Over the past three months I have done some amazing things.
-I completed my 100 miles hiked in the Great Smoky Mountains.
-I have Completed 4 of the 5 trails that take you to Mt. LeConte, the Crown Jewel of my Beloved Mountains
-I have gone on my first solo hike.
-I hiked 102 miles in 2.5 months.
-I have hiked 180 miles total
Not too shabby for a short, chubby, lazy gal. If you had told me this time last year that I would be a crazy hiker chick…I would have laughed at you while I was stuffing Little Debbie Fudge Rounds in my face.
But, here I am… living my Dream of hiking all of The Great Smoky National Park, and getting some good prep for the ultimate hike…the Appalachian Trail.
There have been days that have been difficult, but I have pushed through. Over the past 3 months I have gained knowledge, strength, and confidence. It is the confidence that could have been my demise this past weekend.
Confidence is not bad in itself, but I am prone to let my confidence turn into cockiness, and when that happens, it is time for me to be humbled….WHICH brings me to this past weekend.
I set out early, in the rain, to hike up to Mt. LeConte via the short trail, and come down the longest one. No biggie… I am like a Pro now… right? This should be a cake walk.
The start of the day was ok. We met at the trailhead we would be coming out of, and dropped off my car. Then we hopped in my hiking buddies car and went down the 5-6 miles to the trailhead we would start from.
Once we got started, so did the rain. I didn’t mind… it was awesome to stomp up the trail hearing the rain and smelling the freshness it left. I had not a care in the world until about 2 miles in when suddenly…. it hit me. I left the keys to my car in my friends car which is parked where we started. When we came off we would not be able to get in my car.
We laughed it off and decided we had several options, and we would worry about it once we got to the top. We made it to the lodge just as it started POURING. This was a wonderful excuse just to hang out inside the warm, dry, dining room. Debra was able to contact her husband, who offered to come and meet us to take us back down to the other car. Plans made, belly’s full, spirits lifted, we took off for the 8 miles back down.
Things went great for a while. We enjoyed the beauty and the solitude, and the hike wasn’t all that bad, so we were making fairly good time…. until….. Debra’s knee gave out. She hurt, and couldn’t bend it. This made coming down some of the rock boulders, and ridges very difficult for her, but she kept her smile and kept trucking along.
However, the fog set in, the wind picked up, and the trail became more difficult. There is one final push up the mountain to get to the final 2 miles. This is where I realized…. I was not as awesome as I thought.
I was the first one to the junction that showed we were 2.5 miles from the parking lot. As I sat down on a rock by myself the confidence I had, left, and fear and doubt showed up in it’s place. I wanted to quit…give up. What made me think I could ever attempt such a big hike? Why did I make a dumb mistake? I was not worthy to be in these mountains. They were demanding my respect and I was cowering on a rock.
Once my friends arrived, we made a plan to stick together. It would be dark soon, and I was the unprepared one. I had no headlamp, and while I could have probably gotten down before it got very dark, I was NOT leaving my friends. Thankfully they had extra headlamps, and helped me out.
Off we went…. towards the bottom. The final two and half miles, while down hill, are nothing but rocks, roots, and boulders. It is fairly difficult to navigate when it is dry and daylight, but the wetness, fog, and dark made it seem impossible.
My mood only darkened as the daylight faded away, the wind picked up, and we crawled down the hill. It was when I saw the two wild hogs, I wanted to just sit down and cry. These beasts are crazy and one false move, and we would become their dinner. This was the final straw!
Making it safely past the hogs, we walked so slow, and in silence. This was no longer fun. This was no longer enjoyable. We were cold, wet, hungry, and SCARED. One wrong step and we could tumble down the mountain.
Finally, Renee had had enough and she stopped right in the middle of the trail, in the dark, surrounded by silence and fog, and stated the fact we all knew….
We needed to pray.
And we did… right there… in the middle of nowhere…with the howling wind….shivering legs….and encompassed by our fear.
Debra prayed for strength, for courage, for guidance…and then she added, “God, if you see fit, would You mind stopping the wind until we get off trail?”
As soon as she uttered the words “Amen” the wind stopped. TOTALLY. Our sprits lifted, and suddenly we started flying down the hill. Only God could have done that. Debra with her aching knee was suddenly in the lead, and I found myself struggling to keep up with her….then…. we saw it! The headlights of her car with her husband inside waiting!
I was the last one off the trail, and as soon as my last step was taken onto the concrete side walk, the winds picked back up to hurricane strength. God had kept His promise. The winds had not blown once since Debra asked. Now that we were safely off, they raged again.
As I drove home by myself, I reflected on all that happened. I had started the day so confident in my abilities and felt indestructible. While I LOVE these mountains deeply I did not have respect for them and their vast greatness. I had also failed to let God guide me as well. Once again… it was all about me.
If this had happened a year ago… or even 3 months ago… I would have come home and packed up my boots, and pack…never to get them back out. I would have thought my dream of hiking all of the Smokies, or even the Appalachian Trail was dead. I would have given up. I would have QUIT.
But now I was reminded of a quote I had seen earlier in the week:
“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal.” Henry Ford
I had taken my eyes off the goal, and let the obstacles in my way alter my vision. This was unacceptable.
Instead of the obstacles making me fearful, and preventing me from accomplishing my dream, I am rejoicing in the fact it happened. Problems, obstacles, and fear don’t have to be hindrances, they can be lessons and stepping stones in reaching your goal. You press on!
Fear, doubt, and worry tried to defeat me on Saturday… it almost won. But luckily I know the One that can and HAS defeated every fear…even death. He also can calm the wind when you need. You just have to ask. I should have come off that trail beaten and broken, however….. I came off that mountain…..