Sunday, September 25, 2016

Thoughts on Aging and Hiking Sharp Top Trail

"Life is not about the destination, but the journey."
I have always been a mid-line outdoorsy girl. I grew up camping with my family and we used to go on hikes a lot in both Wisconsin and Kentucky. When we moved to Virginia, there were trails and roads that went through 'hollers' we would travel frequently on our bikes. I loved it all.

But time moves on and things happen and I'm usually more caught up in obligations than in taking pleasure for myself. Now that my son is 7, though, I am able to once again enjoy more on my own, since his Daddy can do more with him.

One such item is a hike to Sharp Top near the beautiful Peaks of Otter in southwest Virginia. On the last day with Mommy before school began, I took Sydney to Abbott Lake - it has a 1 mile, paved path around the lake that was perfect for a then-6 year old to explore. We examined plant life and butterflies - took pictures that focused on texture and color, and just enjoyed ourselves tremendously. I realized that Abbott Lake was at the base of three hikes that I'd heard of frequently but never climbed and decided that while my boys went to football games, I'd try my hand at these.
Abbott Lake sits nestled at the base of three mountains that offer beautiful views of the entire region. Sharp top isn't the highest mountain, but it is the steepest climb at a shorter distance. I knew it had been awhile since I'd been hiking, and even though I'm active, I'm not as consistent as I should be. It is because the hike is shorter that I chose to do this one first, even if it is steeper. Knowing that it has been years since I've actively hiked, and that I am a bit older than I used to be, I knew I needed to be careful.
I was... shocked. I expected to get winded. I expected to be a bit achy afterwards. But I did not expect to struggle as I did while actually hiking. I turned 40 this year. My knees aren't what they used to be. And I had thankfully thought to bring a hiking stick, but there were moments where my knees and my mind were definitely not in agreement. I don't feel 40. And I'm terribly stubborn. And I know there is a tremendous amount of 'mind over matter' in aging. But I cannot deny the fact that I had to go slower than I expected. It makes me wonder if I'll be able to accomplish some of the others that are longer hikes in a day.
I love this picture - it shows Abbott Lake at the base of the three mountains. I am at the top of Sharp Top. The mountain on the left is Harkening Hill. The one cut off on the right is Flat Top. I needed to take this picture because, from the lake, Sydney and I had made a point of looking up and identifying which mountain was which. It is the alteration in perspective that I wanted my 7 year old to see.
Ultimately, I had to recognize the difference in my abilities and my stubbornness. I had to make peace with certain aspects of my life. But I will never stop. Because I refuse to allow age and the human body to keep me from doing that which I enjoy and which brings me peace.
"It is not about the destination, but the journey." What realizations have you reached as you grow and mature? What have you had to make peace with in your life? Where will your journey lead you in life?

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