“Got my head held up and the view is stunning
With the hounds at my heels just keep running
My heart beats deep in my chest
Won’t look back and there’s no time to rest
I’m coming up
You know that I’m free
I hoisted my pack on my shoulders, put on my hat, and looked wearily at the trail. The first 2.5 miles is straight up. And by “straight up” I mean, endless switchbacks up the foothills of the mountain. Hiking in The Winds can be pretty difficult. Heck, it’s difficult to hike anywhere. But The Winds are known for their magnificent pure granite peaks which means that all along the trail on the way up are small rocks that you slip on, medium sized boulders that you have to tip toe around and on special hikes, huge boulder fields that you have to pick your way through.
I grew up playing soccer. I was a keeper and what I loved so much about the position was the mental game required. You might go 20 minutes without ever touching the ball, then bam! you have to be alert and execute perfectly, if you don’t the whole team suffers. It’s a waiting game. And I found that it was right up my alley. It required quick thinking, cat like reflexes and most of all, patience.
It’s funny how much that little sport impacted the rest of my life. I find that I am drawn to sports that require mental stamina. That’s why I love yoga so much, and that’s why I LOVE hiking in The Winds.
During my soccer years, I tore the ligaments in both my ankles. Years of yoga significantly helped me, but they are still weak. So hiking through a trail that is covered in all sizes of rocks is a particular challenge. One misstep and I’m deep in the backcountry with a bum ankle, unable to get out. Allll that to say, I have to watch every. single. step. And when you’re hiking 10+ miles, that’s a LOT of steps to watch. But I turn it into a game, and that’s where the mental workout begins.
You think a lot when you’re hiking. There’s nothing else to do. It’s just you and your thoughts for miles on end. No phones, no music, no tv, few people and no distractions.
With my mental health issues and past drama and struggles, I’ve learned the in’s and out’s of my brain. The old familiar dark places that I tend to slosh around in. Past embarrassments, hidden shame and negative self talk. When you have hours of hiking, these all seem to come flooding back. But lately, I’ve noticed a surprising change: these thoughts drift in, I acknowledge them, work through them, then I’m able to set them aside.
I’ve just noticed this shift this year. I used to go around and around in my head. It was almost like I loved to suffer. I loved to feel trapped, helpless to my thoughts. If you’ve been following for a while, you know how difficult it used to be for me to get through the day. Gracious, was it mental drama. But as I was hiking along, Andrew charging in front of me, the girls frolicking and playing around me, I felt a change. I was free.
Yes, I still get stuck in mind traps, but not for as long. I’m not saying that I will never struggle again, but I feel much better prepared for it. I have spent years working on my mind, sorting out thoughts from emotions. Emotions from root issues. Root issues from character flaws. And on this past hike, I can finally say for the first time, I think my hard work is paying off.
I didn’t realize how accustomed I had gotten to feeling a weight on my shoulders, a nagging emotion that I can’t quite sort through. And on this past backpacking trip, I realized that old familiar feeling was gone.
We set up camp with the most epic view that I though my heart would explode with pure joy. We were tired and worn out but isn’t that the best way to feel at the end of a day? Worn out from hard work? We busted out our little camping stove, cooked a hot meal and watched the girls scan and play around our little imaginary camp perimeter. Afterwards, Islay cuddled beside me, Skye cuddled Andrew, I made my hot tea and got comfy for the show that our Creator was about to put on.
As the sun was setting with pinks and oranges and purples it hit me: peace. A deep, soul warming peace. I’m ok. No deep issue to sort through. No dark places to navigate around. Just peace.
I have learned very intensely that we all live through seasons. Seasons of struggle and work, and seasons of rest. If you’re in it right now, hang in there. Do the emotional and mental work to get you through. Don’t check out. I have also found that checking out prolongs the healing process. Do the work with the assurance that you will get through it. You will find rest.
If you find that you are doing awesome right now, take a moment to pause and really let it sink in. Take a deep breath of contentment and be ever so thankful for this season.
We’re back at home and are having what my family calls a “Crash and Burn Day.” The girls are tuckered out and resting at our feet. Andrew is working on images. The windows are open, the osprey are calling outside and it’s hitting me again, peace.
“I’m free from the shackles, free from the chains
Free from the heartache, the struggles, and the pain
Just in case you missed it, please enjoy Episode 2 of our show, One Wild Life.