I am slightly obsessed with the movie “WILD”. You know the one with Reese Witherspoon where she treks across the Pacific Coast Trail to find herself. I’ve seen it a few times and for some reason I cry though the entire movie. I do not share the same “colorful” history as Cheryl Strayed. Well….not QUITE as colorful. But the theme of her hike. The reason behind it was that she was trying to “walk back to the woman her Mother thought she was.” And I get that.
I grew up in Texas. I lived there for 41 years. In case you’ve never been we don’t exactly have what you’d call “mountains”. So the fact that I’ve literally fallen in love with the mountains, with hiking, with trees and trails and dirt and long hours on the side of a mountain and boulders and gravel sliding and outside is pretty weird. I had no idea 3 years ago what the word “fourteener” meant. No clue. Im now obsessed. I think that when we are growing up, at least for me, there’s this plan you are expected to follow. College, job, marriage, kids. House with garage, a few pets and a mortgage and a schedule. A schedule. And it was what I wanted. I got it. I wanted kids so terribly bad and when we lost so many pregnancies I was devastated. I am beyond grateful for my kids. They are damn amazing. Funny, smart, witty, strong, smart-asses with opinions. All I ever want is for them to be happy. Thats it. And if that includes college & marriage & kids then great. If it doesn’t then thats great too. Happy is what matters.
Moving to Colorado was so scary. So. Scary. We knew no one but one friend. No family here. Moved across country to new schools, new weather, new people, new jobs, and the knowledge that I might be alone here someday. That’s some scary shit. Military families are amazing. But as I’ve said before, when you wake up to a diagnosis like Brain Rot there are two paths you can take. And we took the one that was right for us. The scary one. The unsure one. The one where we just had to throw safe to the wind, grab on to the idea of not knowing. And there is not one single moment of regret. There are moments here and there that I tear up because I miss home. Texas is my roots. My family. My past. The place that built me. I am who I am because of Texas.
But moving to Colorado has opened a part of me that I think I knew was always there I was just scared. The part of me that wants to roam and travel and not have responsibilities and not have a mortgage and just write and wander. Hiking found that for me. Its funny my son says “isn’t hiking just walking?”. I suppose you can look at it that way. But…I grew up at about 500 feet above sea level. I don’t know how to explain what altitude sickness feels like if you haven’t had it. But I now LIVE at 7,400 feet elevation and my hikes most often take me well above 8,500 feet. It can do quite a number on the body. And climbing to 14,000+ feet elevation is QUITE an adventure. The lack of oxygen alone makes it difficult to say the least. Gasping for air WHILE bouldering over scary rocks and maneuvering barely-there-trails is exhuberating. Almost dying makes you feel very alive.
And there’s the terrain. Enormous boulders the size of which Ive never seen. The views. God I would hike JUST for the views. Never in my life have I seen such views. And I get to see them daily. The accomplishment of summiting a mountain cannot be explained in words. It is not a team event. You don’t rely on others. You can’t out-smart or out-perform a mountain. You can’t train for fear. Pure, raw, animal, biological terror that comes when you have to cross a very sketchy part of a trail that very well may lead to your death. People die hiking & climbing all the time. You bargain with the large rocks you step on…”please stay sturdy, please stay sturdy”. As you place your life and trust on this piece of nature that just doesn’t give a shit about you. Doesn’t it sound fun? And when you ascend to the top you know that YOU got you there. No one else. No team, no equipment, no shortcuts. Just you and a mountain and on THAT day the mountain decided to let you climb. Nature is bigger than me. I am just a speck of dust on the side of a mountain.
And searching for the words to answer the question WHY I hike I guess maybe theres a million reasons but perhaps its just that….that I am nothing on a mountain. I don’t have to be Mom, Wife, Business Owner, Leader. I don’t have to pay bills up there or think about Brain Rot or worry about all the things we worry about. All I am responsible for on a mountain is getting my ass up and down alive. No clutter. No homework. No technology. No noise. No complications. And I can feel small. There’s no ego on a mountain. It doesn’t care if you have great abs or are a Two Star Diamond Beachbody Coach. It doesn’t care. One bit. And I like that. No pressure to be all of those things. No pressure. Its funny but I breathe deeper and fuller and slower and more purposefully when there’s less oxygen. Makes me slow down.
I don’t know why it means so much to me. I dont know why exactly I love it so very much. I like Starbucks and cute jeans and dressing up as much as the next girl. But I have never in my life felt more at peace, more whole, more happy, more home, than on a mountain. I absolutely LOVE not knowing. Not having a plan. I LOVE it. And every time she lets me get up and down unharmed I say “thank you”. For all that I leave up there and all that I bring down.