I hiked to the top of Grandeur Peak yesterday. I want to say that I love hiking but in honesty I’d have to call it a love-hate relationship. There are aspects of hiking I love, being in nature, the feeling of accomplishment when I reach the peak, the knowledge that I’m burning calories and the hope that my mom butt is turning into buns of steal. There are things I hate about hiking…the burning sensation in my legs, the desperate feeling of needing oxygen in my lungs and not being able to get it there fast enough, the pounding in my chest and increasing fear, which comes with age, that me dropping dead of a heart attack on the trail is becoming more and more likely.

I cannot count the number of times on the way up the trail that I know for a fact I would have stopped, taken a photo and called that lovely view “good enough”. I totally could have talked myself out of going to the top. However, my friend and group of people I was hiking with were waiting for me at the top. There was this feeling that if they could do it, surely I could. I think I may appear to most to be driven, and I am… I’m great at starting difficult tasks, and I’m really good at pumping myself up to get going and on my way to success. If every goal I set were a sprint, or resembled a sprint in that it was short and fast, I’d be in good shape. The problem lies in the long, slow, endurance-type goals. I may have short-term discipline but my brain resembles a village of squirrels, all of them going in different directions and none of them knowing quite how to stay focused for the long haul.

I was alone on the trail for most of the way. I pushed myself as long and as far as I could and when I needed a break, I took one. I wanted to sit down on these breaks, or at the very least squat down … for some reason being close to the earth felt like it would be a good thing. I feared I may not get back up if I got down and so I only allowed myself to put my hands on my knees and bend forward in some desperate attempt to locate more oxygen and energy.

Reaching the top was one of those moments when you silently say “HALLE-FREAKIN-LUJAH, I made it!”… I was so glad I did. The tormenting feelings of not wanting to finish instantly went away and the grueling push to get there suddenly seemed worth it. The view was spectacular.

While the lesson to myself on discipline was valuable and appreciated on my hike up, it is the life lesson that came to me on my way down that I wish to record.

I have no patience. I think I can do life alone. I am always in a hurry, I have no idea where it is I think I need to be, but for some reason I think I’m late and need to rush… perhaps it is a sense that I am wasting time? Therefore, while the other 24 people sat and ate lunch and visited at the top, I said, “I’m going to take off, I’ll see you at home.”

I started down the trail and within a matter of minutes I was struggling to maneuver down some very steep and slippery terrain. I questioned if the trail I was on looked familiar, stopped myself to look around and decided there had been no other trail, I must not have remembered this part. I did that a few times, questioning whether I was headed in the right direction a bit more each time I stopped. I started to have a nervous feeling, at about that same time, I looked up and realized the “trail” had ended. I was headed straight down the side of the mountain and there was no obvious path to take. I recalled switchbacks on the way up and there was no sign of that here. I stood up tall and looked around trying to get some grounding and figure out which direction I should even be heading and I realized I was lost. I had never done this trail, or even hiked on this mountain before. Anxiety started to take over my body and my mind started taking inventory of what I had in my back pack, just in case I truly was lost and may be spending the night here. I had half a bottle of water, some nuts and some jerky. I began to pray and I’ll be honest… I began to cry. My nerves are shot anyway and the feeling of panic and fear I felt got the best of me. I scanned the mountain-side high and low and I caught, out of the corner of my eye, something red. It was a hiker and I could see roughly where they were, way off in the distance. I could not tell what direction they were headed, and then they disappeared. The only logical thing to do was head straight back up the mountain from where I had just come. On my hands and feet I scaled up the side of the mountain, repeatedly losing my footing and praying each step of the way. I got a ways up and I heard my water bottle fall from my pack. I turned to watch it roll down, down down to just past where I had been standing before it was stopped by a small bush. I debated leaving it there and going on without water, I did not want to go back down that steep slope I had just worked so hard to climb up, but I had to, I needed that water, especially if I was lost. I retrieved the water and eventually made it to the top. I noticed off to my right the much smaller and less obvious trail I had probably missed, which had caused me to take the much larger and “obvious” trail that headed straight down the mountain.

I took some deep breaths, said another prayer and began walking. In a short time the trail began to look familiar. Relief settled over me and I offered a prayer of gratitude. Within a matter of minutes I came upon two people in our group, the two that had volunteered to be at the back of the pack. Everyone had passed me in the time I had been lost. Brad heard me approaching and in a surprised and slightly panicked voice said, “did you go right? Shoot, I warned everyone not to go right. That is the spot where everyone gets off the trail. You must have left before the instructions.”

UGHHHHH… of course I had. That’s what I always do. I get in a hurry, I lose patience, I think I can do this alone and not wanting to waste time, I go off on my own.

After we chatted I could feel my impatience kicking back in and I said, “do you mind if I go ahead of you?” (they were going much too slow) and off I went. Within a matter of minutes I reached the back of the entire group. I could not ask 22 people to step aside and let me pass. I had to be patient and stay with the group. I thought about the times I had been saved from speeding tickets because of the annoyingly slow car in front of me and then silently thanked them for saving me from a speeding ticket. I decided that maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing to be stuck at the back of this group of people, it actually felt safe there. SLOW DOWN JACKIE were the words I heard in my head.

The hike down was about an hour and a half I believe. With about an hour left to go I started to notice small rocks in my shoes from the detour I had taken, from the time I had spent scaling that steep and slippery slope to get back to this beautiful trail that was safe and even lined with green grass and colorful flowers. The trail was narrow and not as easily spotted as that large and obvious right I had taken earlier. STRAIGHT IS THE GATE AND NARROW IS THE PATH JACKIE… again, words in my head… messages being delivered to me that I needed to hear.

I began to thank Heavenly Father for His plan, for His Gospel, for the Savior and for the guidelines and beautifully lined trail he had outlined for me. It felt so much safer to be here and even to know I had others with me who were on the same trial, some who knew the way and some who were just like me, trusting those who knew.

I noticed the rocks in my shoes again. Sometimes in life when we get off track we are left with “small rocks in our shoes”. Sure, the hike would be easier without them, but I wouldn’t have learned the life lessons without the detours. The small rocks could either serve as reminders of what an idiot I am and cause me to spin out on regret and how stupid I am to the point of thinking, “who cares, I may as well continue to self sabotage and get off course”, OR, they could serve as gentle consistent reminders that there is an easier way, there is a safer path, and a way that is far less lonely and that offers peace.

By the time I got to the bottom of that mountain I had stumbled, tripped, gotten lost, fallen and was aching everywhere. I was so glad to get home, but so glad for all of my experiences, for what they had taught me and for the sense of accomplishment in completing my mission.

I’m ever grateful for the way Heavenly Father speaks to me and teaches me in a way that I understand. I’m thankful for another lesson in how to embrace adversity and for the beautiful gifts of nature that God gave me to learn them from.