I began following her journey when she started sharing pictures on social media of herself standing on the top of each mountain, or Fire Tower, she had climbed. There she would be - covered in sweat but clothed with a radiant smile and a gorgeous view behind her. It seemed every week she had embarked on a new adventure and was able to cross one more mountain off her bucket list. After a few months she set a goal for herself to become part of The Saranac Lake 6er Club. It’s a club for those who complete the Adirondack Peaks of McKenzie Mt., Ampersand Mt., Scarface Mt., Haystack Mt., St. Regis Mt., and Mt. Baker. When you complete your sixth mountain climb you share your accomplishment by the ringing of “The 6er Bell” which hangs in downtown Saranac Lake and your name is added to an ever-growing member roster. Kelley rang that bell to the cheers of many almost one year to the day she took her first climb. She’d done such a great job of making hiking look fun and easy, I began to have a hankering to tackle a mountain myself. So, I mentioned to her one day that I’d love to join her when our schedules allowed that to happen.
Letting her know I was interested seemed easy enough. I was interested, after all. After several failed scheduling attempts she called one day to let me know she was heading out on a hike around Nick’s Lake in Old Forge. She said this hike would be great for a beginner, which I was. I finally had no reason to say, "I can't," or "It's not going to work for me." "Yes!” I said. Then she gave me the details … and just like that apprehension replaced excitement. I suddenly liked it better when my commitment level was simply the words of interest I’d spoken. On one hand it looked rewarding and fun, yet on the other hand it now sounded challenging, and her schedule was going to require a change in my morning routine.
While I am an early riser, my mornings usually begin with a cup of hot tea and quiet time in prayer. After years of providing daycare and now as a stay-at-home Mimi, quiet time before the busyness of the day is a must-have for me. However, meeting Kelley for a hike would require my leaving the house by 7 a.m. for the nearly two-hour drive to meet her. As the day approached I felt panicked hesitation growing within me for the commitment I’d made. It had been so easy to say I wanted to join her – at the time. But now I began to regret my “yes” answer as I realized not only would my morning routine be disrupted, I would be completely out of my comfort zone and challenged physically beyond what I had been in a very long time. This isn’t going to end well I thought. Would I be able to do this?
The evening before our excursion I felt conflicted as I dug through closets in search of a backpack. Of course, the only item close to a backpack was an old bag with a drawstring attached; there would be no guessing who the newbie was on this hike. How disappointed would Kelley be if I cancelled due to the fact I didn’t have a stylish backpack? Was that reason enough for excusing myself until a time when I was braver? My husband didn’t think it was. And so, going through the list of important items Kelley recommended I bring, I began loading them into the bag. “Whatever you do, don’t forget the bug spray. You’re going to want that!” She told me. “Great” I thought. The next morning I gathered my things—as well as my courage—and took off for the Adirondack Mountains to meet my friend and my new experience.
Deep down I had a feeling I would be rejoicing after our time together that day; and I was. I still am. Taking those initial steps on my first-ever-five-mile hike through the woods within the Adirondack Park was hard. My legs weren’t quite ready for the stepping, lifting, and bending that were required of them. Likewise, my arms weren’t ready for the reaching and pulling they were forced to participate in either. But I did it, and boy did it feel great to know I hadn’t been stopped by the fear of leaving my comfort zone. It all came down to making a sacrifice intent on doing something new and different. I can get so caught up in the safety found in my routine.
One of my favorite moments of the day was driving along the winding roads to Old Forge and having the beautiful Adirondack Mountains come into view. I felt such a sense of awe come over me and I found myself pondering these words that drifted through my thoughts. If you want to climb a mountain, you must go to the mountain. Well, didn’t that make perfect sense? Achieving any desire requires putting forth the necessary effort to make it happen. Whether facing a mountain of fear and insecurity, or debt and unpaid bills, the only sure way to fulfill the desire is to go and begin the hike. I had almost skipped out on the entire day because of my fear of the unknown. If I had stayed home that day, allowing myself to remain in the rut of routine, I might never have discovered my love for hiking.
My birthday gift from my husband that year was a pair of hiking boots, which not only have I worn for many more hikes with my friend Kelley, but several hikes with my husband too. We were able to hike a few mountains in Colorado in the fall of 2016 as well as enjoying our journey up Black Bear Mountain in the Adirondack’s with our daughter and her family. It’s quite entertaining—and a little unnerving—to hike with the grandchildren but it’s become an adventure I plan to continue taking.
Oh joy! Kelley just informed me of the Lake George challenge. After a long winter’s rest, I guess it’s time to dust off my hiking boots. John Muir said, “the mountains are calling and I must go.” It’s time to leave the comfort zone.