It had been about twenty years since I last climbed a mountain, a trip so terrible I had all but blocked it from my memory. The highlights of that hike include a run-in with a six foot rattlesnake and wading through chest deep water while taking a "shortcut" suggested by one of my fellow hikers.
Probably because that trip was all but forgotten, I decided that I wanted to hike again. My goal last summer was actually to start hiking, but somehow it never happened. This past winter, I decided I was going to start training and be ready to do it in the spring. I was doing the treadmill on steep inclines for an hour at a time and feeling pretty good about myself. Then I got plantar fasciitis which is basically fancy doctor talk for excruciating pain in the foot. For a while, all walking was put on hold, my foot so painful at times that I struggled just to go grocery shopping.
After months of babying it, my foot was finally good enough to start walking again. I went out most nights for at least an hour, enjoying spending time outdoors and yearning for more. I was ready.
So, last Saturday morning, I got up and climbed Buck Mountain. As soon as I started the first part of the ascent, I realized I had forgotten my asthma inhaler at home. At that point, I wasn't going to let a little thing like not breathing stop me, so I pressed on. I took as many breaks as I needed to, for as long as I needed to. I took pictures along the way and enjoyed the peace and seclusion of an early morning hike in the woods, listening to the breeze rustling through the trees and the sounds of the birds chirping away to each other.
I made the summit in just under two hours. It was beautiful. Amazing. Everything I wanted it to be. I chose a rock to sit on and had my breakfast. A friendly dog belonging to another hiker came over and licked my face in greeting. I pet her for a few minutes and she ran off as soon as I tried to snap a picture, preferring a life of anonymity to the constraints of celebrity, apparently. I took pictures and enjoyed the wind whipping through my hair and cooling me off after all the hard work of getting to the top.
After about an hour, I headed back down, glad I had decided on an early start as an endless stream of people made their way upward.
I was so thrilled with my day's experience that I decided to hike Sleeping Beauty the next morning. I practically skipped up the mountain, it was so easy compared to Buck, and I made it to the top in a little under an hour. Again, I spent an hour taking pictures, having a snack, and generally feeling content before heading back via Bumps Pond.
But this journey did not begin this past weekend. It didn't begin at the gym last winter or even last summer when I decided climbing mountains was something I wanted to do. This journey began a few years ago, when I decided I didn't like the life I was living any more.
There have been many starts to this journey. I have made advances, and I have had setbacks. Some days my path has been clear and others I have all but lost my way. In the beginning, I took a step. And then another. And another. Until one day, I found myself at the top of the mountain...looking forward to the next mountain to climb.
I promise you, one day you will get there.