Also, I am a wimp. I have always been a wimp. I have little endurance and chronic, flu-like muscle aches on good days thanks to my companion, Fibromyalgia. And I've not had a lot of out-doorsy (it's a word!) exposure.
Then right before camp, I caught a cold. The can't-breathe-through-my-nose-my-throat-is-sore-and-scratchy-thanks-to-this-cough-where's-my-voice-? kind of cold. Needless to say, I was not confident that I would make it half-way up, let alone to the summit. But, in the name of leadership, I was determined to do my best. So after waking up at a time that, to me, was only fabled to exist, we drove up to the trail head and started out.
The first little bit was encouraging; a slow, gradual climb crossing a frigid creek several times in the cool morning air. The trail gradually steepened but was not yet uncomfortable and the 30 of us on the hike were in a pretty tight pack. We were continually encouraged by our guide, but I had a feeling that he was psyching us up for when the real hike began.We made it up to an old mine which in the late 19th century and the early 20th century produced more than $50 million in placer gold. We stopped there to snack and take a potty break. It was also there that we saw the first snow on the trail ahead.
That's when the trail started to get a bit more steep. The weather was warm and the snow was slowly melting creating some squishy mud. Also, the tree cover became more dense and we were swarmed with mosquitos. (100% Deet is amazing!!!) After we emerged from the forest we were met with a rocky climb in the sun. Here our pack started to lengthen, the eager and spry in the front, the determined yet slightly less enthusiastic in the middle (my group), and those who continued on only because they weren't allowed to get behind the leader bringing up the rear.
We were told that we would see a peak and it would appear as though we had reached the summit, but that it was not the end, there would be a little up and down before we would reach the peak. Even with that in mind it was still discouraging to reach that point and see that there was still a good distance ahead of me.
As I began the slight descent my knee started to ache and I realized that it was going to hurt the entire way down. I was overcome by doubt and told the small group with me to go ahead, I needed to rest. As soon as they were out of sight I began to cry. I had come much farther than I thought I could already, yet I could see the summit looming ahead. I wanted to reach it. I said a little prayer and as I finished I saw the group behind me hit the same peak that brought me discouragement. I knew that if I sat and waited for them, we'd all stop there and never reach the summit. And I felt that if I got up and continued on that we'd all make it to the top.
So I began to climb again. I lost sight of the top as I walked alone along the ridge of one of the tallest mountains in our area. The climbing wasn't difficult, but every downhill step brought a stab of pain to my knee. I kept thinking of the words of one of the other leaders, "If you can make it to the top you will know that you can do hard things."
I felt like The Little Engine That Could. I kept telling myself, "I can do hard things." Before I knew it I could again see the summit and the sea of red t-shirts..my girls. They cheered me on, bringing fresh tears to my eyes, and then I had made it! I was at the top!!!
Soon after, we could see the last small group of girls climbing the trail. We cheered them on and in a short amount of time we were all there. 30 girls and leaders, 3000+ feet above the trail head, looking out from the highest peak (9,803 ft!) in every direction. It was a beautiful sight! I was so thankful for the encouragement the girls had lent each other and for the fact that we had made it as a group. We all agreed that our hoagie sandwiches tasted amazing after the strenuous climb and enjoyed the view. I gave a short devotional on the saying, "When you see a man standing on a mountain, remember, he wasn't placed there," reminding the girls that we had a goal, but each of us had to take our own steps to achieve that goal, and so it is in life.
Then we were given the go-ahead to take off down the mountain. That was the worst part of the hike for me. My knee was unhappy with every step, but stopping to rest made no sense. Every downhill stride was going to hurt, and that was the reality. I felt bad holding everyone up, but another of the girls was experiencing the same pains, so we slowly and gingerly made our way down the mountain. I was thankful for those who could have easily gone ahead yet waited for us and kept us company on our descent.
Along the hike I saw more butterflies than I've probably seen in my entire life, tons of wildflowers and some amazing and rare-for-me views, but no sight was quite so welcome as that of our parked vehicles in the small clearing at the end of the trail. The hike was complete, all the girls had made it and were accounted for and I was reassured to know I can do hard things.