Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Do it Anyway

Two weeks ago I was hiking up a mountain in Montana. Tomorrow I am heading out on another grand adventure - I'm biking to Canada from North Branch, Minnesota (north of Minneapolis/St. Paul) in three days. I'll post more about that later. For now, a bit about my grand Montana adventure.

Our church, Bethel Lutheran Church in Northfield, sends a group of rising 10th graders on a hiking trip through Christikon Camp in Montana each year. My daughter, Rose, went on this trip when she was a 10th grader. I had wanted to go along as a chaperone back then but couldn't make it happen at that time. Last year when my Dad was so sick and Owen headed off on the Tour Divide bike ride and it felt like everything in my world was falling apart I told Owen "Ok, you get to do the Tour and get away from it all for awhile. Next summer, I'm going on the Christikon trip with Ryan." I told our youth director, Barb, that I wanted to go on the trip, too. I think she took pity on me - or she was desperate for chaperones (or both). Anyway, earlier this year I knew that I would get to be a chaperone and get to spend a week on a trip with my son (and a bunch of other kids - 18 in all!)
Our group - taken just before we started our grand hiking adventure
Now here's the deal - last year at this time I was in decent shape and felt pretty capable of hiking in the mountains with a heavy backpack. Fast forward to this year - I am not in the greatest shape (stress for me = not exercising as much + eating more) and I had some pretty major concerns about going on a hiking trip. Yes, I had worried about tripping and hurting myself, about holding up the group, about being a mediocre chaperone, about falling off a cliff...more than once I wanted to back out of the hiking trip...but, even though I felt woefully inadequate in many ways to hike for five days I decided I was going to do it anyway.

So I did.

I suffered and struggled, especially on the first day when we were slated to hike 7 miles and climb 3,000 feet (we didn't make it that far and had to set up camp before our destination). The altitude hit me hard and I struggled to catch my breath. I fell behind on uphills and downhills and, yes, sometimes when I was just walking on the flat. I did not sleep well. I cried more than once. Even though I was part of a community made up of our hiking group of thirteen which included my son, I felt lonely. It rained. It hailed. It stormed. I struggled. I really, really, struggled.
Approaching Diamond Lake just after it rained
Had I been offered a chance to go home on day one, I think I would have taken it. But by day two things felt a bit better. And once you are even a mile up into the mountains there's really no going back. So I kept on going.

Here's the good stuff - which far outweighs the struggles:
I hiked for five days with nine fifteen-year-olds, another chaperone and two camp counselors/guides. I did not get hurt (save for one small blister) and did not fall off a cliff. I carried a 30+ pound backpack full of my gear and community gear. I helped set up tents, cook meals and hang food in "bear bags" way up in trees. I hugged kids, rubbed backs and sang silly songs. I marveled at the gorgeous mountains, lakes and sky. I oohed and aahed at the deer we say and at the fish jumping in the lakes.
Lake Catherine
Though it felt odd at first, I ended up loving the fact that I was totally off the grid and could not check Facebook, Instagram, the news, my email. One of my favorite things was the quiet time we had each day - time to sit still and BE in nature. And I loved the fact that we had worship and Bible study each day. And I also loved living in a community where we all helped each other set up camp and hiked as a group.
Our fearless and very capable guides/counselors - Molly and Thomas
I can't say enough about how wonderful the kids were, at how awesome my fellow chaperone - Bob - was. Our guides - Molly and Thomas - were absolutely wonderful. I was constantly amazed at their emotional and spiritual maturity and at how capable they were at guiding us through the mountains and teaching us to live in the wilderness.
Horseshoe Lake
All that said, I REALLY was happy when my group hiked up the last bit hill on day five and made our way back to Christikon where we unloaded our backpacks, cleaned our gear and FINALLY got to take a shower and clean up!

Ryan and I on Day 3
The rest of our time at base camp, less than 24 hours, was spent eating good food and doing camp stuff like singing songs and making friendship bracelets. Then, before we knew it, it was time to load up the school bus for the bumpy ride back down the mountain to an actual town and our coach bus and then start back home.

Overall, the experience was amazing -  I like to say, "when I wasn't suffering, I was having a good time." But, really, it was amazing and I'm glad I went. That said, I am still trying to give myself credit for doing something awesome and for being strong enough to hike for five days carrying a big backpack. I've been struggling with feeling bad about my body and the fact that I'm weighing more now than ever before. I'm trying to feel good about my strong self even though I don't fit neatly into the image of "fit" that I have in my head. I have some work to do...progress in this department is a bit like hiking uphill with a backpack on my back...slow but (mostly) steady.

Fortunately, my body image frustrations aren't keeping me from heading out on my next grand adventure! Yep, tomorrow morning I set off on another grand adventure. My husband, Owen, and I along with three friends (Steve, Paul and Larry) are going to bike the North Star Bike Route from North Branch, MN to Canada. We plan to make it to Canada in three days - about 85 miles/day of riding. I feel completely spoiled as we will be traveling in style and staying in hotels and will have a support vehicle with us to carry our luggage and spare gear - what luxury!

And guess what? I'm still not in the best of shape and I still don't feel ready to go - but I'm going to do it anyway!

4 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Thank you. We are packed here in Greece for the trip home from 20 days abroad. An expensive trip we had high hopes for. It feels like a waste of time, money and has been emotionally and physically exhausting (because we traveled with a group and it was pretty bad, and not at all what we expected). Reading this lightened my heart. Sometimes adventures are disasters, sometimes unexpectedly awesome, often some of both. Thank you for reminding to do it anyway. It's better to regret what we did, than what we didn't. I really, really needed to be reminded of all the beauty that philosophy I lost on this trip has mostly brought to my life. One bad month, and money (even if it could have almost paid a year of college tuition) aren't enough to sour the next adventure. Without these words, it might have. Bike on!

Kate said...

Sounds like a wonderful trip. I hear you about the body image stuff. Sometimes, when I get really bummed about things I look at my legs and think of what they've been able to do ("these legs just rode 50 miles!" Or "these legs got me up that hill!") and that seems to help.

Can't wait to hear about the bike trip. I'm not sure what your route is, but V and I have been talking about riding from our house to Canada for a while now. Some day we'll do it.

Myrna CG Mibus said...

Elizabeth - I'm glad to hear that my blog post helped! I agree, it's better to regret what a person did than regret not trying at all. I"m sorry that the trip to Greece didn't turn out like you had hoped. Here's to the next adventure! ~Myrna

Myrna CG Mibus said...

Kate - I like what you do to focus on what your legs can do! I will remember to do the same.
The route we rode was the North Star Bicycle Route/US Bike Route 41. We did not do the St. Paul to North Branch portion due to not having enough time so rode from North Branch to Grand Portage. A lot of the route is on roads - Hwy 61 - but I was still quite comfortable. I think you and V should do the ride (I'll do it again if you want company!)