I didn’t grow up in a family that hiked. My Girl Scout troop went camping. Once. We had platform tents, and the daddy long legs spiders freaked me out so much that I decided this kind of stuff was not for me. I chose the “easy” trail in high school when in Colorado one summer with friends. I’ve never owned a tent, a good sleeping bag or much camping gear. I bought my first hiking boots for work when I had to take students backpacking as part of my job. I talked big, but if you really knew me and asked questions, I wasn’t outdoorsy at all at the time. But I sure did think that the clothes REI provided for such activities were cute.
I moved to Colorado. I skied a lot, spent one summer mountain biking when I was “babysitting” a friend’s mountain bike, went snowshoeing twice (had to borrow snowshoes from friends), hiked often after work and on weekends because it was so convenient, social and a good workout. But I never set out to be a big hiker and assumed that other people would climb big mountains and summit tall peaks.
Then I decided that if I were living in Colorado, I had to climb a 14er, a mountain over 14,000-feet tall. Just sort of the thing to do, ya know? I climbed two. They were both during the final summer that I called that playground my home. I probably would have never gone up that high a second time if it weren’t for social reasons.
There were more trips for work. Some unexpected hikes on other adventures since then. They’ve all created some pretty fantastic memories and written some great stories.
Now I’m going to Tanzania on a mission trip. It includes Kilimanjaro. I never added this to my list because I never expected something that awesome to be part of the story I would write. I’m not sure I even wanted it to be. Of course, I’m thrilled that it is but I didn’t set out to make it a big life goal, and if you clicked on the tab above with “THE LIST,” you’d know that there are some crazier things on it. I added Manchu Picchu, but more because it was in Peru and seemed like such a unique destination than for the hiking factor. And if I was going to go see it, I might as well make an adventure out of it. I like adventures.
It just sort of happened. Backpacking and hiking…they sound tiring, to be honest. It sounds like a lot of work and a lot of hours and a lot of…well, things that aren’t so pleasent. Like hot and cold and wet. But maybe that’s what makes it so worth it? It’s hard work. It’s hard work that I don’t like to think about and don’t want to do. There will be a moment, I’m sure, in a few weeks when my knee hurts more than I think I can stand. I’ll want to go home. I’ll wonder why this was a good idea and tell myself that I’m never doing something like that again, hoping secretly that I can come up with a good excuse to bow out next time, without having to admit the “ugh” feeling that will creep up inside me.
Actually, I expect many moments like this.
Perhaps it’s the awfulness of this adventure that will make it so good. If I had thoroughly thought through all the details, would I even consider such a thing? Probably not. If I had listened to the friends of mine who said they would never ever attempt it again because of how terrible of an experience it was, would I have signed up? Um. No. If I took seriously the knee injury from which I’m still recovering and how not working out since March has left me feeling more out of shape than I have been in years, would I actually think that this is a wise decision? Hmmm…maybe I did eat Dumb Flakes for breakfast?
It’s a good reminder that the best stuff is often the hardest that we never intended to let happen. Moving across the country. Starting a new job. Walking down the aisile. Parenting a toddler or a teenager. Pursuing a degree. If we really knew what these things would entail, we’d never take the first step. Sure, we may have been told such information, but we don’t listen to it. Not really. We hope for the good things and sometimes fool ourselves into thinking that we’ll be different. Our situation won’t turn out that way. And it won’t be nearly as difficult.
But it is. And that’s why it’s good to sometimes just let these things happen.