Backpacking Revelations and Mental Endurance
14 Days Around Mt. Rainier wasn’t an easy walk in the park. It included 150 miles at elevations between 2800′ to 6200′. When I added up the elevation gain and loss on my Garmin, it was 60,000′ up and down steep trails carrying a backpack that weighed any where from 32 pounds base weight to 38 pounds with food and water.
Prior to the leaving in August, I was training on average of six days a week for a triathlon I was was planning to participate in, in September. I worked at weight training in a high intensity interval class plus either, ran, walked with a backpack of 20 pound kitty litter or road my bike. On additional days I was off I would swim at least a mile.
Regardless, still after all the training, each night we made it into to camp, I felt like I was crawling there.
Was there something I missed in my training, nutrition or equipment selection?
Giving myself a little more credit where credit was due, I compared myself to the many younger people who do not finish and leave early off the trail due to a variety of reasons. You cannot control the weather but you can control your physical preparedness and being physically unprepared is probably the number one reason hikers leave the trail. The second being rain or adverse weather conditions.
Putting physical preparedness aside, for me it was more of a personal, emotional and mental challenge that started my ability to live in the moment and relax with all that was around me.
A Native American Tells His Story “Behold This Day”
by Black Elk Hehaka Sapa, Oglala Sioux, Lakota
Black Elk, 1863-1950, a holy man of Oglala Sioux, told the story of his life and his vision to the poet John G. Neihardt in 1931. He received the great vision by which he steered his life at the age of nine.
And a Voice said: “All over the universe they have finished a day of happiness.” And looking down I saw that the whole wide circle of the day was beautiful and green, with all fruits growing and all things kind and happy.
Then a Voice said: “Behold this day, for it is yours to make. Now you shall stand upon the center of the earth to see, for there they are taking you.”
I was still on my bay horse, and once more I felt the riders of the west, the north, the east the south, behind me in formation, as before, and we were going east. I looked ahead and saw the mountains there with rocks and forests on them, and from the mountains flashed all colors upward to the heavens. Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of the many hoops that made on circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy.
Live Your Life and Behold Each Day of Your Journey
1. If You Lack Confidence and Walk in Fear, Make a Plan
As I thought about using Nathan Olney as my first chapter, what gives me confidence is to have a plan and choreograph my moves. I used a table and on each day I had across each column, distance, elevation gain/loss, elevation of camp and miles. I memorized my map, studied each camp, planned each meal in every column and row. If this is what it takes to lessen some fear, do it. Otherwise you are the very adventuresome type who craves living on the edge.
2. When You are Faced with Humbling Challenges, The Opportunity You are Presented is to Think Things Though.
The option I chose most often was to break things in to manageable chunks. Most important, do not be in a hurry. Most of the time we arrived at camp at dinner time or later.
3. Grit is The Drive that Conquers Pain.
Beauty can be both great and small. Beauty always follows Pain, but you must keep your mind open, have enough trust and look for it. Having a Growth Mindset that you can do hard things is essential to staying with your plan and having daily reflection and practice that allows for you to seek positives in your life are essential to enjoying your journey when you need a rally.
4. Your Tribe Should Be Your Allies
If you are taking others along in your journey, go for a test run. Set limits on discussion if there are sensitive topics. Nothing is worse than to have a conversation hijacked.
5. Maturity and Wisdom Matters.
Use your experiences in life to apply to solving problems.
6. Decision Making is a Combined Effort
Over and over, we discussed the possibilities and weighed outcomes over dinner each night. We checked in with each other in the morning to make sure we were still good with the plan or if something came up as we slept on it. A good night’s sleep in a cozy tent of fresh air can inspire revelations.
7. If You Are Always Hungry, Then you Must Learn to Delay Gratification
I’ve done a lot of reading on this topic. Being a retired teacher there is an abundance of research around children that can delay gratification are the most successful in life. Forage for food as much as you can, drink an abundance of water otherwise you’ll be miserable trying to pack treats and trail mix 150 miles.
8. Do not succumb to Competition. Through Empowerment We can Grow
Our capitalistic world has it backwards and there is nothing that shows this more completely than being on the trail together. This is your makeshift family and you all look out for each other. Any other way is a waste of energy and a distraction from what you should be focused on.
9. Experiences are what You Bring to the Table
Every person has something to offer in life no matter how young or old, little experience or well seasoned, they may have.