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Lessons From Hiking In Colorado

By August 28, 2012 4 Comments

View From Our Condo

I just spent a week with my family in Colorado.  This was an extra special trip for us because it has been nearly a decade since we have had a family vacation.  This was due to the fact that my parents spent the past 7 years taking full time care of their aging moms.  Now that both have passed away, it is time for themselves again!

The trip could be summed up by lots of quality time in a squished car, followed by lots of disc golf (an obsession with my family), and many memorable hikes.

On top of the world asking myself "what else is possible? What else am I capable of?"

My mom and dad

I don’t talk about it too often, but hiking is one of my favorite activities in the world.  If I had a day to live and couldn’t spend it with people I would be hiking somewhere in the mountains.  As you can see from my bucket list, I want to climb all the 14,000 plus foot mountains in Colorado.  There are 54-58 depending on how you define it.

I could share many stories from the trip, but I want to focus on just one and the lessons I learned from it, that I hope you can apply to your own life.

We planned on hiking a 14er with the family.  We chose Bierstadt because it wasn’t one of the harder 14ers, and the trailhead was accessible with 2 wheel drive vehicles.

The trailhead started at about 11,000 feet so we would have to ascend just over 3,000 vertical.  For those of you who have climbed high elevation, you know how much more difficult it is at such low oxygen levels.  Even climbing a set of stairs can leave you winded.

This climb is something we have been talking about for a couple months and the big question was if my mom, who will soon turn 64, would be able to make it to the top.

What you should know about my mom is that she is obsessed with eating healthy.  Her eating habits are quite amazing, which has allowed her to be a smaller size than she was in college despite having 4 kids.  But, she doesn’t do much intense working out.  She has gone through spurts of strength training at the gym, but mostly she walks and does a little biking around our block at home.

My mom brought her juicer 1000 miles just to juice us 5-6 lbs of vegetables and fruit. She truly lives out a healthy way of eating.

We had done a couple smaller hikes (9 ish miles) earlier in the week to get ready and she did awesome when the trail wasn’t very steep, but once it became steep her lungs would struggle quite a big and her legs became weak.  So this 3000 plus vertical that was compressed into less than 3 miles would be a challenge.

Check out this video I made…

My dad honoring his mom who he took care of 24/7 the final 7 years of her life and passed away last year at 96 years old

Shortly after I filmed the last part of the video, my mom and dad did make it to the top.  It was pretty awesome to see my mom, who I wouldn’t call the most adventurous, overcome a lot of her fears.  We had a touching moment at the top…  My dad surprised us by carrying up his mom’s ashes in a bag.  As we were ready to climb down he had us all come over and we had a moving ceremony as he threw the ashes into the wind to symbolize my grandma’s free spirit.

We Made It!!

Here are some of the biggest lessons I learned from this climb:

1.  We understate what we are capable of, and use fear of getting hurt, being too old, or not being fit enough, to stop us from experiencing amazing breakthroughs and moments.  My mom hadn’t ever done anything even close to this challenging even in her 20’s or 30’s, but she decided she would give it a go anyways.

No time to just stick with my paleo eating... Bring on the carbs 🙂

2.  Even the biggest tree can be chopped down one axe swing at a time.  It took my mom 3.5 hours to get to the top, but all that was required was to keep moving and taking one step at a time.  If she needed rest, she would take it, then continue at her slower pace, but consistency was the key.

Support team

3.  Having a support group.  She would tell you that the ONLY reason she even attempted it and then was able to finish the last 30 minutes on steep boulders was that fact that she had her kids at the top and she didn’t want to let us down.  Having a support group around you that won’t let you fail is so key.  I spent part of the hike and a big part of another hike holding my mom’s hand pulling her up the mountain.  I wasn’t going to let her stop.  My brother even offer her a piggy back ride, but she thought that would be cheating 🙂

4.  Maintaining a positive attitude.  For the most part she kept a good attitude, and we tried to support her with encouraging words.  The moment you get down on yourself and doubt whether you can achieve something is the start of a potential cycle towards failing at your goal.  So much of the results we get are based on the thoughts we have going on in our heads.

Sometimes in life you need to take a lending hand or give one.

5.  Reaching the top is the best way to forget the struggles and pain.  The feeling you get by reaching the summit or reaching a goal is so satisfying and rewarding that it has a way of helping block out the pain and suffering that occurred during the journey.  Moms know this very well when it comes to giving birth.  It is a very painful experience, but the joy of the child is so worth it that most moms decide to do it again.

6.  I believe a fulfilling and satisfying life is one lived when we can overcome challenges.  If live was easy everyday, we would find it boring and monotonous.  Creating memories like my family created on the mountain will live with us for the rest of the years we have on earth.  I find a special bond that forms when you do challenging things with other people.  It is hard to explain if you haven’t experienced it, but I have heard some describe the bond they have with those they workout with being closer than many of their relationships with their family.

My brother and I on a different hike in which we went alone and went as fast as we could. Honestly the hardest physical challenge I have ever done. Right after this pic was taken I needed to decent fast because my head was pounding, lungs burning more than I have ever experienced before, and I was getting dizzy.

I hope you have enjoyed the lessons I have learned.  I ask you to take a couple of these lessons or discover your own lessons and take action and maybe make plans to do something challenging and out of your comfort level.  I am going to be setting up a trip for next summer and work with a mountain guide to help me climb 7-10 14ers over the course of a week to 10 days.  What are you going to do?