Hiking, or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Burn

panoramic photo of lake surrounded by trees and blue sky

My friend recently posted a meme that said something along the lines of, “I don’t know who needs to hear this but living your most fulfilled life does not have to include hiking.” 

The hiking up here is spectacular. We’ve hiked this one trail twice. It’s called Blood Lake. The first time we went I was dubious; was it called Blood Lake because everyone was bloody by the time they got there? Or because the mosquitoes were so intense the lake was filled with their heavily-swollen-with ill-gotten-hikers’-blood bodies?

It turns out the trail is delightful. It’s about 1.5 miles undulating through dappled meadows of late summer wildflowers and rippling groves of Aspen. It’s so beautiful that Denise kept having to call to me, and finally at one point said, “Okay Skip, can you put your camera away and actually be here enjoying it please?” (My dad is notorious for long photography stops. So was his dad. I happen to believe it skipped me but there may be those who disagree.)

Denise smiling just before she lost her patience with me constantly stopping to take pictures.

The last 1/2 mile is pretty much straight up. You turn and start climbing up the back face of some very chunky granite walls, which eventually spits you out top to Blood Lake. Your heart rate climbs quickly, too. Your legs feel it. There isn’t much room to think about anything other than breathing and climbing up heel toe one step at a time.

I was born sensitive. I got sick a lot when I was a kid. I grew up feeling like I was fragile. I think really I was strong, I just didn’t have the tools to work through things and express myself. When I started to try I was told I was so sensitive. Not in a good way. Is there a good way? I think so. I think it’s wonderful to be so sensitive that you can feel things vibrating in you like a hummingbird even though someone might have barely whispered. Or not spoken at all. I think it helps me feel the world and I want that. But it used to scare me down to the core. And since I believed firmly that it was a bad thing, I shoved the feelings under and through and down. Which led to a lot of anxiety and panic as I got older.

The thing about a lot of emotional challenges in life is that what seems counter-intuitive is often what I need. When I’m depressed and scared I want to hide, when sometimes what I need is to get out and remember that I am in my body. Move. Sweat. Feel the heart rate rise. 

It’s even better to be able to feel safe enough to say, Here is how I feel. Really. I feel scared of rejection. I feel antsy. I feel like I don’t matter. I feel like maybe nobody really knows what they’re doing and what’s the point of it all anyway? 

I think one of the things that drew me to music was the understanding that you could express whatever you want to through song and it is safe. There is a way in which, through performance, you can hide some of the true vulnerability. Strip yourself all the way down, but it’s still song, you know?

Lately I’m working on saying things without music. Just speaking. Without wondering if it’s okay or not. Without melody. It’s a work in progress. My friend and teacher Terri said to me that we humans haven’t gotten to the point where we can truly be raw and vulnerable, that we play with it, we dance around it, but we haven’t quite dropped the costumes. Because it’s scary. But I’m trying.

Anyway back to hiking. So we’re about halfway up to the end, huffing and puffing, and we come across two parents and their son. The son looked to be about 6 or 7 and he was really feeling. He was hurling it out across to his parents and all of nature and other hikers. He was TIRED, and he was MAD, and he felt CHEATED, and he DID NOT WANT TO KEEP GOING. 

As we got closer, we could hear the parents calmly responding. “Well, Connor, we all made this choice. I think it’s worth it to keep going. You can swim when we get there, it’s supposed to be really beautiful. You can explore the rocks. I get that you’re upset.” etc. 

We passed by, and I said, “Connor, I don’t know you but I feel you! I believe in you! I think you can do it!” The mom said, “You see? They’re doing it too!” 

The thing is, we’re all doing it too. All of it all of the time. Some of us admit it and some of us don’t. 

I do love that burn.

The payoff.

About 10 minutes after we got to the lake, we were sitting on a bench enjoying the view and feeling the sweat dry, and we saw Connor and his parents make their way to the water’s edge and put their backpacks down on a big boulder. “See? We made it!” the mom shouted, waving to us.

“Hooray Connor! I knew you could do it! Isn’t it great!” I shouted back.

Connor looked up and yelled, “Yes but I’m A THOUSAND TIMES TIRED!!!”

We all are, Connor. But it’s worth it.

1 Comment

  1. I liked the part about saying things without music…it’s a work in progress. Ya gotta love the teacher.

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