“How Hiking The Colorado Trail Helped This Mom Find Her Way Back Home” by Emilie Sagle

It’s so early.

I’m barely awake at 5:00 AM, yet I’m rolling out of bed.  I had the opportunity to sleep-in; My kids are having a sleepover at my folk’s place for a few nights, so I should be having an especially restful sleep.  But I ‘m feeling a little anxious this morning.

Because today’s the day!

Today, I’m hiking the Colorado Trail, all by myself.

The Colorado Trail (CT) stretches almost 500 miles. It travels through the Rocky Mountains and has numerous wilderness areas and mountain ranges. The highest spot tops out at 13,271 feet. Where I’ll be hiking, also known as segment 8 of the CT, I can expect to reach an elevation of about 11,000 feet. The elevation isn’t as dramatic as some of the famous 14ers of Colorado, but coming from Ontario, Canada, where the elevation hovers around 1,400 feet above sea level, I think segment 8 is a pretty good place to acclimatize my lungs.

Stretching from the Copper Mountain ski resort to the Tennessee Pass Trailhead, it’s 25.4 miles of remote and wild beauty.  For my needs, I will be hiking from the Copper ski resort, up to Searle Pass, which is only halfway to the Tennessee Pass, then back to Copper for a total 31, out and back, hiking miles.

I dressed and gathered my things quietly that morning, trying not to wake the three other dudes sleeping nearby. Myself, my husband, and two of his mountain biking friends were sharing a condo at the Copper ski resort. file1The guys were gearing up for the Leadville 100 mountain bike race. They had been out and about exploring the trails by bike, but I hadn’t been out too far yet. You see, I don’t bike. I prefer having my own feet on the ground, and not having to rely on too much equipment to get me from point A to B.

Choosing her path.

I wolfed down the oatmeal I had made the night before, took the elevator down to the ground floor, feeling the irony that I was about to hike up and down an elevation of 4,000 feet.  My daypack was strapped on, complete with a couple bottles of water, some trail mix, fruit and one celebratory beer for when I would reach the turnaround point, Searle Pass.

The moon was still high in the sky. It shone brightly, reflecting the stillness and the breath I exhaled into the crisp air.  Taking those first steps up towards the trailhead, I looked around, first towards the resort, then towards the base of the ski lift.  With no one in sight, I reminded myself that the boys were well versed on the route I would be hiking.

Feeling slightly uneasy, I’m hoping I can stay on the path I had only read about.

Researching other people’s blog posts and comments on forums, I anticipated the hike to take a solid 6 hours if I was to complete just half of the section.  If I could hold a walking pace of 3 miles per hour, I would be able to hike out to Janet’s cabin, a remote cabin just steps below Searle Pass, and be back by mid-afternoon.

Within an hour, the moonlight grew dim, and I could see the sun trying to rise beyond the range.  I couldn’t see the sunrise though.  I was buried within Guller Gulch, with mountain ranges on either side of the trail and Guller creek a few feet below. I then realized how much I enjoyed watching the sunrise.

It was a long time ago, but I remember those teen nights I spent at the beach, laying on my back, watching satellites orbit the sky, and chatting the night away with my bestie by my side.  The sand would chill your core as the night grew darker, but the sunrise was only ever an hour away, so we’d stay to watch its colorful display rise above the lake.  It never disappointed, and such wonderful thoughts made me homesick, and a little guilty.

#momguilt

I felt guilty for leaving my kids. They’re still so young. They still wait for me at the bathroom door if I’m in there doing my business. They still make me kiss their boo-boos when they fake their injuries.  And I know they will run to me with open arms when I get back home.  But I feel selfish. I took time to not be with them.  It’s stressful enough being a mom, and I think there’s more pressure nowadays to be a great mom.  We are Millennial moms after all.

We choose to have kids and careers, but we are also expected to spend every little bit of time we do have with our kids because that’s the expectation, the motherly inherited trait that we were meant to uphold.

Being a mom takes time and energy, and my energy wears thin if I don’t take the time to focus on what makes me happy beyond the realm of motherhood. By tuning into myself, reminding myself how I am a unique individual, I become a better teacher, a better parent, and a better friend.  I can help my kids be better humans themselves.  It is through my experiences that they get to see a proud and confident mother.

They are constantly enamoured that I can see and experience such beautiful and amazing places, and it’s this sense of curiosity and adventure that I want to instill in them and never let die.

I was elated to finally be alone, to have space for my own thoughts.  I played songs in my head and walked to their rhythms.  I often chose Disney songs to sign along to, from the likes of Pocahontas and The Little Mermaid.

These characters were a pivotal part of my childhood.  They taught me about choices; that I can’t choose who I was a person, but I could choose the pathways set before me.  So here I was, feeling like one of these brave characters, carving out my own path in the wild.

Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. – Cheryl StrayedWild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

I thought a lot about Cheryl.

She seemed to be an especially brave young woman.  Here she was, on a multi-month venture hiking the PCT on her own. She found the courage to embrace the wild instead of letting her fears take over.  And unfortunately, even for moms, it is often this fear and guilt that holds us back, that taps us on the shoulder wanting us to turn around, to doubt ourselves and turn back.

I wondered if Cheryl would have liked to hike the CT trail too.

Staying true to the purpose.

The trail would follow Guller Creek, and every now and then, it would lure you into the forest, through switchbacks then back out towards the valley where you’d be greeted with more stunning views.  I remember scanning the valley below in hopes of seeing a bear, but to no avail.  There were plenty of chipmunks though.  These little guys were brave, darting across the path, inches away from my feet.

Looking down at my feet, I was surprised my shoes were surviving the rigors of the trail.  I didn’t come here with any fancy footwear or clothing.  I imagined what a good hiking shoe might look like, but I was happy with what I had on my feet – Just a good old pair of trail runners.

I think we overexert ourselves.  Bombarded with ad campaigns and social media tactics, we are often trained to think that this shirt and this drink will be the reason for our success.  It comes from within though; it’s best to keep it simple and to stay true to why we’re out here.  I was out here for the challenge of miles.  I wanted to see stunning views.  I wanted to be outside, alone, with no one to listen to or answer to, where I could eat in peace, and enjoy a well-deserved beer.

You are never alone.

As much as I liked hiking alone, I knew there would be others on the trail. I did encounter a few thru-hikers on bikes and others I could see in the distance carrying their heavy packs.  The most memorable hikers had a dog with them.  I could hear the jingling of the dog’s collar bell as it made its way towards me.  It had surprised me at first, not expecting any other sounds than chirping birds and creaky branches. These hikers were, in my eyes, true CT thru-hikers. They looked dirty, tired, and beat from the weather, yet they carved out the biggest set of smiles I’d seen all day.  And I duplicated their smiles at the sight of Janet’s cabin.

I was beyond excited! I finally had a reference point, a physical and identifiable entity to show me that I was on the right path.  I had made it.  It was only a few more feet before I would reach Searle Pass.

The attitude of gratitude.

There was a feeling of joy, gratitude, and sadness knowing I would soon turn back.  I wondered what was beyond the range.  I watched a couple hikers inch slowly away from me in the distance. How far would they go before they had to turn around if they had to turn around at all? What was their inspiration for hiking this trail?

I reminded myself how amazing it was, that I was here, at this moment. I climbed up some loose rocks, found a flat spot to sit, opened my beer and waited.  The marmots were near, I could see them peeking their heads, maybe hoping for a bite of my apple, but they weren’t as brave as the chipmunks, they wouldn’t dart over here.

I sipped my beer, taking in the views.  I could see the town of Frisco in the nearby valley, just a hint of it, but enough to be amazed by the grandeur of the mountains.  They are lucky, I thought, whoever lived there had such beauty all around them. But I missed the beauty of my own town. I missed the beaches, the maple trees, and the granite cliffs. This place is majestic, no doubt, but it will never feel like home.

I was alone at that moment but revived from having cleared my head.  I was ready to go back home and walk the path I had chosen, to be a mom, a career woman and to continue having epic adventures on my own. That’s me, and I was out here to remind myself that being me, is who I am, and I’m doing a darn good job at it.


About the Author: EMILIE SAGLE

Emilie is a self-professed multipotentialite.*

She’s a full-time mom, part time writer, dental hygienist, piano teacher and traveler. She believes that life is best lived through experience and adventure. Her gentle yet no nonsense approach to life gives her kids, students and patients the tools they need to live an especially well rounded life.

You can follow Emilie on Instagram here.

**Multipotentialite : Here is a link to what that is. ⬇️

www.ted.com/talks/emilie_wapnick_why_some_of_us_don_t_have_one_true_calling/transcript

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