Lofty Ambitions

If we had known what the trip was like before we started...we probably wouldn't have started.

If we had known what the trip was like before we started…we probably wouldn’t have started.




“I think I’m going to barf! I need to lay down.”

“Seriously?” Sarah slowed to a stop and looked back at me. “I shouldn’t have eaten those cherry-flavored licorice vines,” I muttered as I dropped my camera pack to the ground. “I wish I had some water.”

“I have about a teaspoon left,” Sarah said as she handed me her water bottle. “You can have it. I feel fine.”

“Thanks.” I sank to the ground and tiredly lifted her bottle to my lips. A trickle of warm water slithered into my mouth. I almost gagged. At least my mouth didn’t feel like a cotton boll any more. “Wake me up in a half an hour,” I told Sarah. “I hope I’ll feel better by then.”
“How much further do we have to go?” Sarah asked as she settled onto a patch of almost rockless ground next to me.
“Too far,” I murmured as I closed my eyes and wondered what in the world had possessed me to make this trip in the first place. It had seemed like such a fun idea at the time—spend my last Saturday before school started hiking the Bridger Ridge Trail with my favorite hiking buddy—my daughter Sarah.

The day had started off cool and beautiful. The sky over the Crazy Mountains lit up with the rising sun as we reached the half way mark on our first ascent of the day—Sacajawea Peak. Mountain goats traversed the side of Hardscrabble Peak, causing a waterfall of rocks down the slope. The sun warmed the vibrant yellows and golds of the rocks and flowers leading from a hidden valley to the saddle.

My husband had snapped a photo of the four of us at the trailhead—Sarah, two of my friends and myself –at 4:45. We all looked confident and ready to take on a grueling 19-mile-trek over some of the roughest territory in the county. But now, Sarah and I were the only ones hiking and I felt like I’d been sucker-punched. The first four or five miles had been easy—pleasant even. My friend Ingrid and I had stopped often to take photos of the rugged beauty, the sunrise, the butterflies, the views.

Nothing beats the beauty of a mountainside in the early morning in summer.

Nothing beats the beauty of a mountainside in the early morning in summer.

I clearly remembered telling my husband, “Well, if a 70-year-old man can do this hike in five or six hours, I’m sure the LONGEST it will take us is eight. I was really starting to admire the 70-year-old men who did it in five or six hours, since we had already been on the trail for almost nine hours. Of course, we had to wait an extra thirty for Leisel to decide that rest wasn’t going to help her knee, and an additional forty-five minutes to get a hold of Pedro to come and rescue Leisel on his motorcycle at one of the passes. Ingrid had gone down with Liesel to the rescue point and decided not to try to catch up to us—wise choice!

I groaned softly, and pummeled myself mentally. I drifted towards sleep, but my cranky stomach gurgled and I wished for something to eat—something other than trail mix. I’d foolishly thought I could survive for 19 miles with two big bags of trail mix, an apple, a cheese sandwich and a gallon of water. I never wanted to see trail mix again. I should think about water. The wind had been sucking every ounce of moisture out of me for the last four hours. If they found my body next week, they’d presume I was a mummy from the Sahara.

At one point, while traversing a narrow ridge, the wind blew so hard that I had linked arms with Sarah in order keep her from blowing off the mountain (ok, maybe she actually wouldn’t have blown off, but the wind was blowing hard enough so that she could lean forward at a 70-degree angle and not fall down).

There was no way I was going to be able to finish this little hike. But helicopter rescues were out of my price-range.

Motorcycles? Pedro had vowed never to ride his motorcycle up Baldy again, and I was somewhere on the side of Baldy. Out of the question.

“Mom?” Sarah’s whisper broke up my pity party.
“Uhgh,” I muttered.
“It’s been about a half an hour. Are you ready?”
I pulled my carcass to the locked, upright position. “Ummm.”
“Those hikers that gave you the licorice said we were only five miles from the trailhead.”
“And we’ve come at least a mile or two since then.”
“Mom, I think you can do it!” Sarah chirped.
How did she know that’s what I needed—someone to assure me that I could do this. “O.k.,” I said.
“Do you want me to carry your backpack?”
“Yeah. You sure?”
“Mom, I’m feeling great. That nap really helped.” She grabbed my backpack and put it on over her own water pack. “Let’s go!” She reached out and helped me to my feet.

I could do this! I could hike another three or four miles! All downhill—how hard could that be? Just one foot in front of the other. My little mountain goat bounded off down the trail. I followed behind her, muttering to myself, “I think I can, I think I can.”

A kind gentleman headed up the trail gave me some water forty minutes later. When we

There's less than a mile left of our trek, and I'm still able to smile!

There’s less than a mile left of our trek, and I’m still able to smile!

got to the bench below the ‘M’, we took photos of each other—victory (and sundown) were both in sight.

“You can see the truck from here,” Sarah assured me. “I’m just going to run down, o.k.?”
“Yep,” I answered. She had time for a short nap before I made it to the parking lot.
“You know,” I said as I started the truck, “next time, I won’t take my big camera.”
“Next time?” Sarah looked at me like I had sprouted fins in my forehead.
“Yeah. Next time. I’ll train better. Take more water. We’ll be prepared!”
“And you won’t eat any licorice!” Sarah interjected.
I answered with a tired smile. Next time. I KNOW I can hike it faster than a 70-year-old man!

How often do you set unrealistic goals for yourself as a caregiver?  Do you have a cheering section that picks you up and dusts you off when you overextend yourself? 

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a ‘recovering cancer caregiver’ who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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  • Glad you had her to help keep you going! I’ve been through something like that while backpacking and I think the only thing that kept me going was the fact that I was the youth leader (not the hike leader, thankfully) and had all these youth kids looking to me to stay strong. It was definitely the hardest thing I ever did. So glad I finished it, but man. Proud of you for getting to the end!

    • Anita Ojeda

      I’m always amazed by the human ability to rise above self-expectations in times of stress–especially if we’re leaning on God to see us through!

  • Pingback: Warning Signs and Pride-Lessons From the Grand Canyon | Blessed (but Stressed)()

  • This post made me smile. It reminded me of the first time I went hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. There were times I thought I was going to die and/or not be able to complete the trek. I am thankful for those who cheered me on along the way.
    Tara recently posted…A Year of New BeginningsMy Profile

    • Cheerleaders are vital to doing difficult things! I’m glad you survived your hike :).

  • Oh my! Have you ever eaten another piece of red licorice?

    • NEVER! I didn’t really like it before, but I wanted some energy. I’ll certainly never try it again (unless I’m out of food and wandering down some trail and it’s my only option 😉 ).

  • Have you read Wild? Your blog made me think of that book. Proud of ya!
    Debra Alexander recently posted…8/ 365 Fear Not – Your SacksMy Profile

    • I haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my list of things to read!

  • It always helps when you have someone to cheer you on. Glad that you’ve finished the hike. Please tell us about next time when you beat that old man 😉
    Amanda Calitz recently posted…A BIG announcement! Are we there yet?My Profile

    • One of these days, I’ll write about what happened the second time we hiked it (we actually trained, so it was a lot easier).

  • I’ve never done 19 miles so I’m impressed you completed it no matter how long it took! I have been on those hikes I thought would never end, and am very familiar with the internal dialogue — You can do this. You HAVE to do this.
    Kudos to you for finishing. And WOW, for considering doing it again!
    Melanie recently posted…Welcome, 2015My Profile

    • I actually did it again the next year…with slightly better results. I still ran short on water, we got a little lost and getting back on the trail involved climbing up an almost vertical incline with nothing but little, dried twigs to hold on to…but that’s another story. We had a blast!