Dealing with plantar fasciitis and some strained hip issues, I was not able to walk far distances. We stopped many times on this small hike, I had to remove my shoes and soak my feet in a freezing river to take down the swelling and numb them. I was not yet a hiker here, most of the steps I had taken were on a track or just day to day life. Getting out this day was painful but amazing, I had really forgotten how beautiful and quiet the mountains can be.
It took some time, stretching and considerable pain before I could walk normally again. But I got there. But walking normally again was just back to the beginning. What to do now.
For as long as I can remember I have greatly struggled with heights, mostly avoiding them. I have had many a panic attack in a car on a mountain road, on a high bridge or occasionally on a building. But that's the thing about heights, you can often just avoid them. And although that works, sort of, it kept me from doing some pretty awesome things, seeing some amazing sights and joining in with friends and family adventures. My brother had all but given up on me, and I don't know exactly what sparked him but he decided to start trying again to get me out there.
Now I COULD post a great "success" picture where I look cool and confident. Standing in beautiful light and you could all ooh and awe and tell me I look strong and brave, but I think its more important to show the picture below. You can see me unsteady on my feet, fretting and worrying, and my brother being patient and helping me down. Feel the ground he will say, solid footing, bend your knees. Take sure steps.
This will all take a while to sink in my friends, but the most important thing he will say over and over again is DON'T make decisions out of panic. Calm down, breathe, make decisions because they are smart.
Well its now July 22 2013 and my Brother has asked for the same thing, but this year he doesn't just want me to challenge heights, he also wants me to put some distance in. So the challenge was the Plain of 6 Glaciers hike to the Tea House at Lake Louise, to date this would be the longest hike I'd ever done. I was worried, its not only long, I would also gain some elevation and I didn't know how that was going to feel. Honestly, I do not know if I had ever really done a hike like this before this time, but if I had it was when I was much much younger....like maybe in a backpack getting carried up by my dad ha ha.
Over and over again people would stop and tell me to "keep going, you are almost there!" and then the walk would continue, I felt hopeless like it would never end. Finally I just sat down and cried, I told Chris I didn't think I could go on, and then a woman came around the corner and said "keep going, you are almost there!" I looked at her with my tears and just whined "do you know how many times I have heard that today? I don't think I'm ever going to get there!!!" She took my hand and said "no really...." and we walked around the corner and there it was. The Teahouse. I was so proud of myself, I had done it!
And this is a beautiful hike with a wonderful full working Tea House at the end where you can get a snack and rest. I was so happy to be here, we drank tea and cheered to the new royal baby and then we headed back. At the end of the day I was so tired and sore but I knew I had accomplished something and started to quiet that voice....or at least tell it that it was not always listened to.
In this year I had been in a car accident and it had caused my back to flare up again, I had to leave work in such pain one day and by the time I got home (it was out of town, so it was about an hour and a half) I could barely move. I was sobbing in pain, and I would spend months in physio trying to stretch it back out and heal it. So for my brothers birthday this year I was cautious, I didn't want to further hurt myself. He was understanding and we decided to take the gondola up Sulpher Mountain, not a terribly big mountain but I had never been at the top of a mountain as far as I could remember. Now this is a very man altered attraction, there are rails and walkways at the summit but I still thought it would be a good exercise for me to start to understand how I would ever get myself up a mountain under my own power. And, in all honesty I was scared of the gondola! But up we went, sitting with a girl visiting from Germany who was alone, so we had her be part of the day and she is in many pictures :) It was a fun ride, I got a little skiddish but one of the things I like about things like gondolas is that they just keep going without needing me to make it go. So even if I get scared I am going higher and there is no quitting! Like a roller coaster, once you are strapped in there is no going back.
I realized over the past few years that the reason I am so scared is that I don't trust my body to be strong enough to hold me. I worry that I will just collapse, or trip, or just get dizzy and lose balance and tumble down the side. So going up, even with all the railings and safety measures of Sulpher mountain, I still felt unsteady and uncomfortable. So I was able to feel comfy enough just standing in one spot, but I found as I tried to walk around I was still uneasy. The funny part is that I partially know now that in most scenarios I'm in, a little fall would not be devastating. That I was building the consequence in my head because it had never really happened before, I didn't really know what would happen if I fell.
I'm glad I went up this, I realized that once I healed I really did want to get myself up to the top and I felt like I gypped myself a little by taking the gondola. Now at this time I didn't really think I would be walking up any mountains any day soon but the idea was planted.
I was feeling much stronger by now, largely healed. But this was when I really started to gain weight, I was heavier than I had been in a long time. I had suffered a few miscarriages and the second had affected me deeply, also that car accident the previous year had left my boyfriend with a significant concussion. It had been a year of healing, I went through terrible guilt and depression over the miscarriages, and through this I just packed on a lot of weight. My boyfriend slowly recovered from his head injury, unable to work or go to school. But we had realized after coming through all of this together that we were really a team and I was engaged to be married in August. By summer I was starting to feel better, just a little more open to life and going on, but I was left in a new place where I was a little embarrassed that I had gained all this weight again.
By now it was a given that Chris's birthday would be a hike, and this time we took my dad. We went to a hike he recommended to Peyto Lake, a short easy hike to a beautiful view. This is the kind of view that is so lovely but can get to my irrational brain, and I got to see where some of my defense mechanisms come from. One, my dad is very nice to me but he lets me off the hook easy when I complain or I am scared, and two my dad was also scared. My dad is an awesome guy, very supportive and loving, but sometimes that support is letting me quit. So I have to let him know to push me, that I am getting better at being truthful if I need to stop, and he can push it, and I may cry, but that's ok.
I can count on him, but this has been his journey as well. He struggles with heights more as he ages and doesn't trust his body anymore, just as much of my fear of heights is about me not trusting my body.
On this day I truly did appreciate the beauty, I wouldn't go all the way to the edge, but I could look out and not panic. This was not steep and the area to stand and see the view was wide and flat. So I really could just take it in. What a feeling! AND! I was fatter and I got myself there. It feels very different to achieve this when I was so much larger. I had kept moving more the past year as I healed and I was able to accomplish this much easier than previous hikes. I didn't even really panic. And I had earned this view, which was so much more rewarding than the gondola the previous year.
I was self conscious for a few reasons but one was that my hair was thinning, and I had responded to that by shaving the side and bleaching the shit out of it, I like looking back at these years and remembering all these hairstyles ha ha. But also seeing my body change year to year, and knowing how I felt about it. Looking back now and knowing how I will struggle with accepting this new weight, how stuck its going to feel and how it inspired the whole of Adventureish, I don't know, maybe it was a good thing that I went through this all. That I struggled, that I continue to struggle. I'm growing and I can see that clearly by this year. The biggest difference? When we started my brothers birthday adventure it was really the only hike or adventure of the year, and now? Well 2016 would be a big year for hiking and getting out there, getting scared and moving through it. I was finally ready to start heading out on adventures without Chris (and with Chris but not only on his birthday!)
This was a big big year for hiking. I had booked the west coast trail with my husband for our one year anniversary and we were in training for it by lugging our heavy packs on many hikes. I started hiking with some differently people and I went to Vancouver island 4 times! I was starting to feel a little better, and I was realizing how healing nature can be, how good it feels to work and reach a goal. How much further I could go than I ever gave myself credit for.
So 2016 is a 2 part story here, July 22 and July 31. Because the west coast trail is another story, and what I am talking about in this whole article is how important this tradition has become and how it has inspired me and expanded what I thought I could do, and how having someone believe in me, push me and most of all have great patience in me is how I got it done.
Alert! Alert! YOU ARE GETTING TOO HIGH!!! YOU DONT KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING!!! TAKE US DOWN!!!! Thats the not so little voice in my head, the one that doesnt want to listen, that just wants out. But I don't want to listen to that voice anymore, I know that if I start to recognize it and let the panic pass that I can move through it. And the more times I prove it wrong the further that I get.
But a little bit higher and the panic started again. This time my brother made me answer "what SPECIFICALLY are you afraid of?" I realized that past just being afraid of falling, what I was truly afraid of, was being stuck, not being able to get down.
So he said "ok then, lets go down a little and practice" and we did.
And when we did I started to feel better, I started to learn where my real weaknesses lay. I also learned more about how to just ask for some help.
We got to the first open view on the mountain and I froze again, this may just have been the highest point I had ever been in my life. I felt good about it, I knew we were no where near the top but I was mentally exhausted. I just knew that I didnt' have a lot more left in me and I felt pretty good about where I had gotten too. I was scared to tell Chris that I was done for the day but when I did he was supportive. He said he was really proud of me for pushing through. And we would do this again, and I would get higher.
Below: in the pink is from a little higher on the second attempt a couple weeks later.
July 31: Plain of 6 Glaciers tea house (second round)
This was one of the first hikes I did a second time. Before I went I told myself all the stories from when we had climbed it in 2013 for Chris's birthday. I expected it to be very hard, for me to have a lot of panic attacks and to just be exhausted.
But we went anyways, and as I hiked it, I remembered it....but also it felt so different. I just kept waiting for it to get really hard, I kept expecting we would turn some corner and I would panic. I kept thinking I would likely get exhausted soon and need a rest.
But then, just all of a sudden, we turned a corner and we were there.
And I had not panicked, I had not even got all that tired, and it had not felt all that hard.
It hit me like a ton of bricks how far I had come. The true measurement of growth. The real knowledge that perception is reality, and you can change your perception.
And I just started to cry, the great release.
It was so overwhelming and surprising and it made me cry. My husband was with us and he didn't quite get it, he had yet to really see that panic, he hadn't been with me on the previous hikes so he didn't quite understand how far I had come.
But Chris sure did.
And he was so proud of me. He took this picture, which became one of my first on Adventureish when I would start it a few months later. This moment was the inception of Adventureish. Its as raw as I can be. To show you what I look like when I completely surprise myself, when I am proud, when I turn a corner and the world looks different on the other side.
Wow we made it this far!! I know its been a wonderful journey for me. I'm glad you are still with me. These next two years are filled with new growth that I have been sharing with you on this site. I began Adventureish in the fall of 2016 and have been documenting most of what I have been doing with dealing with fear and overcoming anxiety, getting stronger and calling myself an athlete. If you have been following me then you know that I am now a climber.
After I got back from the west coast trail I had an idea in my head, and that was that I wanted to try climbing. I went for the first time on my birthday, its what I asked for from my brother. Shortly after we took a class together and we were hooked. And so for his birthday in 2017 we took an outdoor class.
This was an interesting couple days as it stretched what I could do as a climber and slammed me with a bunch of new lingo and skills (many of which I have now forgotten, and I will need another class) I didn't get to actually climb much and it was a reality check that I was going to have to put in more work to move from the indoor walls to the rocks. I just wasn't quite strong enough. But it was still such a successful day, the people were great, my instructor was so supportive. I did learn a lot.
At the end of the day we were coiling rope and my brother said "stop, the light is perfect. Trust me, you are going to love this picture" and its now been my most shared photo. Some days I feel its misrepresenting because I haven't been outside climbing since and I really didn't get very high this day, but most days it makes me feel amazing- because I WAS THAT WOMAN, thats me. Right in it, just going for it. Facing fears and trying something new. There for myself and instead of feeling bad that I wasn't strong enough I felt inspired to work, to get stronger. And I have.
2018 (current day)
Here we are, its now Chris's birthday in 2018 and we were off to do Ha Ling again. The goal this time was the tree line, (thats the point where the trees stop growing and its open rock) its about twice as high as I had been before.
The night before I was up puking and felt so sick in the morning I considered cancelling, but by now I know myself well and I suspected that this illness was at least in part (if not totally) nerves. I also knew that I could trust my brother, if I got there and I was sick and couldn't do it, he wasn't going to be mad. He was going to be happy I tried.
So off I went.
And up up up.
After all this writing you think I would be better able to explain how I felt going up but I haven't had as much time to process. It was honestly the strongest I have ever felt. It was not without struggle, I had a few panic attacks, I cried a little, I continued to feel sick, I had to stop and I almost gave up many times. But I pushed through it all and I kept getting higher, and the higher I got the more I knew deep in my gut that I wasn't giving up. That I was going to get to that tree line.
AND I DID!!!
When I got there I did not feel all that great. I was really tired and scared looking out to the view. I told Chris I promised that I was going to be able to reflect on it and know how great it was, but right at that moment I was so worried about the trip back down that I just couldn't focus.
He as usual was patient and offered that we would go as slow as we needed to, stop whenever I wanted. I could literally hold onto him the whole time if I wanted. And hold on I did and we headed back down, and after I had descended a little and seen that I was going to be ok, I began to flood with the realization of what I had just done. I had doubled my highest point. And I had done it with so much more grace than I had showed in what looked like smaller challenges.
you don't have to wait to be small to do big things.
Do them now.
Like in yoga:
Be in this position until you feel the stretch, and wherever that is, this is the perfect place for you.
And as you do not feel the stretch any longer go a little deeper until you feel that stretch again, and again this is the perfect place.
Wherever your stretch is, that is perfect.
Its a perfect place to start.
there are facts and then there are emotions. This is as honest as I can be about my struggles and triumphs.