So this journey I’ve begun involves overcoming Fear. This past summer, I reached the point where I had to know just how far I could push myself past fear. My soul had fallen in love with the mountains in the Adirondacks the month before. So…it seemed like returning there would be the ideal setting to test my courage.
This “gut check” test would need to be done alone. So, knowing my limits, I chose a campsite at Cranberry Lake. I had camped alone once before at Stoneybrook State Park, however the sites were close together and very crowded. This adventure would a lot different. It was a place I had never been before…and it was in the mountains. I thought if I could camp alone, in a tent, in the mountains then maybe, just maybe, I would finally learn to live with courage.
I packed up my truck with a borrowed backpack, a borrowed tent, and a borrowed sleeping bag. I had a cooler of water, a lantern, a little single stove, some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and boxes of Cup of Soup and oatmeal. My shoes? My old running shoes.
My drive back up to the mountains was full of excitement, serenity and hope. I pitched the tent when I arrived and went for a hike. I should probably tell you at this point that before this day, I was deathly afraid of the woods and the dark and sleeping alone and bears and…well pretty much everything you would encounter when camping and hiking alone.
I’m not even sure if my tent was correctly set up or not. Or why I had even chosen this method of punishment for my gut check because I was not a camper. I’ve always wanted to be…but never had the opportunity in my past life. I had run 2 half marathons by this point…shouldn’t that have been enough to know I had what it took to overcome?!
Apparently not…I need more. Something bigger…something scarier.
I walked down the path from the campsite to Bear Mountain. It is a little mountain in Cranberry Lake. So I checked out the map and started on my way.
It was a 3.6 mile loop and stands at 2,177 feet. It was a great place for me to test my abilities alone. The first mile was a winding trail that I wound up running actually. Partly because I thought it would be fun to try a trail run and partly because I was scared! Your mind is powerful. You can trick yourself into thinking you see things and hear things, and immediately fear sets in.
Peaceful courage…if there is such a thing? Those are the words I spoke to myself. As I hiked on, I felt more at peace. Fear began to melt away…I could hear the bluejays singing. I could feel the little summer breeze blowing. The climb towards courage was getting stronger.
I write empowering words on my hands often, when I need to run Fear out of my mind. I had made it through my first hike alone. So far, minimal braveness required…but nonetheless a personal accomplishment! In the past, I was extremely limited to in my self-discovery or embracement in life. So I wrote this word:
as a reminder of what I was striving to become! Limitless. Free. Without Fear.
Yay! I had made it…
I brought my dinner consisting of water, peanut butter and jelly and a Cup of Soup down to the lake to eat. This was the most peaceful I had felt in a long time. As I sat on the dock, eating my dinner, I noticed the other campers around me. There were couples walking and holding hands. There was a father and his young son fishing at the end of the dock. There were families all along the beach, playing, talking, relaxing. I was the only person who was alone. A feeling of sadness did come over me when I thought about my kids.
But I reminded myself that this journey was one of testing limits. Testing inner grit. Testing self-worth, acceptance and forgiveness, in order to take Fear out of the equation. And the ultimate test was next…the one I was avoiding, hoping somehow I could just skip over it.
No luck…night had fallen. So I made a fire and tried my best to stay calm and relax.
I put all of my food and backpack in the cooler in the truck, out of fear that bears would find me! Listening to the fire crackle helped a bit. But the darker it became, the more I walked that line between terror and sanity.
There is no phone service at Cranberry Lake. Did I mention that? You can get minimal service by the lake, but it is spotty at best. No phone. Which…didn’t really matter because around 9 p.m. my phone died. So…no phone. No watch (because who needs a watch when you have a phone…sigh) No idea whatsoever, what time it was from this point on…
All I knew was the moment I zipped myself inside of my sleeping bag, the night came alive. “Critters” kept falling on the top of my tent, making all sorts of noises. I told myself that it was just leaves falling from trees…but I’m fairly sure leaves do not “creepy crawl” down the outside of the tent.
Something moved under my sleeping bag, under the base of the tent. (I found out what it was in the morning when I took the tent down…yuck) Then all of a sudden, it become quiet. So quiet…so eerily silent. I had no idea what time it was…maybe midnight at this point?
Then came the hooting of an owl, combined with the howling of a wolf. Hooting. Howling. Hoot Hoot…Howl. My heart began to race. Fear had entered the tent and found a cozy place to join me. Grunts and snorts were heard next. Grunts and snorts??
Heart racing!! Bears?? I was not going out there to find out! Panic…full fledged panic. I don’t remember much of the time that passed after this…all I know is that I focused on my breathing and I prayed for birds.
I knew that once I heard the early dawn chirping of birds, that I had made it through. Once I had heard the birds, I fell asleep. When I awoke, I broke down the tent, packed up the truck and charged my phone!
I would continue on to Long Lake for more hiking that Sunday morning…climbing Owl’s Head Mountain. Another reality check for me. Bear scat along the trails…more time to be alone with just my heart and my mind. But that hike is a story for another day.
I had survived the weekend. I stared Fear right in the face and came out alive on the other side. Gut check? Check √! Strong heart? Double check √√!
“Do the thing you fear the most and the death of fear is certain.” -Mark Twain
One thing was for certain…I became empowered by this experience. This trip had set my journey through the Adirondacks into motion. Limitless. Amen.