On my recent vacation, I rediscovered something that I thought I had lost. My friend, Lauren, and I, left out of Chicago at 6am and started our adventure out West. After fifteen hours in the car, on day one, we found ourselves in South Dakota. That next morning we took in the sunrise at The Badlands National Park and sunset over Mount Rushmore! It was a pretty amazing day.
As I stood amongst the vastness of life and nature, something within me began to shift. Having long-winded conversations about life tools and philosophies of growth in the car, we did a pit stop at Devil’s Tower before reaching our destination of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. If you’ve even driven this route, then you are sure to nod your head when I say the landscape is vast, with eternally open skies, and encompasses every imaginable terrain between a rolling green meadow to jagged, cloud touching mountains. It’s simply magical.
While in Jackson Hole, besides completing a half-marathon, a river rafting tour, a beer at the Million Dollar Cowboy bar, scrumptious vegan cuisine, a swim in a mineral hot springs with my dear, local friend, Jill, we also did a great deal of hiking. Now, in training for the half-marathons, it was quickly brought to my attention that I am not, in my heart, a runner. However, when we were hiking around Jenny Lake, and climbing up beside roaring waterfalls, and taking in an earned peanut butter and jelly sandwich at Inspiration Point, 7,789 feet up, I realized that in my soul, I am a hiker. I felt reawakened to a piece of my soul that had been riding coach for a very long time. My adventurer, my explorer—and when I put that metaphorical cap back on my head, it fit like a pair of favorite jeans.
While on the Jenny Lake trail, at the Grand Teton National Park, I also came across wildlife, in the form of a bear. Mind you, I saw a deer, a snake, a prairie dog, a marmot… but it was the bear that lingers in my cells. I was about ten feet ahead of my group when all of the sudden, my newly met friend, Lollie said, “Stop.” Because of my visual issues I wasn’t seeing what he, and my other two friends were seeing, which was a bear, standing behind a tree, just ten feet from me, up a five foot embankment. One lunge away, basically. I knew from Lollie’s tone that it was a bear, as he and I had seen one earlier in the day about a hundred yards ahead of us, with her two cubs, crossing the trail. In that moment, there was no thinking. It was raw; fight, flight, or freeze response. I froze. I felt overcome with silence, and fear, and exhilaration, and endlessness. When my brain regained control, I slowly took steps back towards the group, as they were the ones with the bear spray. The bear, as my friends tell me, looked at me, and then decided to trudge off into the wilderness. This life check flipped a switch in me. The person that was going through life was suddenly awakened to living her life on a whole new level.
We continued our adventure to Yellowstone National Park, where we completed a second half-marathon, climbed two mountains, and took in all the magnificent natural tourist sights. In my Yellowstone hikes, I hiked a little differently. I did not lead the pack, as it was clear that with my visual issues, that was not my safest choice. I didn’t take ‘selfie’ shots out on any ledges. But, what I did discover is that these past few years, living with my visual condition, that I had also been learning it. Studying how it affects my life, and the measures I needed to take in order to still achieve what I desired; and I was seeing that gathered information serving me as I crossed over numerous terrains. I was incredibly proud of myself.
I knew, when I returned home, that I wanted to find a way to keep hiking, and recruit old friends, or make new ones, who were wiling to share in, and assist me, in my adventures. I’m a big believer that when we are on our intended path, that the universe unfolds before us, offering us what we need to succeed. Upon returning home, I began a work call with a colleague of mine who, as it happens, loves to hike, and goes out, locally, several times a year!
I had let myself be awakened by finding something that invigorated my soul. What’s out there waiting to break open the sedentary rocks lying within each of us? Which direction is your next step in?