All or Nothing…and Everything In Between.

Lessons from Oregon

I recently spent a week in Bend Oregon with my best friend and our dog Jackson. This was a last minute change to my itinerary for 52 Peaks. With the non-stop itinerary I had been following, I was beginning to feel exhausted, not only from the amount and difficulty of the peaks I had been tackling, but from the constant travel and lack of down time to physically and mentally recover from what I was putting myself through.

img_1585I took a few days off after traveling from Mt St Helens to Bend, OR. Then my friend and I hiked in the Three Sisters Wilderness and went to the top of South Sister. South Sister is one of three volcanic peaks in the Cascade Volcanic Arc located in the Cascade Range in Oregon. The elevation is 10,358’. We chose to hike up via the Climbers Trail which was about 11.8 miles round-trip to the summit and back.

Hiking with my friend was a good reminder for me that I can always push myself harder than I think. Many of my climbs have been at higher altitude and the pace on the mountaineering climbs at altitude is much slower. Due to the traveling and tight schedule, my fitness training had actually suffered despite all of the hiking I have done. My friend was fast and quickly left me in the dust as she sped up the mountain, beating me to the summit by nearly 30 minutes. At first, I criticized myself for allowing my fitness level to deteriorate. Realizing that my mood was quickly going downhill as I trudged uphill, I decided to treat the hike as a training hike and push myself.  I have become acutely aware that mental toughness and patience are equally as important in succeeding on the mountain.

img_1598Once we made it to the summit, took our photos and enjoyed the views, we bee-lined it back down the mountain in order to get back before dark.

The next day I felt exhausted. I wanted to do nothing but hang out on the couch and catch up on my favorite episodes of mindless television. Instead, I decided to take the dog for a walk and went to Pilot Butte. Pilot Butte is an extinct cinder volcano located in the city of Bend OR.  Two miles and just under 500’ of gain later, I stood at the top looking at the most incredible views of Cascade mountains.  As I watched my dog, Jackson, play happily with the other peak bagging pooches on the summit, I felt this sense of peace and happiness pass through me. I laughed at the idea that I had just hiked to the top of a peak in 20 minutes with my dog and several other people who use the peak for a quick and refreshing workout several times a week. When it occurred to me that I had technically hit my 16th peak, I nearly scolded myself for entertaining the thought that I could count it as a peak. I mean, I had been climbing peaks nearly 19,000’ high with upward of five to six thousand feet of elevation gain in a single day and this one barely hit 500’ of elevation gain.

img_1632tj-jacksonI looked at the many people walking around the summit. They too had hiked up to the top. Some of them had run to the top. This was their gym. This was what they did for their work out. It occurred to me that not only was I negating the fact that I had gotten out and exercised, I was negating what all of them had done as well. In my mind, I didn’t feel like I could “count” Pilot Butte as a peak because it wasn’t hard enough. It had to be something with some distance and elevation gain or it wasn’t anything at all. It was then that I realized I had reverted back to my “all or nothing” mentality.  But it counts… it all counts when it comes to being active and taking care of yourself.

So in the end, I counted this peak. One of the things that I am learning on this endeavor is that every effort counts. Whatever we put forth in our effort is the very root of any success because you have to start to finish. It doesn’t always matter how fast, how far or how high you went. It matters that you got out and did it.

See you on the trail