July 13, 2015
Glenwood Springs, CO. As we stood on the gravel path that led to the base of the mountain, I stared up in silent awe. An army of thoughts marched through my head: I don’t know if I can do this. Perhaps I should have trained, or at least gotten more into shape before coming here. I’m going to lag behind everyone else. I’m too clumsy for this kind of hiking. I’m going to fall up the mountain and then turn around and fall down…
But I had to do it. I had to reach Hanging Lake and witness its miraculous beauty for myself.
“Ready?” Steve asked as Rachael and Jim forged ahead, pausing briefly here and there to snap pictures. We followed suit, me constantly finding beautiful angles and freeze framing these quiet moments with my Canon Rebel. As we took in the enormous serenity that surrounded us, we put one foot in front of the other and soon arrived at the base. My self-doubt resurfaced as I imagined how confident and prepared my comrades were probably feeling.
And so the climb began.
UP. Over boulders and fallen tree trunks. UP. Following a stream rushing past. UP. Even though my calves and glutes were killing me. UP. Through the Zen-like woods. UP. UP. UP.
Somewhere along the way, between giving up and going forward, it occurred to me: most things in life can be likened to climbing a mountain. For example, since the time I was in early elementary school, I have always dreamed of writing a novel. The drive has been in me for over twenty years but whenever I attempted to get serious with it, those same voices that appeared to me at the bottom of the mountain would rear their ugly heads: You can’t write this novel (climb this mountain)! Who do you think you are to consider conquering a frickin’ novel (mountain)!
But I noticed something about mountain climbing that I could apply to the rest of my life: the more I focused on taking one more step, just one more step, the easier it became. At some point, I knew I was going to make it to the top, which of course motivated me to continue on my way. Perhaps this could also apply to writing a novel, conquering a fear, or making a big life change; you must look at a momentous task in terms of steps forward.
And wow, was the effort ever worth it. The upward movement of the path finally started to cease and flatten out. Then, out of the trees came a small, intensely blue lake that reminded me of the water off the coast of Capri. Spilling over the rocky cliff into the turquoise pool were numerous waterfalls. The enchanted colors of this hidden gem filled my vision: neon green moss entering the lake as algae; trees in full bloom circumventing the area, a white birch fallen against the rocky cliff, and crossing the water lay a perfectly smooth trunk that looked as though it were meticulously placed there. “Amazing” doesn’t even begin to cover it. Like all of the most beautiful things in the world, there are no words that could truly do Hanging Lake justice. Even pictures don’t quite capture the essence of the place. It must be experienced.
I conquered a physical mountain to realize that I could also conquer my personal ones. Dare I say that we all have something GIANT in the way of our ideal lives? Or, at least, we feel like these mountains are insurmountable. I’m starting to recognize that many of these mountains are actually imaginary boundaries that society puts on us and that we put on ourselves.
And so, I now vow to challenge myself to those “impossible” mountains; that is the only way I can move on from doubting myself at the base to celebrating myself at the peak.