Now that the hiking bug has bitten me, finding time to hike is my biggest challenge. I’ve chosen to a life path that includes a wonderful family, dear friends, travel and volunteering. It’s rare for me to have much downtime. The past few years since I’ve started hiking have brought so many wonderful moments. And I’m slowly figuring out how to blend my hiking with the rest of my life.
Choices That Take Me Away From Hiking
My first and best distraction from hiking is a young man. I’ve watched my son – who I lovingly blame for my hiking obsession – grow into a fine young man. We’ve shared wonderful experiences on and off the trail. I’ve been “that mom” as he played baseball, cheering wildly from the stands. There have been numerous road trips from the Badlands to Devils Tower, across Wisconsin to Michigan to see all that Detroit offers for a car lover and annual visits to our family’s cabin. Annual fundraising events we helped with as volunteers and every manner of Scouting activity.
My day job with One10 offers me the opportunity to travel across the globe – taking me to far flung places like Thailand, South Africa and China. Even places not so far from home like Hawaii and San Diego. These glimpses into foreign places have helped me understand how many similarities the people and places have to my own home. And I appreciate what I have out my own back door with new found exuberance when I return.
Then there are all of my volunteer efforts. Professionally related, I have been involved deeply with the International Live Events Association (ILEA) for more than 15 years as a member, local chapter board member and more recently as an international committee member. I attend meetings, conference calls and the organization’s annual conference (fittingly this last week, while I was on hiking hiatus). The people I engage with inspire me and have been oh so supportive of my hiking life. Though many think I’m a bit nutty for wanting to don a backpack and disappear into the woods when there is food, beverage and fun to be had in the city.
And then there is my volunteering in Scouting. As my son got involved in Scouting, I did too. First in Cub Scouts as a committee member and helper at camps. Then, as he progressed to Scouts, as a committee member. I’m now serving as the Committee Chair of our Troop’s girls contingent, finally welcoming a whole new segment of Scouting families into the fold in an official way. I’m excited to be a merit badge counselor for many areas, including hiking, backpacking and exploring. Being present to watch these young people grow into future leaders inspires me deeply and helps me be a better leader as well.
And Then Life Happens
Then there are the things that a person doesn’t chose. I haven’t shared much about this over the past few years. It’s been personal and I’m still working on coming to terms with it all. In 2015 my mom got influenza and ended up in the hospital. A woman who had contracted polio at the age of 9, she was a force to be reckoned with even though she lost the ability to walk at that early age. She taught my brother and me to be resilient and persistent.
When she got sick, my son and I were just beginning our training to get ready for our Philmont adventure. We debated putting things on hold, but we knew mom would never stand for us sitting around when there was an adventure to be had because she loved living vicariously through us. So we pushed on. Sometimes it was easy to jump in and embrace the work we needed to do. Other times it was heart wrenching to not be at her side. In the end it was a year of her being in medical facilities. All the while we balanced being on trail with being with her. Successfully completing the trip and sharing it with her was so much fun.
Then came 2016. My grandfather, who was in his 90s died. Then 2017 my grandmother, who was also in her 90s passed away. There were celebrations, belongings to sift through and the reality that these two people who’d been there for not only most of my childhood, but a good chunk of my adulthood were gone. It was a lot, but I found being on trail helped me work through those moments.
Last year brought the biggest blow. My mom. The woman who had reluctantly encouraged me to start and keep hiking, who was my confidant and cheerleader, peacefully left us to fend for ourselves in November. In the days before she died I spent a lot of time at Fort Snelling State Park hiking. Sometimes alone, sometimes with my hiking pals. The trail had become part of my place to meditate and heal. My place to accept what I can’t change or control.
Just days after she died, I found myself hiking again with a group from Women Who Hike. I didn’t tell many of them because I was still processing it all myself. Being on trail with them did wonders for me and still does. And in the hikes since, I’ve been a bit more open about my own experience. I’ve also found that nearly everyone I meet on trail has something in their life that they’ve come to find hiking helps heal.
I’ve been excited to find groups like We Hike to Heal, the 52 Hike Challenge and Women Who Hike where there is open discussion about the benefits of hiking. Of being outdoors. And I’m inspired to help others – not just women – find healing in the wild and beautiful spaces on our lovely planet.
Now you’ll likely see me even more deeply involved hiking adventures. My son heads off to college this fall and I’m ready to dive in more deeply to exploring all the trails that are waiting to be hiked out there. I’m certain that life will bring more distractions. But I will always find time to hit the trails.
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