“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” Edmund Hillary
These prolific words were spoken by Edmund Hillary, the first person to ever summit Mt. Everest on May 29, 1953. Until recently, they were just words. However, over the past few months they have become my life’s motto.
The past couple of years have been filled with great change and valuable lessons. I walked away from the only real job I had ever known, made some unwise decisions, got back on track, and turned 40.
Turning 40 was a real eye opener to me. I looked back over the past 40 years, and saw a blessed, but very unfulfilled life. There was no “Crowning” achievement. No big “YEE HAW! I DID IT” moment.
Commitment has never been a strong trait in my life. I am HORRIBLE at following through. I start and stop a dozen projects frequently, and I have a closet that is full of half finished projects that look sad and lonely each time I see them. I start off strong, but I get easily distracted when another exciting project comes along.
Relationships are the same way. I love people, but I totally love my independence and doing my own thing. While having a mate would be nice, I love the freedom of not being tied down. I have shied away from settling down…just yet. 🙂
Pathetic. I know.
Not long after my 40th birthday I decided I needed to change. I needed to accomplish something. Something bigger then me. Something that when I am old and feeble, I can look back and say…WOW! I actually did THAT!
Hiking has always been a fun activity for me. It is free entertainment and the feeling of conquering a trail is unfathomable. I have been blessed to live mere minutes from hiking trails, and having friends who enjoy the same thing. It has been a nice hobby…..
Until recently…. Now it has become my obsession.
I have always longed to hike the Appalachian Trail, but I also have dreamed of logging lots of miles in the Smokies. These mountains are special and rich in history. The park service has a special program where you achieve pins after so many miles.
You start with 100, then 250, and so on…. Many have achieved the ultimate dream….
While that is a lofty and honorable goal, I set my eyes on the smaller one to begin.
The 100 mile pin.
I purchased my log book at the Ranger’s station for $1 and that was that. There was no stopping me now. I had hiked a bunch of miles already, so I eagerly entered them into the log book.
Woo Hoo! I was on my way! Within a month, I had hiked enough that I only lacked a little over 8 miles to my beloved 1st pin. My drive and determination were unstoppable. By the end of the year, I was going to hold the pin in my chubby little hand.
I planned my final hike carefully for this past Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. It was by far the longest hike I had done yet, and the most difficult. The trail was 8 miles round trip, but the side trail I wanted to take on the way back down, would give me just what I needed to get my pin.
A little before 7:30, just as the sun was rising, I began my trek up the mountain to Charlie’s Bunion.
The trail was rough. It was rocky. It was relentless. And at times, it was dangerous as we had to climb over rocks, and roots that were, at times, ice covered.
But it was also gloriously BEAUTUIFUL!
As I summited Charlie’s Bunion, enjoying it’s rich view, I dreamed of the ceremony and pageantry that would come with receiving my pin.
As we started our decent, and on to the next destination, The Jump Off, my enthusiasm was soaring. The Jump Off was supposed to have even more spectacular views and be just as awesome as Charlie’s Bunion. It required just a little off trail hiking..
Within 2 minutes of being on the trail to the Jump Off, I was no longer saying “No Problem.” Now I was screaming….
This trail was a BEAST! At the start it was straight up over rocks and roots. Each step was strategic. Place your foot in the wrong place and you would be rolling back down the mountain. It was a constant up and down roller coaster over rocks, roots, and large drop offs.
Each hiker we met, kept promising, “You’re almost there!” “Not much farther!” “You’ve passed the hardest part!”
LIES! ALL LIES!
The Jump Off wasn’t “just up the hill” It was about a million miles away.
At one point I stopped.
“I can’t go on”
“I’m too tired!”
“Why did I EVER think I could do this?”
But suddenly the trail softened and these words rang in my mind…
“So, let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9
I pressed on and was totally blessed with the most AMAZING view of the mountains. For miles and miles all you could see was peak after peak. I would have totally missed this had I stopped.
The hike back, though down hill, was way more difficult. People were passing me left and right. I thought I was keeping a pretty good pace, but compared to other hikers it was almost if I wasn’t moving at all.
Once again, I became frustrated and overwhelmed.
“I will never keep that kind of pace.”
“They must think I’m a slug.”
“What made me think I could do this kind of hike.”
By the time I reached bottom, any confidence I had going up, was left on top of the Bunion. After almost 10 miles, I felt defeated and dumb.
All I wanted was to get my pin, a steak, and get home. My mood only continued to darken when we got stuck in traffic coming off the mountain, and what should have been a 10-15 minute drive down to the Ranger Station, ended up being almost 2 hours. Of course the station was closed by the time I got to the bottom.
AWESOME! Now I can’t even get my pin! Could I feel any lower?
That really was a dumb question to ask myself.
The next day my best friend was looking at my log book. He was interested in my hikes and wanted to see all I had done.
After glancing at the log, he looked at me with such sadness, that I thought he was going to cry. Then he made the most horrific announcement that I was NOT prepared for.
My math was wrong.
Not only did I not have my 100 miles, I wasn’t close enough to achieve it this year, unless, I take off and hike the next three weeks of the year.
I added the total up and burst into tears.
How could I have messed up SIMPLE addition?!?!?!? (we came to the conclusion that I at some point hit the x button instead of the + button.)
Crushed is the only word adequate to describe how I felt in that moment. I had set a goal, and failed. Miserably.
Now my best bud is not one to leak out positive thoughts. I love him to pieces, but I would liken him to Eeyore. He always sees the glass as half empty.
But on this day, he strangely became Mr. Inspiration.
He looked at me as I was crying and throwing my two year old temper tantrum, and said,
“So what? You don’t have 100 miles in. Big deal! You still have more then you started with. Don’t quit because of a bump in the road. Get around the bump and continue on.”
He was right. I was in danger of once again quitting something I loved because I felt defeated. I love hiking. Just because I had a few rough patches out on the trail doesn’t mean I hang up the boots.
It is not about conquering the physical mountain, which is not a shabby feat, but more about conquering the mountains of our lives.
Doing the one thing that seems impossible.
Pressing on when all you want to do is quit.
Climbing when your feet are tired, and blistered.
Still trucking, even when everyone else is passing you by.
So I have faced a small set back. A little hiccup if you will.
I am writing these words not so much to share, but for you, my audience, to hold me accountable.
Don’t let me quit.
“Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.” Micah 7:8
There are bigger mountains I want to conquer. MUCH larger, more difficult Mountains. Not just physically but emotionally as well. I may not be the fastest, most fit, most decked out hiker on the trail, but I promise you won’t find one with more fire in their eyes.
I can’t quit. I WON’T quit. If I quit, I not only let myself down, I say to God it is not possible, and He tells me clearly that ANYTHING is possible as long as He walks with me.
EVEN conquering Mountains.