I took a trip to Klamath Falls in southern Oregon to visit a new acquaintance. I’ve found that since I started my “living for happiness” lifestyle, I’ve met more people than I ever imagined. I take risks and talk to strangers. Those strangers teach me so many wonderful things that constantly change my perspective on life. And sometimes these strangers become acquaintances, who then can become friends. And just maybe, even life long friends, who attach themselves to my ever growing, deeply rich and blessed heart.
But now let’s get to the hike! After I left Klamath Falls, I stopped at Crater Lake which is one of “Oregon’s Seven Wonders”. Actually, Oregon has wonders a dozen times over, but this is one of the big ones. Crater Lake was formed after Mount Mazama exploded and collapsed over 7,000 years ago. Mother Nature’s continuous creation from destruction, transformation, and incredible beauty in every stage…the maiden, the mother, the crone, the reborn.
I came upon Mount Scott. At a peak elevation of 9,861 feet (3006 meters), it is the tallest mountain in the Crater Lake area.
I decided to climb it.
The posted sign read that it was a 2.5 mile (4 km) “strenuous” hike to finish the last 1,200 feet (395 meters) in elevation to its peak, marked by a fire watch tower. There wasn’t a definition as to what “strenuous” meant, and there was only one sure way to find out. I filled my backpack with water and away I went.
It started out easy enough and I saw a few hikers on their way down with smiles on their faces. Many had walking sticks, but no climbing gear, so I was at ease in my choice to go, and to hike alone.
The incline steepened and I started to exert myself a little more. I stop for a minute or two and catch my breath. I’d walk and deliberately concentrate on my breathing to keep it even and help slow down my heart rate that was beginning to race.
I kept going and met a wonderful couple who was also on the climb up. We chit-chatted for a bit about where we were from and our favorite hikes in Oregon. They shared that this climb was really more “moderate” than strenuous and offered to have me walk with them. I thanked them for their offer and said I was on my own schedule and taking my time. “I’ll see you at the top” I told them. We waved goodbye and I continued my hike.
The treeline was behind me and in front was a rocky outcropping. As the elevation increased, so did my labored breathing and as the steepness increased, so did the pounding of my heart and the screaming of my leg muscles.
Could I have a heart attack? I guess I could, right?
People occasionally pass me and I reminded myself that “I’m not in a competition, this my time, my journey, my accomplishment.” A runner passes me… Really? Running UP a mountain? I am astounded and impressed at the same time. And Yes, a little annoyed.
The path turns rocky and more treacherous, with steep drop-offs and loose rocks. Still the trail is clearly visible. My heart is pounding so hard and loud I swear I can see my shirt moving. My head explodes with each beat. I sit and take yet another rest. I contemplate for the 10th time about turning around, giving up, telling myself “you can do what you want, why make yourself suffer so?” I’m sitting on a rock and can look at the view below. I see a teeny, tiny row of black and white specs that are the line of cars from hikers.
I’m shocked at how far I’ve come. Wow! That is FAR!
2.5 miles my ass! Whoever did the millage must have used the “as a crow flies” method and crows don’t fly this high. I can see birds circling below, farther down the mountain. I’ve got to be near the top by now, look how far I’ve come! I have a renewed resolve and I continue the hike.
I’m NOT near the top.
And I just realized that none of the people who passed me along the way have YET to come back down the mountain. Are they all waiting at the top to see if I’ll make it? Or maybe they are STILL hiking? I shutter and feel a little nauseous. I take another rest, willing my vision to focus.
I finally turn a corner and can see the fire watch tower in the distance. I’m in the home stretch! The path evens out and my muscles rejoice, my stride lengthens as my lungs fill more casually with air. I greet the nice couple I met on the way up with a smile as they begin their descent. I reach the tower and touch the wood. I find a nice rock that overlooks the valley below and settle myself there. I sit for at least an hour, appreciating my accomplishment and determination.
Carving a path for the life you want can feel like you’re climbing a mountain. They both have many spots that challenge us, where we want to turn around, give up, say “I just can’t go on”, “I’m tired”, “this is impossible”, “what am I doing” or even “I don’t want this anymore”. We see people pass us who make everything look so easy. We think “I’m not good enough, smart enough, or worthy”. But there are the moments when you look and see how far you’ve come. The victories that come with each bend in the path. Victories that no one can take from you, they are yours and yours alone. Taking that first step is a victory as there are many of us who FEAR that very step.
“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” – Edmund Hillary
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