Hitting the Wall at Eight Thousand Feet
“I think I’m going to barf! I need to lay down.”
“Seriously?” Sarah slowed to a stop and looked back at me.
“Shouldn’t have eaten those cherry-flavored licorice vines,” I muttered as I dropped my camera pack to the ground. “My throat is killing me. I need water.”
“I have about a teaspoon left,” Sarah said as she handed me her water bottle. “You can have it. I feel fine.”
“Thanks.” I sank to the ground and tiredly lifted her bottle to my lips. A trickle of warm water slithered into my mouth. I almost gagged. At least my mouth didn’t feel like a cotton boll any more. “Wake me up in a half an hour,” I told Sarah. “I hope I’ll feel better by then.”
“How much further do we have to go?” Sarah asked as she settled onto a patch of almost rockless ground next to me.
“Too far,” I murmured as I closed my eyes and wondered what in the world had possessed me to make this trip in the first place. It had seemed like such a fun idea at the time—spend my last Saturday before school started hiking the Bridger Ridge Trail with my favorite hiking buddy—my daughter Sarah, and two friends.
Our trail had turned out more of a trial.
The day had started off cool and beautiful. The sky over the Crazy Mountains lit up as the rising sun reached its anxious fingers towards the bright yellow flowers growing halfway up Sacajawea Peak. Mountain goats traversed the side of Hardscrabble Peak, causing a waterfall of rocks down the slope. The sun warmed the vibrant yellows and golds of the rocks and flowers leading from a hidden valley to the saddle.
My husband had snapped a photo of the four of us at the trailhead—Sarah, two of my friends and myself –at 4:45. We all looked confident and ready to take on a grueling 19-mile-trek over some of the roughest territory in the county. But now, Sarah and I were the only ones hiking and I felt like I’d been sucker-punched. The first four or five miles had been easy—pleasant even. My friend Ingrid and I had stopped often to take photos of the rugged beauty, the sunrise, the butterflies, the views.
I clearly remembered telling my husband, “Well, if a 70-year-old man can do this hike in five or six hours, it shouldn’t take us more than eight hours.”
After nine miles on the trail, I had started to really admire the spry 70-year-old who did the trail in six hours. Of course, our plan for the day hadn’t gone according to the script. We had to wait an extra thirty for Leisel to decide that rest wouldn’t help her knee. It took an additional forty-five minutes to get a hold of Pedro to come and rescue Leisel on his motorcycle at one of the passes. Ingrid had gone down with Leisel to the rescue point and decided not to try to catch up to us—wise choice!
The Dangerous Middle Passage
I groaned softly, and pummeled myself mentally. Sleep wafted just out of reach, but my cranky stomach gurgled. I wished for something to eat—something other than trail mix. I’d foolishly thought I could survive for 19 miles with two big bags of trail mix, an apple, a cheese sandwich, and a gallon of water. I never wanted to see trail mix again.
And water? I shouldn’t think about water. The wind had been sucking every ounce of moisture out of me for the last four hours. If they found my body next week, they’d presume I my mummified body had come from the Sahara.
At one point, while traversing a narrow ridge, the wind blew so hard that I had linked arms with Sarah in order keep her from blowing off the mountain. Ok, maybe she actually wouldn’t have blown off. But the wind blew hard enough that she could lean forward at a 70-degree angle and not fall down.
No way I would I find the strength to finish this little hike. But helicopter rescues were out of my price-range.
Motorcycles? Pedro had vowed never to ride his motorcycle up Baldy again, and I languished somewhere on the side of Baldy. Out of the question. I had no desire to ride down on a motorcycle, either—no matter how good the driver.
Would the Trail Ever End?
“Mom?” Sarah’s whisper broke up my pity party.
“Uhgh,” I muttered.
“It’s been about a half an hour. Are you ready?”
I pulled my carcass to the locked, upright position. “Ummm.”
“Those hikers that gave you the licorice said we only had five miles to get to the trailhead.”
“And we’ve come at least a mile or two since then.”
“Mom, I think you can do it!” Sarah chirped.
How did she know that’s what I needed—someone to assure me that I could do this. “O.k.,” I said.
“Do you want me to carry your backpack?”
“Yeah. You sure?”
“Mom, I feel great. That nap really helped.” She grabbed my backpack and put it on over her own water pack. “Let’s go!” She reached out and helped me to my feet.
I could do this! I could hike another three or four miles! All downhill—how hard could that be? Just one foot in front of the other. My little mountain goat bounded off down the trail. I followed behind her, muttering to myself, “I think I can, I think I can.”
A kind gentleman headed up the trail gave me some water forty minutes later. When we got to the bench below the ‘M’ on the side of the mountain, we took photos of each other. Victory—and sundown—were both in sight.
“You can see the truck from here,” Sarah assured me. “I’m just going to run down, o.k.?”
“Yep,” I answered. She had time for a short nap before I made it to the parking lot.
“You know,” I said as I started the truck, “next time we hike this trial, I won’t take my big camera.”
“Next time?” Sarah looked at me like I had sprouted fins in my forehead.
“Yeah. Next time. I’ll train better. Take more water. We’ll be prepared!”
“And you won’t eat any licorice!” Sarah interjected.
I answered with a tired smile, “Next time. I KNOW I can hike it faster than a 70-year-old man!”Have you ever noticed that the same five letters spell both 'trail' and 'trial?' It takes a cheerleader to help you survive either one! #community Click To Tweet
How often do you set unrealistic goals for yourself? Do you have a cheering section that picks you up and dusts you off when you overextend yourself?
Editor’s note: This story first appeared on my other blog, Blessed (but Stressed)
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