Planning and training for our 100 mile hike later this summer gives me little “butterflies” in my stomach. Lots of butterflies. Sometimes, those butterfly wings are flapping frantically and my fear is nearly paralyzing! My mind starts racing through all the worst case scenarios [wild animal attacks, dehydation, hypothermia, severe weather, lightning, snakes, dangerous terrain, falling off cliffs … ] but thankfully, most of the time I just feel flutters of excitement and eagerness to meet the challenge.
Most of all, there’s this eagerness for “the adventure”, a chance to discover the world, see new things, problem solve, conquer challenges, plan and train to do something new – to push myself out of my comfort zone and do something hard because I know from so many past experiences just how amazing it feels to accomplish something hard that you didn’t think you were capable of!
I’m currently working on learning how to read a map. I know, that sounds silly, right? I mean, it’s a map! How hard can that be?! Point A to Point B. I grew up in the era of maps! There were no electronics, no mobile/cellular/smart phones [they were securely attached to walls inside, or enclosed in little phone booths – which you needed to carry coins for, or know how to ask an operator to “make a collect call”]. There was definitely no GPS, and your car did not tell you where to go. It was simply a hulking chunk of metal with an engine, some doors, some seats and a steering wheel. If you wanted to get somewhere you’d never been you needed to have a physical paper map, and you needed to hope it was up-to-date. Every car had at least one map tucked in the glove box, usually multiple, and maybe there was even the fancier, “Holy Grail” of maps tucked under the seat [because it was too large to fit in a glove box] … the spiral-bound “Atlas”! 🙂
Every child of an earlier era remembers their parents having at least one or more
screaming matches frantic discussions about “the map” as driver versus navigator
just look at the *!&# map! … I’m looking! it isn’t ON the map … Oh wait! take this exit. NO! The other exit! … Why didn’t you tell me that before I took this exit?! … I was looking at the map! … fold back the map, I can’t even see the road … I can’t make out the road if I fold it on this crease … I think the road is on this other map anyway … no, it’s on this map … if you think it’s so easy YOU look at the map … or, you know we could just stop and ask for directions! …
Road maps are one thing that I feel pretty comfortable with. But, the backcountry / trail / mountain maps are something new! There’s all of these tiny little squiggly colored lines and groovy patterns which represent things that I am told will be very important to understand when I’m planning my route, and when I am physically there on the ground.
Things like, small roads [paved, gravel, or dirt?] , undeveloped and developed trails [foot traffic only? Bikes? ATV/ORV? Horses?], the elevation gains or drops, the grade [how steep is this thing?], the streams and lakes [are they actually close enough to the trail to provide water for filtering? Will we be able to stay hydrated through this section? How far away is the next water source? Will we need to “camel up” or carry extra from this point?], how far is each section and how long should we anticipate it to take us based on the elevation and grade? Can we possibly determine ahead of time where we will pitch our tent, or the best place to spend a night? And, what do all of these little numbers mean?
Did you know that there are entire map reading classes for hikers?! I did not.
These classes also include learning how to use a compass, and determining coordinates, which is apparently a very important life-saving skill, and something I currently know zip-a-dee-doo-dah about… [oh, no! Even hiking involves Math!?!] sigh…
But wait! In addition to paper maps, there are fancy GPS maps you can download onto your phone – Topographical Maps [or “TopPo” for short] – there are also apps like GutHooks and Gaia which may or may not require a data connection or subscription fees ? and then there are rescue devices which basically give you a big “Panic Button” to push in the woods – and, the fancier models also double as mapping and two-way contact devices [since cell phones are basically unreliable in the backcountry] So much to learn, so many decisions … [so many purchases….]!
Okay. Breathe. I can do this. I just need to watch some more videos, take some classes, talk to some experts and embrace the adventure of learning all these new kind of “mapping” skills! I’ve got this. This is all PART of the adventure! In fact, I really am enjoying the planning, preparing and learning. It builds the anticipation! I realize that nothing really compares to just “getting out there” with a feet-on-the-ground experience, however, as our recent [mis]adventure illustrates, investing more planning, preparation [and common sense] is crucial to providing a safe-as-possible learning environment!
Is it hard learning new things? Is it scary? Yes and yes.
Can I plan everything out perfectly? Can I always know where I am going or how things will turn out? Nope and nope.
But, what makes me feel less panic and keeps me going is knowing that I have done this before!
Not “this” exact thing – a 100 mile backcountry hike – but, definitely tackling big challenges, overcoming fears, running the races, crossing the finish lines, completing the assignments [so many races, marathons, hikes, travel] … and then there’s been the biggest endurance tests of my life – the personal unexpected, unplanned challenges, illness [physical and mental], marital challenges, unemployment, financial stress, raising children and navigating each of their individual challenges. At the age of 30, a Mom of two young children, we sold our “dream house” and moved into an old fixer-upper so I could return to school and complete my University degree. Despite having previously attended two years of college a decade before, I basically had to start all over and go through another 4 years. I did it. I graduated. I cherish that diploma on my wall. I have auditioned for stage roles and singing engagements [successfully and unsuccessfully]. I have prepared and performed recitals, concerts, operas and stage plays in front of large audiences [some a triumph, some less inspiring]. I’ve sung for weddings and funerals [demanding + draining]. I built a 17-year career out of a “day job” doing things I never chose or wanted – however, I kicked butt learning all the new things required, and became really good at what I do. I’ve spent too many sleepless nights worrying. I’ve sobbed with a broken heart, prayed with a hopeful heart, cried tears of laughter, and wept tears of joy.
Every time I’ve faced some new life adventure I’ve felt disoriented and completely “lost” – taking unexpected detours, and terrifying leaps – but I’ve always found my way.
Recently, I reached a “base camp” on a particularly long, hard climb called The Endless Adventure of Parenting Daughter A and Daughter Bee. I was given the reward of being able to look back over my now 30-year climb, and enjoy the vista of my amazing adult children striking out on their own challenging paths and unplanned adventures, and finding their way! Their father and I are stepping back, watching them go, cheering them on, and enjoying an amazing feeling of satisfaction. I even became a Grandma two years ago – definitely my best new adventure ever!
I continue to climb through the mountains and valleys of faith and doubt. I’ve learned that spirituality is a life-long journey, not a destination. I no longer proudly think I have all the answers – or any real answers at all. And that’s okay. We don’t learn anything from sitting still and staying comfortable, we learn from staying in motion. Surprisingly enough, that realization has given me more peace than I’ve ever had before. I embrace my inner quest toward finding my true self, why I might be standing in “this spot” right now on my particular journey, and pondering what my Heavenly Parents want me to learn next. Which path is my powerful, inner compass leading me toward?
Through it all, no matter how hard [or perhaps because of how hard] my unique “adventures” have been over the past 54 years of life, it oddly makes me hunger for more.
If I were a betting woman, I’d wager that you also have your very own amazing adventure stories! LIVING is the ultimate adventure, right? And, remarkably, through it all, you’ve also found your way!
Life is really cool like that.
Perhaps adventure – in all of its forms – physical, metaphysical, psychological, emotional, terrifying, delightful, maddening, satisfying, painful, joyful… is the ultimate path to self discovery. This is why we seek after it. Because, the more we adventure, the more we learn about our true selves. The more we discover, the more we crave to find and celebrate our endless, divine potential.
Keep moving and pressing forward, fellow Adventurers! Enjoy your journey! – Holly