About 9 months ago, I read the following paragraph in a blog about summiting spectacular peaks in the Canadian Rockies. I had been reading this blog for several years and his posts about the peaks he climbs in challenging winter conditions are truly inspirational. Many are climbs the likes of which I will never attempt. His memorable landscape photography should also be noted.
During a challenging climb last year, he seemed to hit a wall and lose motivation part of the way up the mountain. He wrote:
“I’m not sure exactly why, but it has something to do with my realization that I only want to climb mountains and do hikes that I really enjoy. I am no longer interested in just accumulating summits that nobody gives a crap about, I want to be able to savor and linger over moments spent well, rather than obsess about moments that are still to come or may never happen.”
Later in the climb, he gains what he calls his mountain mojo back and continues his very scenic climbing as usual. However, his sentiment resonated within me.
I’m sure I’ve written about this before, but my time on the trail has always come with a trade-off. Often, I am choosing to be away from my family, or I am playing hookey from work. I scramble to the top of a mountain, take a few pictures, have a snack, and start back down. Sometimes I never even sit down at the summit.
Turns out, I had been doing it all wrong.
I had learned some of this on my trip to Mount Whitney, where the PD and I pushed ourselves to the brink of exhaustion every day. A year later, we learned how to relax and truly enjoy the scenery of the Chicago Basin.
The people I know have also influenced me. On my trip in the Matilija, several of the hikers stopped repeatedly to have snacks and enjoy just being there. I initially shook my head, but later realized they were doing it right.
While texting with a friend yesterday who was on Eagle Peak, the light bulb came on again. He had brought his stove and was cooking noodles at the top of the mountain. On a DAY hike! I realized I still could do better. He was enjoying his time in the outdoors to the fullest. He was doing it right. My mind is usually halfway down the mountain or already at home, worried about what I might be missing with my family. Being present in the outdoors can sometimes be a problem for me.
However, I was able to truly enjoy my latest hike to Peak 3339 a few weeks back. While I hiked for most of the day without taking a break, once I got to the peak, I chose a perch on a high boulder and let myself relax. I told myself I would stay there at least a half hour. I gave myself permission to set my pack down, retract my trekking poles, and eat my lunch slowly, enjoying the wonderfully scented breeze and green desert.
Some of you might also have noticed that my outdoor adventures are not as peak-based as they used to be. I am getting more enjoyment out of backpacking with my daughter than scrambling to some barely-named peak. I am enjoying backpacking into the San Diego wilderness to spend quality time there.
Have I lost my mountain mojo?
No. The balance of family/work and outdoors has simply swung to one side for a bit and might be there for a while. (See my post about Burger Bench if you aren’t sure what I’m talking about.)
Therefore, my time in the outdoors has to be strategic. Instead of driving all over San Diego County, bagging remote peaks, I will be taking my daughter on short day hikes and overnight trips. I will be training in the canyon near my house and preparing for larger, more memorable trips. When I venture out into the wilderness, I’d like to make it count. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be bagging peaks. That sort of mountain mojo doesn’t go away easily.
But, as of now, the PD and I are aiming to go to the Canadian Rockies this summer.
I think that counts.