Forward Is Forward

I am not going to lie… I can sometimes get real cocky and sure of myself. I am in NO way conceited, but from time to time, I get a little too over confident with myself and I need to be humbled. Honestly…just look at this face… doesn’t she look a little cocky?

This weekend I experienced one of those times where I desperately needed to be brought back down to size, and these mountains I live in were all too happy to do the job.  I hiked  on the Appalachian Trail starting at Clingmans Dome and headed down to Miry Ridge and then back up to Clingmans Dome.  Clingmans Dome is the 3rd highest peak east of the Mississippi River. It stands at 6,643 feet in elevation. Hiking to Miry Ridge you get to about 5000 feet in elevation, so you can only imagine what the return trip is like.

FREAKING HARD…You climb up the whole way back.

The weather was unseasonably cool, and the winds fierce. The day was dreary, damp, and well…..just ugly. However, I had done part of this hike before and killed it, and  I have hiked 300 miles in the past 5.5 months..I’m like a pro now right?  How much more difficult could it be to go just a wee bit further??????

Such a dumb question.

As I began the return trip back up to Clingmans Dome, it did not take long for this cocky, over zealous redhead to realize she was going to have her pride handed to her.

Leaving 5000 feet and immediately beginning to climb back up to a little over 6,600 feet….well it ain’t a cake walk. In fact, it sucks.

About 2 miles from the top I was spent. Body exhausted, legs weak, and spirit crashing, I just wanted to sit down and have myself a good cry. This was hard….and I didn’t want to do it anymore. Who did I think I was to tackle such a climb? I’m weak, have short chubby legs, and am not the most fit person out on the trials. I have seen people walk 31 miles in the time it take me to do 15.  Clearly this was not for me. If I couldn’t handle this measly little 16 mile trek how could I ever possibly consider my dream of  hiking 2,190 miles from Georgia to Maine?

As I was stopping to have myself a pity party I looked up at the tree I was resting on.

The infamous White Blaze (the white mark painted on trees along the trail to let hikers know they are going in right direction) was staring right down on me. The feeling I got looking up at the Blaze I can only describe as intense. At that moment, the spirit of those who had passed this tree before me spoke to me.  It was almost Ghost like….

“Girl, get up and get moving. This is NOT hard. You don’t know hard.”

The voices were as clear as day. I knew immediately that they came from those who had passed this tree on their own personal journeys.

Emma “Grandma Gatewood, who hiked the entire Appalachian Trail 3 times… beginning at age 65

 

Bill Irwin, who despite being blind, hiked the entire AT in 1990 along with his seeing eye dog Orient.

 

Jennifer Pharr Davis, who was the first woman to hike the AT in 46 days.

 

And Stacey Kozel, who due to Lupus, must use special braces to make her legs work, and is hiking the trail right now.

 

I thought of each of them as I looked up at the tree. Somewhere along their journey they had each passed this very tree. Perhaps they even stopped here to rest a minute on the grueling hike up to Clingmans Dome.  Each one had voices inside their heads telling them they couldn’t do it… It was impossible…..They weren’t strong enough, fit enough, young enough, or even healthy enough to fulfill their dream. Perhaps they even told themselves….

“You are crazy for doing this!”

But you know what? Not a one of them listened. They knew the only thing that mattered was moving forward. What was behind them was just the same life they had been living, but forward…. what was ahead… was strength, passion, determination, and adventure. No longer were they living their dreams through others, but they were active participants.

They had big obstacles in their way…REALLY big. But not once did they quit. They pressed on through the pain, the torturous climbs, the exhaustion, the frustration, and the voices of the masses.  Going back was no longer an option. Forward was the ONLY way to go.

As I stood there, leaning against the tree, I felt foolish. Here I am a 41 year old, healthy, fully capable woman, and I am whining because the hill I am climbing sucks. There were no limitations except my own laziness and whiney attitude.  I was pouting because I wasn’t going as fast as others and the climb was a little uncomfortable.

I suddenly knew what must be done. I put on my big girl hiker pants, gripped my poles tight, took a sip of water, and climbed forward.

Perhaps you are not as crazy as me, and like playing in the woods or climbing mountains, but there is something you want to do… you know there is. Perhaps you have yourself convinced that it is impossible, the voices shouting at you telling you that you are crazy are loud, with your own voice probably the loudest.  Or maybe, you think it will be easy…You got this! Only you are faced with the honest reality, that you don’t have anything but frustration and exhaustion.

Keep moving forward! Listen to those who have gone before you. They have blazed the path that shows you, that ANY mountain can be conquered if you keep pushing forward. Giving up and going backwards is not going to get you anywhere. The ONLY way to succeed is to push on….FORWARD.

Well, I finished my hike. It wasn’t pretty, and I looked and smelled horrible, but I felt AMAZING even though my body was exhausted.  My weakness doesn’t have to be my defeat, and neither does yours. Embrace it. Use it. Go forward.

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