You can Be Angry, or You Can Perform

I mention elsewhere in this newsletter about the trip Rachel and I did out west. I talk a little about our Montana time, and the hike we did while there. The truth is there’s a lot more to that story. I lovingly refer to that trip as the Hike from Hades (not the actual word I use, but more appropriate for the newsletter.)

When we were first planning our little trip, Rachel’s friend Billie invited us to go with her and her boyfriend Rhett on a “Nice, easy, two day pack (hike).” I was excited, I’ve done several such hiking/camping trips and always had fun. I was a little concerned about Rachel though, I knew she had never done anything like it, and I figured it was way outside of her comfort zone. I was so proud of Rachel and her courage, she wanted to go for it.

The short version is we met up with a group of 13 friends, our packs loaded and ready to go, and started off at 6:30 in the morning. I just wanted Rachel to have a good time, and to get her through the trip. By 6:50am we turned off an old mining road and headed straight up a mountain, without a trail. It was apparent that this was not going to be anything like a “Nice, easy hike.” By 7:00am, Rachel was not the one I was worried about! By 7:30am I was mad. How could anyone take a friend, new to hiking, on a trip like this, and just tell them it’s going to be “nice and easy”?! This was irresponsible! We were at an altitude 20 times what we’re used to! I’m 41, this is how we have heart attacks! I was mad, angry, and frustrated all the way up to the 10,390’ peak of APA mountain. Rachel and I and another couple broke off shortly thereafter, made our own way, and had a (mostly) great time. (The hike back out was almost as bad.) But it took me two days to notice something.

It didn’t take me two days to realize I was angry (although I was only angry when I was hiking uphill; “scrambling” is apparently the term. It’s when you’re having to use your feet AND hands to bear crawl your way up a steep mountain!) I realized I was angry and it did absolutely nothing for me.

Being angry didn’t make me stronger, it didn’t lighten my pack, it didn’t make the trip faster, it didn’t help me appreciate the beautiful scenery. In fact it did the opposite of all those things. It made everything drag on and made my “suffering” seem endless. Rachel on the other hand, put her head down, grit her teeth, and relentlessly climbed, worked, and crawled her way up the mountain. I was so proud of how strong she was, and a little embarrassed of how I handled the climb.

When I fought competitively I used to always say, “If you can make a man mad, he’ll find he’s fighting two people.” Because people who fight angry don’t fight smart; they’re petulant and simple. They become their own worst enemy. I guess it took a mountain in Montana to remind me of that.

The good news is, after that first hellacious climb, our decision to break off really saved the trip, we saw some great sights, and we all had a wonderful time…I’m just not ready to sign up to do it again.

Hike 2

Rachel and our friends at the beautiful site where we ended up spending the night.

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