T.S. Elliot once said, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” So many of us stand on the sidelines looking at life and say, “I could never do that?” But how do we truly know that to be true unless we try?
My whole life I have been a dreamer. There were all sorts of goals and life accomplishments I wanted to experience. Some I achieved and succeeded at, but others… well if they required too much I just brushed it off… “That’s too hard. Definitely not for me.”
Maybe getting older has made me more reflective, but after turning 40 I started taking inventory of my life. When I looked back one thing was painfully obvious…..
I am a big fat wimp.
My whole life I had played it safe… just sitting on the sidelines. There was so much I wanted to do, but fear of failing and not believing in my own abilities kept me from entering the game and stuck on the bench. I didn’t want to live the next 40 years the same way…I wanted to know exactly what I was made of.
Living right here in the Smoky Mountains I figured there was not better way to test myself then to take a Hike. It would be good exercise and I would be able to see a little bit of nature along the way. Little did I know that lacing up my boots and strapping on my backpack would suddenly change everything. With each and every hike I started pushing myself a little further. “Maybe I can do another mile. Or maybe I’ll just go on the top.” Pretty soon, I was forcing myself up steep mountain sides just to say I did it.
But I had another dream I kept putting off….I wanted to become a backpacker. Someone who straps all they need on their back and heads out into the wilderness. I wanted to go completely off the grid for a while and totally explore nature. Of course I had all those little nagging reasons not to do it.
What if I couldn’t handle carrying a heavy pack?
What if a bear comes in my sleep?
What if I see other people?
What if I can’t filter enough water?
What if I get hurt?
What if I run out of food?
What if it rains?
But what if it turned out to be totally awesome and I could do it? I would never know unless I DID it.
So this past weekend, I did it. I borrowed a pack, loaded it up with everything I would need for 2 days, made my plans, and off I went.
Carrying the 25lbs on my back was not helping my confidence. Over the past few months I have become quiet the experienced little day hiker, but my day pack carries what I need for my trip that day and a little extra. Now I was carrying shelter, food, and multitude of other items that I needed for such an extended trip. Having it strapped to my back made me feel like a turtle inching it’s way up the mountain. This was going to be a long day…….
But I made the toughest climbs like a boss. I was slow. There were tears. There were some ugly words. But I MADE it to the top. Me….who didn’t think she could do it, carried a 25lb pack all the way up the mountain. I felt pretty freaking awesome.
As I started the 4 miles down to the campsite I would be stopping at for the evening, I was dreaming of my first camp experience. I had visions of sitting by the fire into the evening chatting with my friends, sipping a warm drink, and telling stories into the night. My dreams were soon interrupted by the freak rainstorm that showed up an hour and half before we made camp. It slacked off enough for us to put one tent up before the torrential downpour started. There was no campfire. There was not hot cocoa. There were no stories into the evening. There was this…..
Three wet hikers crammed into one tent with all their gear for an hour while the relentless rains poured.
But my spirit was not broken. This was part of the experience. If I wanted to be a backpacker this was reality. Sunny days and starry nights aren’t going to always happen. How you handle the glitch in your plans is what makes the difference between an ordeal and adventure. We chose the adventure instead of the ordeal and laughed it off. Sure we were soaked. Sure we were tired and hungry. Sure we were tired of smelling ourselves and each other, but man we were having a blast.
We were promptly tucked into our sleeping bags by 8pm. Soaked, cold, hungry, thirsty, but totally contented.
The morning dawned with fresh promise. I was happy to get the day started until I had to put on my cold, wet clothes from the day before. That sucked. Breakfast was cold and tasteless, but as I looked around at the beauty around me, I realized there was nowhere else I would rather be.
Camp was broken down, everything left how we found it, and we were off for the final 10 miles of our journey. Right out of the gate we encountered our first creek crossing of the day. We knew the trail crossed through Eagle Creek 16-18 times for the next 4 miles, so it was time to literally jump on in. The first three crossings I went back and forth between boots and water shoes, after the third, I was over it, and just plowed through the rest in my boots. It was not ideal, but hey, it’s part of the experience, and I rocked it.
I made it through each crossing feeling empowered and beyond proud. Me, who hates obstacles just hurdled 16 of them and did each one with a smile. Sure I slipped on a few rocks, and lost my footing a couple times, but I MADE it!
The final 6 miles were anything but easy, but they were some of the most beautiful. I was in an area of the park I had never been and I loved all the history and beauty I found.
The journey was hard as well as mentally and physically taxing. There were several times my mind said, “Girl, what the crap do you think you are doing? Go home where you are safe and comfortable.” But I pressed on. I knew if I didn’t push myself and risk going too far, I would NEVER know what I could accomplish.
And do you know what I accomplished?
While a 20.3 mile, two day hike, is nothing to some, to me it was EVERYTHING. I felt like NOTHING was impossible now…. and it’s not.
Don’t spend time wishing you could do something. Go out and do it. Maybe you won’t like it, maybe you will find it isn’t the thing you needed. But maybe, just maybe you will realize you ARE capable, that you ARE stronger then you give yourself credit for, and that playing in the game is much more fun then sitting watching from the sidelines.
You just simply need to take the risk.