Lessons of the Mountain

A mountain has officially and unequivocally kicked my butt!

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The day of the butt-kicking began at 8am, with my friend Sam picking me up at the corner Starbucks. We hit the road; chatting, sipping lattes and making plans to be home by 5pm at the latest.

Things, however, did not go as planned…

The road  to our destination, the trail head at Mount Cheam, was narrow, windy and somewhat treacherous. Partially submerged in water and littered with rocks, it forced us to weave from side to side and move forward at a snail’s pace. Every so often Sam had to stop to throw a large rock out of our path so we could continue and keep his vehicle in one piece. As we bumped and jerked along, I knew I was in for a challenge. I have a bit of an anxious personality and a fear of heights. A really awesome combination. Especially on a hike like this.

We saw two accidents along our journey on the road from hell. The first was a man sitting forlornly by the side of the road with a busted oil tank leaking a black stream from his vehicle. The next one was a full on collision where a truck lost its traction and smashed, full-force into the truck following behind it. Hmmm, should we turn around? Since I didn’t actually voice that question, we kept on going. I made the mistake of looking out the passenger window, about halfway up. What I saw was a sheer drop down the side of the mountain, a mere few feet away. My stomach flipped, my hands immediately became soaking wet and I felt the dizziness of vertigo coming on. All I could think about was Grace Kelly and Princess Stephanie careening off that cliff in Monaco. I wasn’t sure who I was praying to but I started to pray, hard!

One and a half hours later, we finally made it to the trail head and started our trek up to the mountain peak. The hike itself was breathtakingly beautiful with an ever-changing terrain. The view from the peak, with the Fraser Valley sparkling in the sunlight below, was awe-inspiring. Pretty pink, purple and yellow wildflowers dotted the meadows and I felt a little like an extra in The Sound of Music. I found myself happily humming “the hills are alive…” as I journeyed along.

My day, however was a comedy of errors and here I am spending the day after at home recuperating (and blogging). I made some classic hiking mistakes involving a lack of food, water and clothing as our 9 hour day turned into a 13.5 hour day. The trail also had no tree cover, just blazing sun. Today my face has a cherry red stripe across it and my shoulders do too. My eyes are sunken. I’m so, so thirsty and my skin is burning. I was going to take a picture of my face but didn’t because, trust me, it would have scared you. I have thrown up twice and am exhausted. Sunstroke, I’m sure. Poor, poor me!

Now, to make sure this will never happen to you, I have compiled a list of tips. Applicable to everyone, but especially to novice hikers and hikers who think they’re invincible (like moi):

  • Always bring enough water. Enough meaning more than you think you’ll need. You never know where the day will take you.
  • Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen! Keep applying ’cause you’re sweating it all off as you climb.
  • Bring extra food and quick energy, sugary snacks. Again, you never know what twists and turns lay ahead of you.
  • Bring a jacket. No matter how hot and steamy the day may be. It’s always cold at the top of a mountain.
  • If you are hiking in an area with little tree cover, always wear a hat.
  • Know your limits. If you’re used to an hour-long walk in the woods. Don’t attempt a 6 hour trek up a mountain like it’s no big deal. It’s a big deal!
  • Last but not least. Even when the hike isn’t going the way you had hoped and you’re in a bit (or a lot) of discomfort, still stop, look and be grateful. Not everyone gets to see the raw beauty of  Nature up close. It is truly a spectacular thing!

So, those are my little nuggets of wisdom that I’ve learned, yet again, the hard way. Nobody says it better, though than those hiking and camping geniuses, the Boy Scouts. Their motto is simple, timeless and wise…

“Be prepared”

n

ps. My dog had the time of his life!

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6 Comments on “Lessons of the Mountain

  1. awesome tips! sorry to hear you suffered though. thanks for the wonderful journey and pics – I feel as if I’m already there!

  2. You are an amazing story teller, what beautiful pictures, and what an adventure!! Arent we lucky to live here??

  3. I love the mountains; of which there are none in Chicago. Beautiful images!!! Glad you were OK; and yes, the last tip to stop and enjoy is what it’s really all about. Thanks for sharing.

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