Want to grab the world by the tail? Take a hike! That’s what I learned after surviving this year’s family reunion. Every two years, my family reunions in Montana for a week of non-stop activities. This year I hurt myself hiking on the second day hiking. I practically hurtled to my death after one small misstep off a very steep incline. I grabbed a tree branch and my life was saved thanks help from my brother and sister-in-law who pulled me back to safety. My knee and arm were scraped pretty badly, but the horrendous blisters I got from wearing the wrong kind of shoes were worse. They hurt so much I thought I might need an airlift to the nearest hospital. Note: ALWAYS wear hiking books when you hike. NEVER wear brand new walking shoes. The blisters hurt so much! Fortunately a few Advil did the trick.
Needless to say, there was no more hiking for me that week. This was not the hike where I felt like I could grab the world by the tail. My siblings are so competitive, and I never seem to be able to keep up with all the golfing, hiking, pickle ball playing and biking. I usually come home feeling like an uncompetitive, out of shape loser, and this year was no exception.
Reflecting on my physical fitness
As I reflected on my physical fitness abilities, after I got home, a thought popped into my head. Want to grab the world by the tail? Take a hike! I had to prove to myself that I could be strong and fit. Where should I start? I decided to go hiking to test my herculean abilities. I confirmed to myself that hiking was a good choice because it combines walking and being in nature and I like both. The challenge I have with hiking is with other people. I start out fast, trying to match their pace and I don’t really enjoy it. This time I wanted to start out slowly and set my own pace to develop MY endurance.
I live in Sacramento and I’d heard that Lassen Volcanic National Park was one of California’s hidden gems. I got on the internet, checked out hikes, selected three, made my hotel reservation and set off on a Friday for three days of hiking.
After a three-hour drive, I arrived at Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center. As fate would have it, one of my selected hikes happened to be there. On this hike I got to check out my survivor skills. 10 minutes in, the bottom of one my hiking boots fell off. My first challenge! Industriously I used my long boot strings and a pony tail band to keep the sole intact. I’d pushed through my first hiking hurdle!
This first hike, Mill Creek Falls was disappointing. I was tired, and I didn’t get enough sleep the night before. It was hot and the trail was a little sad–lots of fallen down decayed trees on the trail. Be that as it may, I was feeling grateful to go at my own pace, stop when I wanted and take a closer look at my surroundings. I arrived at the waterfalls and they were beautiful, but probably something you’d want to see in June when the water was more plentiful. But still, I sat and admired them, took in the sounds and sights and was grateful to be by myself and not feel pushed by anyone else. I felt at peace.
The real challenge–hiking Cinder Cove
The next day, after a good night’s sleep, I set out on my two-hour drive to Butt Lake to climb the Cinder Cone Volcano. This was a serious hike. The day before was an intermediate 3 dot hike. Today, the ” Cinder Cone” was a 4-dot strenuous hike! I was definitely taking the road less travelled for someone like me. However, I was committed but held my denial close so that it wouldn’t be “that” hard. I was also looking forward to a nice dip in Butt Lake when I finished.
I started the hike and was walking on what I assumed to be black lava sand. It was a bit tricky to walk on but I figured I’d get used to it. A passing hiker asked if I’d done the hike before. I said no and he said he was so glad he would never have to do that again. It was soooo hard and by the way, I was on the easy part. A few more hikers echoed roughly the same sentiment. I tried hard to push down the fear – encouraging myself that it was not going to be that bad. Ha, ha ha.
As I continued on the trail I spotted the road to the volcano. It didn’t look too bad. I think though, the people coming down, as they passed me by, were probably secretly scoffing at me knowing that they were done and I wasn’t.
It was sooo hard!
I start up the trail. This is no dirt road. It’s filled with lava gravel that pulls you back as you tried to walk. First 100 steps. Not too bad. Next, I only do 60. Heart is pounding. 10 second stop. 40 steps this time. Heart is pounding harder — I had stop for 1- minute. 40 more steps another 1-minute stop. 35 steps, I sit down, drink water and have a granola bar. 40 more steps. 1-minute stop. A concerned man asked if I was okay. Yes– I don’t think I’ll have a heart attack, hopefully. Okay, I finally make it to the top – I stagger like a drunk person, but I’m only oxygen deprived. I need to sit, but I didn’t spot any comfy chairs. I comforted myself saying it was now flat ground and I’d escaped with my life intact after the steep, lava gravel horror climb.
But was it worth it?
Okay – was it worth it? Absolutely! For two reasons. The view was spectacular. The pictures can’t even begin to describe the beauty of the painted sand dunes. They were rust colored, teal blue, beige-white, undulating all around the expanse of the volcano. There were two beautiful lakes – to my right was a lake that was almost like a light blue green color – I wondered if it was one of the thermal lakes. To my left I could see the deep blue Butt Lake which I’d be plunging into in about an hour.
The volcano was amazing. I was glad it wasn’t having any ancient rumblings – all seemed pretty still andI didn’t spot any spewing ashes. If you were so inclined, you could climb down into it, but the thought of climbing down and having to climb up was not even an option after surviving the trail up.
It changed something inside me
I wondered around, finally found a place to sit and took in all the beauty. It had been such a challenge to get to the top, but I did it. It changed something inside of me. I wasn’t pressured to go at a certain speed, it was hard, but at least I took enough breaks and drank enough water to get me to the top. It turns out indeed that I do like to hike.
The trail down was an utter breeze. I practically glided the whole 10 minutes it took me. The way up felt like hours, but it was probably only 45 excruciating and never-ending minutes of pain and torture. And I was able to encourage and help those poor struggling hikers who were breathlessly trying to reach the top. “I truly feel your pain. It really is very hard.” It broke my heart when they asked if they were almost to the top, because it was just plain out and out crazy hard, so I’d meekly explain: Well, see that curve up there, it’s just beyond that.” I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I didn’t want to add to their agony.
After the hike, I did jump right in that refreshing, blue water where I splashed happily around. As I drove back to the hotel, I wasn’t even tired. I was energized. I’d proven to myself, that yes, I do like hiking, yes, I do like challenges and yes, I can do hard things. I had that feeling of peace, contentment and energy that you get from proving your endurance, from proving to yourself that you are worthy.
Want to take the world by the tail? Take a hike!
Life is like climbing that volcano. You may start out nervously, hoping a new challenge won’t be too hard. You take the first 100 steps, but you get tired and have to rest. Then you take 60 steps and have to rest more, then 40 and then maybe you have to sit down and have a snack. But if you keep taking steps, like I did, you’ll eventually get to the top or meet that goal. And after you do that, you can achieve another goal and then another. Because let’s face it, life will always be full of first steps, so you develop your endurance, wipe the lava dust off your pants, get up and start again, and again and you will succeed. Want to grab the world by the tail? Take a hike! Grab a snack and take plenty of water too!
And if I’ve now inspired you to hike and enjoy the beauty of beauty of Lassen, you can check out The Lassen National Park: Your Complete Hiking Guide. I already got mine for the next trip so watch out Lassen and watch out world!
Leave a comment below and tell me about an amazing endurance (or not so amazing) adventure you’ve had.
Until next week, Kathy–from my pen ✍️ to your heart ❤️!