3 years ago I hiked my first Adirondack high peak.
It was a dream come true. A challenge accepted. A check-off on the bucket list.
Before that, I had decided I wanted to attempt the 46er challenge and hike all of the high peaks in the Adirondacks. This was not a part of my original dream. When I realized that Mt. Marcy was not the only spectacular hike in the high peaks region, I began consuming information on the 46. I was obsessed with researching and learning all I could about the Northern Adirondacks. As someone who had spent more time in the Southern Adirondacks, it was so exciting to be venturing out to mountains I had not yet seen.
Hiking is an interesting topic for me. My first hike was Good Luck Mtn at the age of 10. As a summer camper of Camp Tapawingo (Speculator, NY), hiking was an automatic activity. I went to Tapawingo for seven years and that was where my complicated relationship with hiking began. When it came to hiking, I could have done without it, but I thank God for those experiences.
After I aged out of summer camp, I hiked a few times with friends in the following years. I went to a college in the Catskills and went on two hikes. Not only was I not a fan of hiking, but I also didn’t hate it. A part of me wanted to be out there exploring and seeing the views while the other part of me didn’t relish the idea of being painfully winded.
The year I graduated college was a rather difficult year. Five people in my life passed away, I lost a few close friends, my Mom was dealing with health issues, and I was hit with a major wave of depression. Not being one to deal with emotions in a healthy way, I ignored all the red flags of how bad I was and kept on pushing my life into a direction I thought I needed to go. My way of “facing” different issues was to almost ignore them and hope they would go away. They never went away. They got more complicated and more painful. My stress levels were getting so bad that I was physically getting sick. One night, I broke out into hives. At the time, I thought I was getting sick from something, but looking back, I truly believe that my body was trying to tell me that I wasn’t in a good place.
What always amazes me is that while all this difficulty was happening, I was also experiencing some amazing moments. I graduated college, praise God! I had reconnected with someone I loved dearly. I gained a great-niece. I got my first full-time job out of college. My last semester in college was a crazy, yet good experience.
Before the next year rolled in, someone very close to me took their own life and that turned my whole world upside down. The loss was so great and the after affects were even more painful. Shortly after the start of a new year, someone I loved had chosen to take a different path in their life away from me. A family member ended up being injured. Other family moved to another state. A long lost relative was discovered. The combination of the 2 years was intense.
June 8, 2019. I hike Porter Mtn and Cascade Mtn.
If you asked me then why I wanted to take up the torch and become a 46er, I would have said for the challenge. While that is very true, there was another reason, very deeply buried. I was escaping. Being away from people, subjecting myself to harsh elements, asking my body to give me more than it could, and seeing in person the things I had only seen in photos. All of this sounded like a recipe for a hurting heart. I was in a desperate place.
The fascinating thing is that I came across so many people who held similar sentiments about the high peaks. They too felt it was a place to retreat to when you needed that therapy that only the mountains could give.
In that time, I thought I was participating in the challenge for myself and my own accomplishments. But God had other plans. He knew that I was being stubborn and unwilling to heal. So, He spoke to me when I was up there. Every hike, He had something new to show me and to teach me. The long trips to the Keene Valley became therapeutic in a way as I would spend time talking with God, listening to music, listening to podcasts, or even just having silence. Since most of the trips I made by myself, it was easy to get lost in thought or even have moments of anxiety about the upcoming hike.
From that first trip to the end of the year, I hiked 20 high peaks.
Looking back at that number, I find myself in shock sometimes. The list of 20 includes (in the order hiked): Porter, Cascade, Algonquin, Big Slide, Nippletop, Dial, Gray, Skylight, Marcy, Haystack, Basin, Saddleback, Lower Wolfjaw, Upper Wolfjaw, Iroquois, Wright, Giant, Rocky Peak Ridge, Phelps, and Tabletop. I have since hiked Colvin, Seymour, Donaldson, Emmons, Seward, Blake, Marshall, and Nye. That brings me to a current total of 28 high peaks.
Something I have learned is that if you want to see what you are made of, go for a hike in the mountains. No matter how difficult the climb, I promise that you will go away with a story to tell and a lesson learned.
What I didn’t know as I was climbing these mountains is that you can’t leave the same person. This may seem a cliché saying, but there is truth in that. Sometimes you have to look at the challenge and lean into it with all that you have because, if you are willing to experience the pain, there will be beauty for a reward. The saying, “No one can do it for you” is quite a true statement when it comes to hiking in the backcountry.
God used those mountains to teach me how much fear had hindered me all these years. He used the long miles to give me time to learn about Him. The crazy climbs and scrambles He used to teach me to trust Him in every step. The moments where I wanted to give up, He taught me I can do all things through His strength. When I made it to a summit and looked at the beautiful world, He showed me his amazing love. When my heart would be overwhelmed by fearful moments, He held me with grace. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness.”
What has brought a new chapter of life in this heart is the unconditional love of God. He met me on those mountains and He walked with me. All Glory Alone to God.
My prayer is that as you read this, you think of your own life and the challenges you have encountered. I pray that you learn about the love of God that gives a love so unconditional that it willingly died so you could know true love, forgiveness, and hope.
“I will lift up my eyes to the hills— From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.” -Psalm 121:-2
Soli Deo Gloria