Thursday, November 9, 2017

Hooked on Hiking

My grandchild in the gray hoodie was carried in a back pack by my son or his wife 10 years ago. This year, the little guy on his mom's knee hiked part way and was carried in the back pack. 4 grandkids and they all made it to the top!

At the Tip of Mt. Naomi. Really windy and very cold. Sept. 16th 2017 

Many of my friends and family know the story behind my annual birthday hike, but for me the reason goes to something so deep inside of me, that even as a writer it's hard for me to put it into words.  Ever since the very first major hike as a five-year-old I've been hooked on hiking. That year, I joined the family (and thousands of others) for what was once an Annual Timp Hike 
From BYU archives. A snowfield like the one I remember as a 5-yr-old
that happened every July beginning in 1911 until 1970. The annual one-day event had thousands of people hiking the same day. Eventually it was discontinued because of environmental damage, but of course it remains one of the most popular trails. My mother said she and I didn't go all the way when I was 5. It's about 14 miles round-trip, but I know we went high enough to see so much. People called me a mountain goat. I don't remember a lot of compliments from that age, but that one took and I beamed with pride. 

 As a 5 year old, I remember crossing a snowfield that I felt like if I slipped it would be the end of me. Still, I loved it. Never forgot it and longed to hike from then on.  

Panoramic view of the summit of Mt. Timpanogas. Me, along with two friends slept in the little hut at the top on the night of  July 4th--around 1975 
It's no wonder that the year I was turning 38 and felt sad and depressed,  the thing I wanted to do the most on my birthday was hike. That year it was just me and one other friend and we did the Jardine Juniper trail in Logan Canyon. The annual birthday hike was born. I couldn't think of a better way to lift my spirits, than to spend time in the mountains, with people I love, and getting high on all of it, the goodness, the beauty, the fresh air, the friendships, and the awe. Rather than the hopelessness that yet another year had passed and I was closer to the finish line--death--if you haven't figured that out. I really do love my life, but sometimes a reminder now and again of how much I have to be grateful for is needed. If I'm not careful, it's not hard for me to be engulfed by all of the horrible stuff in the world. 

The year I turned 50, we hiked Jardine Juniper again. This time, I had my husband, two children, my son's wife and their first born,  and a good number of friends. The first grandchild was only one and he was carried in a backpack by his parents. This time--ten years later--I chose to do Mount Naomi in Cache Valley. To me, if I can still hike to the highest peak in Cache Valley look out over the vast valleys below, that gives me a lot of hope for the future. And the truth is, I'm healthier than I was the last time I did the hike. I've had a lot of health issues in my life (still do) but I feel better at 60 than I did at 50. 

One of my very favorite things about this hike was that my daughter came from NYC to do it. My son and his wife arranged to take off from their busy life. My four adorable grandkids came, and all made it to the top in very frigid weather. I hope hiking does for them what it did for me when I was their age. I doubt the six-year-old will ever forget how even though he was miserable and cold, he still made it to the top. He may even remember how a French Canadian couple  (total strangers) took off hats and gloves to lend him for the trip down. I had friends come, some who have been my friends for close to twenty-five years and some whom I'd only met within the last few years. The oldest person who hiked to the top was my husband at 64. 

Once in a while on hikes, I come across people who are in their 80's and still doing some pretty arduous hikes. I hope to be one of those people. I have a feeling that they are healthier and happier than their peers who are home in their rocking chairs. Here's to life!

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