Yodel on a 14er

I took my last day on earth as a 45 year old and spent it doing something amazing! Sam, Sara and I got up at 4:30 am and headed out into the Rockies on toward Mt. Bierstadt, a beautiful and yet looming mountain of significant proportions with a total elevation of 14,089 feet. Filled with anticipation and trepidation I embarked on an epic adventure with two great friends! The day was perfect, clear blue skies, mild temperatures of mid 70’s and amazing green meadows full of purple, orange, yellow, white and blue wild flowers! The hike started with an easy boardwalk covering the willows and then started to meander up the mountain in a mildly easy s shape. The first challenge presented to me was to cross a mountain stream by jumping from rock to rock and then balancing over a pole! Sam gave me a hand and I danced across with some dignity!

The trail up the mountain took us up the easy west side of the mountain increasing over 3000 feet in elevation over the course of 3.9 miles to the summit. As the path went up it got decidedly more difficult to breathe in enough air but I focused on putting one foot in front of the other like the song says and rewarded myself every 100 feet or so with a view back to revel at how far I had come. I occasionally looked up at the mountain before me but tried not to do that too much as it was a bit daunting and tended to scare me.

As I walked along it occurred to me that this is the way life worked. If you focused too much on what lie ahead that you had yet to accomplish it was easy to get discouraged and want to stop. It was really overwhelming to look up at the mountain and think about how hard it was to keep going forward and how difficult just breathing was! When I changed my perspective and looked back over the ground I already covered my response was the polar opposite! I was pretty impressed with myself instantly! On one of my very first reflections back I was struck by how beautiful the trail was, the mountain vistas were breath taking and I could not believe the distance I had already traveled. Deciding my difficulties were only a state of mind also helped. Taking the mountain on one step at a time was exciting, scary, therapeutic and so rewarding!

The last rise was pretty intense and required scrambling skills, you know, climbing on all fours up a boulder pile. When I looked over the right side it was scary because of the drop off but the view was impressive of the valley by Kenosha Pass! I could see Sam and Sara ahead of me on the rocks patiently waiting for me when I fell a bit behind. This reminded me of all the times I did this for Sam as he was growing up. It was kind of cool that he was in a position to return the favor to me!

As I finally pulled myself to the summit the view and feeling was incredible. I had done it. Suddenly the air did not seem so thin and my legs were not so shaky! We celebrated with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with about 15 other hardy soles and just sat in silence appreciating the view. Looking around I shared this experience with two people I love dearly, my son and a cousin I am just blessed to be getting to know, but I also shared it with 3 older women who were making their first climb, a group of young men, a soldier who had been injured in the war, a dreamy eyed 12 year old kid and a man in his late 70’s who passed all of us on the way up!

I had threatened to yodel if I ever made it to the top but I panicked when I realized I would not be alone on this summit but rather with a large group. I have been forever embarrassed by my horrible singing voice and one of my biggest fears is to sing in public. Faced with yet another dilemma I considered my options and did the only sensible thing. I told Sara and Sam I could not yodel up there because we were in such a crowd. Sara was less than sympathetic and declared that I was in fact going to yodel. To prove her point she quickly enlisted the assistance of a young man by asking him to hold the video camera for her and film the three of us standing proudly at the summit while I yodeled. Another young man overheard our conversation (I told you it was crowded up there) and he started to cheer me on by saying “go ahead and yodel, no one is looking” which was a complete lie because by now everyone on the top of the mountain had stopped eating and enjoying the view and were all solemnly staring at me. Oh lord, how did I get into this mess? My big mouth and me! Finally I gave it a go and decided to hell with it. I had climbed this huge mountain and darn it but I would yodel too! ” Yodel-odel-le-he-who ” I yelled with gusto completely off key for the whole world to hear. Everyone had a good laugh, the video camera caught it all on film and somehow I faced a couple of real challenges in one day!

Thinking back on this it later dawned on me how this experience held great significance to me. My life, like almost everyone elses has had several real challenges in it. Things that really forced me to dig deep and see what I was made of. In all of these instances, it was really easy to get overwhelmed when I thought about all that I had to overcome. Quitting would be so much easier, feeling sorry for myself or complaining was almost therapeutic and yet, the only real way to deal with these moments was to focus on how far I’d come and keep moving forward. Sometimes forward was just barely moving but still – I just kept moving forward. Every time I indulged my desire to focus on the top of the mountain or the final step in my challenge I would panic. Thoughts like “I will never make it, what made me think I could do this, this is impossible, I am tired, sad, not smart enough, not clever enough etc would start to overtake my progress making me want to run in the opposite direction. By turning my head and giving myself a different perspective everything suddenly looked different. Suddenly the impossible seemed possible. My view from the top of that mountain was priceless, it gave me courage and I needed that!

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list”.
Click on the link Mr. Bierstadt Yodel to watch a video of Jackie Yodeling!
Mt Bierstadt Yodel

The author and her son

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