a half mile short of the goal

I recently went on a trip to the Porcupine Mountains with a dear friend. We hiked to a rustic cabin (rustic = no water, no electricity, wood burning stove for heat) with everything we needed for three days loaded on our backs. This is how we celebrate turning 40, I guess.

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The trail in was lightly snow-covered. I have no idea if this is normal for the UP of Michigan in the middle of October, but it was certainly different than we had envisioned when we booked the trip 6 months earlier. The fall colors were just past-peak, but contrasted with the white of the snow and the blue of the sky, and it was nothing short of amazing. We navigated huge mud puddles, small creeks, ups and downs, tree roots, rocks, you name it, and we arrived at what was to be our home for two nights.

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photo credit: Rochelle Ament

Our plan during the second day was to hike the 4 miles to Lake of the Clouds. After breakfast, we packed up our lunch and headed out. When I say “hike”, I don’t mean a casual walk down a dirt-packed trail. This was rugged terrain, and with recent rain and snow, the hike was a challenge. We often had to navigate our own path around obstacles including ankle-deep water and thick mud. At about four miles, we reached Government Peak. We sat down for a snack and to check the map… we thought we had to be getting close. A look at the map revealed we had hiked 2.1 miles in entirely the wrong direction. A moment of silent disbelief preceded a quick conversation of what we should do next. We were already tired – arriving at Government PEAK meant we had just gone quite a ways up a steep incline. We decided that we’d head back to where we’d made the wrong turn, then start toward Lake of the Clouds and figure it out from there.

We booked it back, covering that 2.1 miles in about 45 minutes. Once we started on the right trail, we decided we were going the whole way. We arrived at Lake of the Clouds, only to find the “real” view, the one we had come for, was over a half-mile away. And it was UP. We knew that going up there would be rewarding, and the sight would be amazing, but we also knew we had a four mile hike back. We had already gone 8 miles, and adding in this extra bit (again, it was UP) would put us over 13 miles for the day. Our legs felt like logs… and not to mention the drips of rain we’d felt, the dark clouds looming, and the shortened daylight that comes with autumn.

I was torn. Although I wanted that reward, I also knew those miles back to our cabin were going to be tough. I knew we could drive up to the overlook the next day… but that did seem like the “easy” way out. It wasn’t that half-mile up that had me concerned, it was the miles after that that seemed so long, with the obstacles and steep inclines to get through. Luckily, my friend didn’t hesitate to start the trek up to the overlook saying, “Kate. We aren’t going to get a half mile from it and turn around.” Never mad but definitely annoyed, I followed. And yes, I was ultimately glad I did. Lake of the Clouds was worth the miles. Every one of them.

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We got back to the cabin before darkness began to set in, 7 hours after we had headed out. We filled our bellies with a hot meal and a little vodka (for the sore muscles, you know), and felt the effects of our achievement. As we settled in for the night, I thought about how a piece of me had wanted to quit just short of the goal. If I hadn’t had a good friend to give me that little nudge my brain was having trouble mustering, I don’t know if I would have made the hike up.

I am an independent person and internally motivated. I can often keep myself going in tough situations with positive self-talk and just pure determination. Some might say I’m stubborn. But sometimes, you need a good friend to step in and say the right thing to push you past what you thought you were capable of. It was a risk to ask our bodies to hike that extra distance – we were up against the threat of inclement weather and a time constraint in addition to our weary muscles. I am so grateful that I was on that trip with that particular friend because she is just bull-headed enough to hike on. She knew the reward was worth the risk.

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photo credit: Rochelle Ament

The next day, we woke up to around 2 inches of snow on the ground. Had we turned back and not hiked up to the overlook the day before, we would have missed that view. Sure, we could have gone back and the view with snow would have been cool, but those fall colors would have been camouflaged with white, and we would have missed the reason we took the trip.

So what did I learn? So many things… like, I’m not good at cutting up firewood, lake water doesn’t taste that bad, I can hike 13+ miles in a day, and every sound in a pitch black forest in the middle of the night sounds like a bear trying to break into your cabin.

But I also learned that stubborn, independent, determined people (like me) can have moments of weakness, and it’s essential to have people on your team that will push you beyond what you think you’re capable of.

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When has something like this happened to you – where you were hesitant to take a next step, but someone you trust pushed you forward? What did you learn about yourself? I’d love to hear your story about a risk you took because someone gave you the nudge you needed!
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