Merriam Webster calls a mountain “a landmass that projects conspicuously above its surroundings and is higher than a hill.” A hill, in contrast, is “a usually rounded natural elevation of land lower than a mountain.”
Considering how much Kyle and I love being in the mountains, it’s pretty comical that we live in Pennsylvania. None of the landmass’s that “project conspicuously above their surroundings” are higher than 2500 ft. above sea level. There are lots of great things to say about Pennsylvania, but we don’t have mountains…we have hills.
As often as we can, we get out of Pennsylvania and travel to the nearest “real mountains.” To me, the “real mountains” are imposing. They take your breath away. So, to close 2017, we ran off to spend 6 days in the Adirondacks.
On our 4th day of hiking in below 0° temperatures, we were approaching the half way point of Gothics (a gnarly looking mountain in The Great Range of the Adirondack High Peaks). One other person had taken this trail in the last two weeks, and the path was not packed down like many of the other popular trails. For the last 1/2 mile we had been breaking trail in 9-12 inches of powder, but now, half way to the summit, just as I could feel my toes for the first time that morning, we were trudging through waist deep snow. Each step was futile. I would lift my buried snow shoe and place it as high and as far from my back foot as possible, but as soon as I put any pressure on the snow, the mound came sliding backwards. Immediately my front foot was once again in line with the back one.
I looked up at Kyle who almost never shows frustration and he was cursing at the snow. In my head I started bargaining. I thought “is this worth it? Are we actually going to make it?” I secretly hoped that it would be impossible. I pictured myself retreating back to camp and into my sleeping bag. Mmm…easy.
The giving up side of my brain wanted to quit, but there was this little fighter of a thought that slipped around the side of me and smacked me in the face. “What the FRIG is wrong with you? You think you’re going to summit mountains…in winter…without trudging through snow?”
To my dismay, Kyle didn’t stop. I looked behind us and noticed, we were making SOME progress. A few more steps brought us to a clearing that revealed the false summit of Gothics. Even from a quarter mile away it looked…frosty. The same frost that you find on your morning windshield appeared to be three inches thick on every branch and every rock. I said to Kyle hesitantly, “that’s where we’re going?”
“Yup.” he said.
“It just seems impossible.”
I have this thought a lot. When I look up at the mountain we’re about to climb or when we climb the subsequent peak and look back at the mountain that we’ve just come over, I catch myself saying “there’s just no way.”
When Kyle and I first met, we took this exact trip to the Adirondack Mountains. I had not been expecting anyone to come into my life and I was clinging to the fact that this relationship (regardless how fun) was only semi-permanent. On the 3rd day of our trip, there was a nasty storm so we got a room at a nearby B&B.
As Kyle unpacked I was lounging and reading a book about the Adirondacks. Periodically I would share interesting facts with him. Everything between us was so easy–we just meandered in and out of conversation with ease. He finished unpacking and said, “Okay, shower time.”
Just like that I was alone for the first time in days. Something about being alone didn’t feel right and for no apparent reason, I started to panic.
Ten minutes passed, Kyle came back to the room and he put a nature movie on Netflix. I pretended to watch while I was full-speed analyzing my current state of angst. Thoughts turned over and over, but it wasn’t until I got to the one about how maybe this just wasn’t working that I realized…
Oh. No. I’m falling for him.
I couldn’t be falling for him. That wasn’t part of the plan. This is casual! We’re hiking bros! “Caitlin…” I said to myself, “You are a very recently divorced woman. This. Is. Not. Part. Of. The. Plan. Remember? The plan? Being numb? Staying numb?”
An hour went by before I sat up and crossed my legs like a pretzel. “I’m freaking out a little…” I said. Beads of sweat dripped down my spine. In that moment it just seemed impossible. It was too good to be true. There had to be a catch. Even if there wasn’t, I was sure that I would mess this up, too. I wanted to quit. I hoped he would suggest that we pump the breaks.
Kyle listened, nodding his head appropriately as I rapidly explained myself. In response he said, “well, I’m not falling for you…because I have fallen for you.”
It was a bomb, marinating in my wide-eyed, half smile.
Eventually he said, “And there’s just no point in worrying about it. Maybe it’ll work out and maybe it won’t. One thing that’s for sure is if you spend the whole time worrying, you won’t have a chance to enjoy it.”
From a distance, the mountains seem unattainable–admittedly, it sometimes makes me want to throw in the towel. Thing is, you can’t know until you get up close and personal how possible it really is.
In so many instances, I have wanted to go running and screaming from the challenges I face in my life. When I peer out into the future and think about the things that I want–I want to be in the best shape of my life. I want to get my book published. I want to be someone who is up to big things in the world. It all seems insurmountable. I’m scared to death of failing so sometimes…I just don’t try.
Conversely, when I look back on the year of 2017, I can’t believe where I am. Who I was in 2016 is unrecognizable to me now. I have picked myself up off the ground, recharged and restarted my life. At the time, that seemed impossible too.
If you aren’t familiar with Glennon Doyle, truth-teller and hair stander upper, you should get familiar. One thing she says is that “we have it all wrong. We are afraid of pain but we were made for pain. [What] we need to be afraid of [are] the easy buttons.” No more pressing the easy button. I can do hard things. I have!
So, 2017, I’m deeply sorry that people are cursing you now that a bright new shiny year has rolled in, but for me, you kicked ass. 2018, thank you in advance, because, well, the possibilities are endless.