way up.
it's funny, because before i came upon her i was feeling like my lungs might burst and the thought of being devoured by a hungry cougar was starting to look good. you know, because at least if you're being devoured by a cougar you aren't still making that sadistic climb. but after meeting her and giving her some assistance i realized i was doing all right. i could do this. there was nothing keeping me from the top, and for that, i was lucky. my ability made my pain no less painful, but it was temporary, and was being replaced by the knowledge that i was a lucky lucky girl to be so physically abled. so i was now humming sweatily and slowly along with a new found respect for the strength my legs had, for my ability to keep my own body going.
it was right then that a woman, who was clearly older than i am, and clearly in way better physical condition that i am, came RUNNING up behind me, passed me, and left me in the dust.
and right there, folks, is life in a nutshell. it's hard, then it's not, remember to help each other along the way. some people get to go forward, some people are further behind. and right when you're feeling smug and self assured and the most able there will be someone to come up behind, to pass you, and to leave you behind.
the trick is to just keep moving forward.
and keeping a stash of chocolate never hurts.