Updated: Jan 8
I believe everyone who is able to hike a mountain at least once in a lifetime ... should. My very first hiking experience was at Multnomah Falls in Oregon. I had recently relocated from Fort Knox, KY to Vancouver, WA, and almost as soon as I got there, I met another black woman; if you've ever lived in Vancouver, WA, you'll understand why I mentioned her race; she quickly became a new sistahfriend. One day while talking on the phone, she talked about hiking and how much she enjoyed it. Of course, this brown-girl from the projects of Savannah, GA was not at all excited about the thought of walking, hiking, climbing or doing anything on a mountain. Honestly, my first thought was, "Who in their right mind thinks walking up mountains is fun?" My second thought was, "Only white folks do this kind of foolishness." I know. I know. I know. Stop judging me. Since there wasn't much else to do, and I like to think of myself as adventurous; I agreed to go hiking with her the next Saturday morning.
The following Saturday, she drove from Portland to my apartment in Vancouver, so we could ride together to Multnomah Creek in the Columbia River Gorge. She had packed us lunch and told me my regular workout clothes and shoes would suffice, because of course, I was not trying to spend money on mountain-man clothes and shoes. See...you're judging me again. The first thing I noticed when we got there was the amount of people already there, early in the morning, ready to walk up a mountain. I saw sundry people from different races, nationalities, ages, and genders. I realized quickly my previous ideas about mountain hiking being a "white people" thing were a bit flawed.
We started the journey upward. At first, it was relatively easy and painless. I was able to talk to my friend and keep pace with her. However, the further up we walked, the trail became more narrow and winding. I began to feel the ache in my legs and had to slow down some. At a certain point my friend and I could no longer walk side-by-side. Since she was more experienced, she was a little ahead of me, but never went so far beyond that I could not see her. The most frightening part of the journey was the point where the trail became the edge of the mountain and one misstep could send me tumbling downward to my death. It just happened to also be a space where the soil was not as firm and the trail was steep, yet the view was breathtaking.
My friend stopped ahead and watched me. She yelled, "Take your time. You're not gonna fall. Just don't look down." I took her advice. We kept walking up and around, up and around. We passed people. We waited for people to pass. We talked to strangers and met some amazing characters while walking up that mountain. Eventually, my focus was no longer on my aching legs or the fear of falling, but I began to notice the plant and animal life. I started asking questions about everything and was fascinated with the power and beauty of the waterfall.
We made it to the top of the mountain. What's interesting about the hike is it didn't take nearly as long as it felt while going up. When we finally reached the apex, I was so stinkin' proud of myself. I talked to everyone who had made and completed the journey. Although we were from diverse places and different walks of life, the one thing we all had in common was we had hiked up a mountain and made it. We took pictures, ate lunch and stared at the beauty of it all. At one point, everyone was quiet, and I knew we were all relishing everything and every moment of being at the top.
Just a few lessons learned from mountain hiking.
It takes great effort to get to the top of a mountain, but one misstep at the top can cause a fatal fall.
Although the sky is always above and the trees are all around, it's difficult to focus on them while trudging up the mountain.
Almost instantly, once you reach the top, the pain of the upward journey morphs into the joy of accomplishment.
Sometimes the scariest, most risky places on the hike are the most beautiful.
It really is beautiful at the top.
It's so much more fun to hike mountains with friends.
You realize your legs are stronger than you thought.
The trek up a mountain is more difficult and more dangerous when you don't have the proper gear.
Some people will decide hiking a mountain is a once in a lifetime event, and others will make a sport of it.
These are only a few. I could list so many more. If you too have climbed, walked, hiked a mountain, feel free to share a lesson learned.