My journey took me from the surprisingly intellectual dispensaries of Denver to red rock canyons just shy of Utah and everywhere in between. I slept in a tent and woke with the sunrise. Hot springs were my personal hot tub. We cooked gourmet protein rich vegan meals over a camp stove and brewed fresh chamomile tea using the flowers growing out of the crumbled rock alongside the road. Most of all, I submersed myself in the bliss and gratitude discoverable through being surrounded by nature, completely disconnected from timelines and responsibility.
Please allow me to summarize the wisdoms Colorado’s Rockies shared with me:
Life Lessons Learned Through Hiking
1. When the path ahead seems unbearably long or difficult, look back at how far you’ve already come and don’t even consider turning back. We pulled into Curecante National Recreation area just as the sun was beginning to make its descent below the valley. After getting water from the brush barriered creek, we scoped out a potential camp spot just beyond what appeared to be a rocky mesa. We hiked, but all we found there was a rocky slope. So we hiked higher and higher,each time only finding surfaces too graded for the tent. I kept looking down the mountainside at the car becoming a tiny white speck below and wondering, “How much further can we go?” It’s a familiar feeling, glancing behind at how far we’ve come and wondering if the struggle has an end. Of course, when the place we’re in isn’t what we came for, there’s no choice but to trek on. Is turning back and losing hard earned ground really what you want? We had faith that a special spot was magically reserved for us if we kept moving. Finally, just as the sun was dipping below the peak, we found IT: the most perfect campspot with a breathtaking view. The entire valley, the lake in the distance, the peaks just above us. The car was just a speck below, and our persistence and faith paid off.
2. Never settle for mediocrity when there’s an incredible peak in view. Having already come 80% of the way, we took a morning hike to the peaks that were looming just above us. We could have settled for the incredible view we already had, but why not check the view from the top? It’s all attainable if you want it enough.
3. Be prepared for anything, but when you’re not, find the enjoyment in the situation at hand. About 2 miles up the 8.5 mile trail to Conundrum Hot Springs, it started to pour. Despite being entirely unprepared for rain, we knew that turning back was not an option (see Lesson 1) and we opted to beeline up the remainder of the trail with a poncho and tent rain fly wrapped around our packs. The trek took about 2 hours longer than it would have had we not been drenched, cold, and a bit downtrodden with not knowing how much further we’d be hiking until we reached the pot of gold, but when we did it was all worth it. Having our wardrobe, shoes, and socks drenched and muddy there was no option of hiking down the following day, so we enjoyed a mandatory day of bathing in hot springs, eating, napping, and hanging out with a friendly marmot. It would have been ideal to not have our belongings soaked, but the circumstances provided us with an unexpected luxury lockdown.
4. Handle the basics and the universe will provide the rest. Water, warmth, nutritious food, and good company. Our consumer society tries to convince us we need so much more, but a trip in the mountains exposes the hoax.
5. Remember the journey that brought you to your destination. Sure, the summit is breathtaking, but so were the wildflowers alongside the path. We wouldn’t really have a story to tell if we just jumped from peak to peak without the trails in between. Likewise, traveling along the road to our destinations and goals is where we picked up the most valuable information, lessons, and tasty treats.
6. Teamwork and community help to lighten the load. Despite the fact that I was hiking with Hercules and I’m practically a Sherpa myself, we both acknowledged how much more enjoyable and easeful it was to carry only half the load each. It’s okay to ask for help, share the weight, and acknowledge limitations.
7. Enjoy what is, rather than suffering with the desire of what you expected something to be. It’s really the only way to live mindfully and truly enjoy the NOW.
8. It’s easiest to move along with a light load. By leaving behind our literal stuff, there’s much less complication in taking the strenuous expedition. Not surprisingly, we need to do the same with any journey, be it physical, spiritual, emotional, etc. Our baggage gets too heavy and holds us back. I’m not saying you won’t make it if you hang onto your “stuff”, but after the backache it created to carry it the whole way, do you really need it all?