Our second day in the backcountry of Grand Teton National Park was arguably our most grueling and brutal. The mountain climb was constant. The huge elevation gain in such a short amount of distance, combined with some thick wildfire smoke that blew in from California in the afternoon, made breathing extra difficult.
This mountain tested me mentally as much as physically. I rode a wave of emotions. There were times I wanted to sit down and cry, times when I found myself laughing hysterically at small things, times I felt so angry I wanted to scream, times I became quiet and introspective. There were also many times my body wanted to quit, but there was simply no other option for ending the pain and discomfort except to Keep. Moving. Forward.
One slow step at a time.
Inch by inch.
Life is like that sometimes, isn’t it?
“Now therefore, Give me this mountain … if so, the LORD will be with me.”Joshua 14:12
There is infinite symbolism in the wilderness. It is a powerful, spiritual place. I always find Peace and Holiness when I am on a mountain.
Jeff and I walked on, and on, and on … and I started calling this day our “Endless Adventure”!
Most of the “kids” we met backpacking the Grand Tetons were younger than our own children! They trotted and galloped past us, as we shook our heads in part admiration, part exasperation. But, we also met several inspiring older adults. There were two encounters this day. First, we met Brian on our way up to Static Peak. He passed us early on, chugging away cheerfully, leaving us in the dust! As we neared the top several hours later he was headed back down, so we stopped to chat. Brian has been coming to GTNP every summer to hike since he was a teenager. When he retired last year he and his wife bought a RV, and now they have been working all summer for the Park service here. He was climbing Static Peak on this particular day to celebrate his 61st Birthday!
Soon after Brian headed back to his car, we met a woman who proudly told us she was 66. She was trail running our entire loop counter-clockwise in one full day [mind boggling!!] We met her at the top of Static Peak when she had already come at least 35 miles. In truth, she looked a bit dehydrated – but she was one very strong and determined woman! I have no doubt she conquered her Mountain, and met her goal!
There are many kinds of “mountains” in life that human beings face. The most difficult are internal. September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Jeff and I are hiking all month in support of the “46 Climbs” organization. They are a mental health awareness and suicide prevention group that I discovered via the “Kyle Hates Hiking” channel. We joined his team to fund raise for the cause, and I have pledged to hike one mile for every dollar that I raise [as of today, I’m at 195 miles!]
If you’d like to add a few miles, and donate to this great cause, here is my fundraiser link.
This subject is very personal to me. I’ve struggled with my own mental health challenges. My first thirty years I endured a tidal wave of uncontrollable emotions and mood swings. At the age of twelve I started journaling every day. I believe that daily practice of writing down my feelings and thoughts was probably what saved my life. But, it didn’t make it less miserable. I endured some very dark times. Facing every day – simply living – was exhausting. Finally, at age 30 I was professionally diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. For me, that day was a cause for celebration! For 30 long years I had believed I was a “stupid, weird mess” [my words], instead of an intelligent, normal human who simply needed proper medical care. Getting a diagnosis was a liberating moment, because it meant there was finally some hope and help ahead!
Thanks to receiving excellent therapy and medication regimens, combined with good mental health hygiene I have not only been able to survive, but thrive. My illness isn’t “gone”, but it’s managed now. I have to be diligent and do my part to care for my physical health. Getting proper sleep, eating nutritious foods, and staying active is an extremely important component of my mental and emotional wellness. And, of course, continuing to write and be creative.
Like many families, mental health challenges are genetic in ours. My loved ones have struggled, and experienced dark times, and hospitalizations. We have faced mountains, and we have slowly climbed our way up and over perilous peaks together.
Ten years ago, we lost our dear friend Val to his battle with depression. I’ve witnessed the devastating toll his loss took on his family and friends. I know that Val didn’t want to die, his brain just didn’t know the way to keep living. Tragically, he did not receive the help he needed in time. If only he could have known the irreparable harm his death would cause, perhaps he could have held on just a little while longer? If only he could have known about all of the amazing, joyful, marvelous things coming just around the corner that he would never want to miss, perhaps then!?
I literally know how agonizing holding on “just a little while longer” feels. It takes an incredible amount of effort, especially when you are ill. I know how exhausting it is. But, I also know, it is worth the climb. I promise, it is worth holding on.
Every single life is precious and priceless. We are all interconnected! The loss of even one, is a devastating loss to us all. I hope and pray that anyone reading who may be struggling right now with your own mental health, or experiencing feelings of hopelessness, will please know that you are not alone! There is hope and there is help! You don’t have to carry your painful burden, or climb up this mountain alone. Please, reach out to talk to others about how you are feeling right now! Also, please seek help from professionals. There are some wonderful, free 24/7 support phone lines and chat apps. Use them! Don’t give up! Your life is infinitely important. You matter more than you can possibly imagine right now! Hold on. Things can and will get better. I promise. Just keep moving, and keep climbing, or crawling, forward! Step by step, or inch by inch. Hand in hand, and never alone.
This post is Part 2 of our Four-Part Grand Teton Loop series:
- Day 1: South Jenny Lake to Phelps Lake
- Day 2: Phelps Lake to Sunset Lake, via Static Peak Divide and Alaska Basin
Here is today’s video. Enjoy! Love, Holly & Jeff
Day 3 Hurricane Pass & Upper Cascade
Day 4 Crossing Paintbrush Pass & Paintbrush Canyon