My Mountain-Top Experience (Subtitle: Lessons learned while hiking!)


When I told my dear friend that my husband and I were going to Arizona to go hiking for five days, her reply was, “Oh, so what so you do when you hike? You walk to a destination and then turn around and walk back?” I chuckled and told her she was right and tried to explain the joy of hiking but fell short so this post is for her!
Now that we’re three days into our five day trip riddled with blisters and aches, it’s easier to explain.

On the first day my husband chose a trail that was described as strenuous and long. I silently admired his adventure and questioned the wisdom of his choice on Day #1. So off we went!

Arriving at the Munda Wagon trailhead, we loaded up our gear. Being from South Florida we packed on the layers of clothes because the temperature was predicted to be in the 40s. We layered a thin shirt, fleece shirt and jacket with gloves, hats and scarves. Also packed was the camera, iPhones (for their ease of taking and sending amazing pictures to friends and relatives), lunch, and water. Our first challenge was finding the correct trailhead. The guide book warned us of a common error in following the wrong sign. Why, oh why, would there be two signs for the same trail going in different directions? The book said to choose the one on the East side of the parking lot. If we knew where the ocean was (a familiar landmark to south Floridians) we’d know which way was east! Having lost that sense of direction, it would be a few minutes and frustrating discussions until we concluded which sign was the real McCoy.

Once on the trail, we proceeded to the first photo stop. We met a nice couple and wished them a Happy Valentines day and took a few pictures for them; they returned the favor and shared information on various hikes for another day.

Lesson #1: You can change your location but you don’t necessarily get away from your problems (especially if you bring your phone)!

The phone beeps… Maybe because he was already holding the phone from the pictures, my husband couldn’t resist checking the text. We are in the middle of remodeling our home, and it was one of our contractors. My husband shot back a quick text and we were on our way. He decided to silence his phone. He slipped it in the backpack and we began our journey. Moments later we heard the vibrating from the backpack! We were pleased with ourselves when we chose to ignore the beckoning … Until my phone rang! It was in my hand for picture taking opportunities… And it was another contractor. Another problem, we tried to help him solve it, and we put the phones away.

This was our first hiking trip without our grown sons; it felt strange, but we were excited to see the new terrain. As we walked down the trail covered in red dust and mud created from the melting snow, our shoes slushed in the paths until they were covered in the red muck. We relished the beautiful mountains in the background with the colors of oranges, yellows, and browns. It seemed as though we were stopping every 50 yards to take pictures. All the scenery was so different from anything we had experienced. The mountains, the creek, the patches of snow, all excited us! We pulled out our cameras and phones to take pictures; and to check if there was enough reception on our phones to send them to friends and relatives.

The trail took us upward and around at a gradual increased elevation until we were at the top of one of the mountains we had seen from the parking lot. We stopped and ate the lunch that we had packed and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. We sent a couple pictures to our sons. Although it had taken a couple hours to get to that point, we were surprised that it really wasn’t a strenuous walk as the trail guide book had indicated. We ran into some other hikers and struck up a conversation in which they agreed the trail was not a strenuous walk and they encouraged us to continue on assuring us there would be more beautiful sites to see. The hike was estimated to take four hours round trip. We were 2 1/2 hours into the trail.

Continuing on, we were not really that impressed with what we saw. For some reason turning back was not an option- I think it might be an overachiever’s gene we both have. My husband encouraged me that there was only a little way to go to get to the crest of the mountain. We continued on… Again, the sites were not even close to spectacular until we ran into snow! For South Floridians snow is extremely exciting! On a scale of 1 to 10 it’s a 15!

The wind started kicking up as we turned a corner – so we stopped to bundle up – slipping into our gloves, hats, and heaviest jackets. This was an adventure!

Lesson #2: Going the extra mile, grasping the golden carrot, usually requires paying a high price… But quite often it’s worth it.

We had seen patches of snow earlier on the trail, but what we saw ahead of us was a path completely covered in what appeared to be undisturbed snow. We would be the first humans to leave our tracks there. Walking further we discovered that the only footprints were those of small animals and deer tracks. We surmised the small tracks were from rabbits crossing the path. However, when we saw a chipmunk dart across the path later in the hike we realized that was probably the animal we had mistaken for a rabbit. We trekked through the snow and frolicked, kicking the snow through the air, throwing it at each other, playing in it… all the while knowing that we were probably making a big mistake getting our feet cold and wet! We were having too much fun to stop. Like children – we just didn’t care!

We came upon an icy portion of the trail that we would need to cross and realized to continue would be dangerous, so we turned around and began our descent. We were four hours into our hike.

Lesson #3 &4 combined:
#3 Don’t give up caffeine before a hiking trip.
#4: You are much more capable than you think you are.

I was very excited to start the descent because I was quite tired. Going back through the snow was a treat. We found the hiking stick I had planted in the thick snow on our assent. I had left it behind because of its inability to lock and its habit of collapsing with any pressure..
By the time we reached the dry trail, past the snow, my entire body ached and I could feel the blisters swelling on my toes. I wasn’t sure if I my entire lower body (from my belly button southward) was aching from lack of caffeine (my body’s typical withdrawal symptom), or my refusal to use nature’s restroom, or the physical strain of hiking for four hours. Quite likely a combination of the three.
Our waterproof hiking shoes had yielded to the long trek through the snow and our feet were wet. The moisture didn’t help the blisters that had already formed and the descent proved to be harder than the trek up the mountain. We had already agreed that we would take a dirt service road down the mountain because of the thick mud and rocky conditions we encountered on the trail going up and knowing it would be difficult to keep our footing as we descended the 1,100 feet to the trailhead. I was grateful and optimistic that the descent would be relatively easy even with the pain I was experiencing.
An hour into the downward trek, I was ready to collapse. What about all that workouting out at the gym!? I thought for sure I’d show up my husband on this hiking trip. But no, the pain level had reached a 7! Every step was painful and laborious. My body needed a break. However, stopping would only prolong the agony so we trekked on. Each corner we navigated, I lied to my body telling it we were close and then the truth – there was much farther to go. Pain. Aches. Was it lack of caffeine? Or was I that out of shape?! I swore I didn’t care – but secretly hoping that it was the withdrawal and not an insult to my fitness level. The pain seemed to increase until each step was agonizing. Stopping was not an option. So I shuffled on, step by step, vowing not to gripe and complain.
That’s when I was reminded: “We are capable of so much more than we think we are.”
If collapsing were an option – I would have chosen it. If I could have quit there is no question that I would have. Neither was possible. So I pushed myself far beyond a level of pain that I could have ever imagine inflicting upon myself.
In the end, after collapsing in the rental car…as I scrolled through the pictures on our camera – I knew the struggle was well worth it!
Each time we overcome we have an experience and a history, just like those photo images on the camera taken on the trail, showing us we can do more than our minds tell us we can.

When I return home I will remember the life lessons God taught me on the mountain as I trek through the daily routines of life knowing that often the pain in overcoming is one that bears much fruit.

Nonetheless tomorrow, I will make sure I have my morning coffee. Just in case…


One thought on “My Mountain-Top Experience (Subtitle: Lessons learned while hiking!)

  1. That was a great story Char! I felt like I was right there with you! I loved the “lessons” woven through the experience. It was very inspiring. Thank you for sharing and thank you for using your God given talent of writing.

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