“Do you want to hike to the top?”
Out-of-shape and overwhelmed by the mountain, literally, before me, I hesitated to answer my son. Anxiety rose in my gut as my eyes gazed upward to the top of Multnomah Falls. I looked back at my son and daughter-in-law. Both were much younger and certainly more fit. As much as I wanted to go, I was unsure if I could keep up on the climb.
My initial thought defaulted to, “I’ll do it some other time, not today.” Then a question rose to mind. “Will I ever be here again?” After all, I lived in another part of the country. If I put the opportunity off for someday, it would likely never happen. Knowing I’d regret not trying, I said yes.
Have you ever felt that way? A goal challenges you but it feels out of reach. Sure, you love the idea of seeing the goal achieved, but the climb to get there . . . well, that’s another story. It takes hard work and discipline. Stress consumes us just thinking about it. But the pull toward accomplishing the feat is mighty powerful.
Climbing to the Top
It was misting when we started out on the 1.2-mile trail leading to the upper overlook. The distance didn’t concern me, but the steep grade did. My calves screamed and my lungs huffed and puffed up the side of Larch Mountain. Periodically, we stopped to give my legs a break and allow me a chance to catch my breath. All I could focus on was one slow, steady step at a time.
When we finally reached the top, the view was spectacular as expected. As we stood on the edge of the overlook and peered over the railing, I was surprised how tiny the people below looked and how many of them there were. It wasn’t crowded at all at the top.
After snapping a few photos, we walked around the area upstream from the falls. Enveloped in the lush wonderland of the Pacific Northwest, I stood in awe. Majestic evergreens reached toward the sky. Rushing water flowed over a rocky stream toward the 620-foot falls. The surroundings bathed me in peace as the fresh air restored my energy. I was thankful I didn’t let the fear of the climb win out.
As I later reflected on that day, I realized the climb to the top of Multnomah Falls and so many other significant climbs we face are about far more than the views. I learned:
It’s important that we begin before we’re ready.
Otherwise, we’re stalling. We shouldn’t wait until we’re in better shape, until the weather is perfect, or until all conditions are right. We must take advantage of the opportunities each day offers because we have no guarantee of another chance.
We persist by simply putting one foot in front of the other.
Slow and steady will get us there. Climbing in any endeavor is grueling. It stretches the muscles and the invisible border of the comfort zone. All we need to focus on is one step at a time.
We encounter more switchbacks than we expect.
While pursuing any worthwhile goal, we’ll encounter twists and turns and problems like we never imagined. It may seem we go back and forth from time to time, but we ascend nonetheless. Pushing through the struggles builds character and helps us grow.
The higher we climb; the fewer people we will see along the way.
If the climb was easy, more people would try. A higher destination is reserved for those willing to go through the effort to get there.
Something inside us transforms as we climb.
There’s something about walking on our own two feet and finishing what we start that boosts our confidence. One achievement reinforces the belief that we are capable of accomplishing more.
Enjoy the Adventure
The view at the overlook didn’t disappoint. But the best part for me was sharing the adventure with my son and daughter-in-law. Together, we made a great memory on that climb.
As mountaineer and rock-climber Conrad Anker put it, “The summit is what drives us, but the climb itself is what matters.”
No matter what kind of mountain you have before you, enjoy the adventure of ascending to the top. When you look back, you’ll likely see it was not the peak, but the climb that mattered.
Image 1: (T. Pitts)