After I left the campsite at Cranberry Lake, I was unsure of what to do next. I was a rookie climber, a beginner hiker. All I knew was that I loved the mountains.
So on I drove, making the turn towards Long Lake. Beauty was rising in the mountains that day for sure. I thought maybe I would rent a kayak and paddle out on Long Lake. But then as I was turning around to find a spot to park on the road, I noticed the trailhead for Owl’s Head Mountain. Remember, I was a novice. I didn’t know much except I loved walking, I loved the peacefulness of nature, and I loved the stability of the mountains. So the decision was made to give this mountain a try!
The day before, at Bear Mountain, I wrote “Do one thing everyday that scares you- E. Roosevelt” next to my name in the register. This morning, after surviving my night alone camping, I wrote “Isaiah 61:3” in this register. (I’ve since left Psalms or quotes in each mountain’s registry I’ve climbed).
The foot bridges at the start of the trail were my favorite. There is something about trotting along them, balancing quickly, that makes you instantly feel like a kid again. These precious little planks are also indicators that you are “almost there” on the descent!
I passed a few hikers here and there on my ascent up the mountain. Some casually enjoying the forest…others resting with their dogs. I quickly continued on my way. The sign had said that it was 3.1 miles to the summit. “Perfect!” I thought to myself. “Just a 5K up and another back.” No problem! And it wasn’t, for the most part.
Bear scat was prevalent throughout this trail. But I remembered reading something about if there were flies around it, then that meant it had been there for a while. So my courage spoke up in my mind and assured that we had nothing to worry about.
Most of the hike, I was the only one on the trail. I find that the speed to which I hike is somewhere between the experienced fast hikers and the ones who saunter and take their time. This often leaves me in the middle of the pack on my own.
Just my mind and I….great. More trash talking was too be expected.
Here’s what I know for sure: Whenever I attempt something challenging. Something requiring bravery and inner strength, my mind immediately goes into attack mode. Maybe it is trying to protect me from something? Failure maybe? Or perhaps it is operating from past memories…those lies we tell ourselves, remember?
“You can’t do this…you are kidding yourself.”
“Just turn around, get back in your truck and drive home.”
“This adventure is for brave, experienced people, not you. You’re a joke out here.”
Oh the lies we tell ourselves. (Fear, fear, go away…) So your heart begins to retaliate lovingly. It urges you with encouragement to keep walking, keep climbing, keep rising...and that is just what I did.
When I reached the summit, there was a gigantic fire tower standing there! I had passed the ruins of an old ranger’s cabin on the way up. However, other hikers were resting there to eat, so no captured photographs of that site. Also, on the ascent, there were old wooden tower poles still standing here and there along the trail. Again, I wished I had stopped to take pictures of those! Especially the one carved into an owl’s head!
But remember, this was only my second time hiking alone. My goal was to keep moving while I still had the nerve.
There was some huffing and puffing exhaling out of me on the climb over the rocks on the trail. A family had passed me at one point when I stopped to catch my breath. Disappointed in my lack of stamina, I felt the need to say out loud, “I’ve run 2 half marathons but I can’t climb this mountain!” They chuckled and kept on their way. Maybe I was trying to save face? Too embarrassed at my lack of climbing stamina?
It was a much-needed lesson for me. Even though this was a little mountain, compared to the High Peaks, I became humbled by this experience. The mountains, any mountains, have an elegant strength all their own. I bowed my head to that regalness as I pushed onward and upward.
And after a few little scrambles to the summit….
Owl’s Head Mountain stands at 2812 feet tall with an elevation gain of 1300 feet. The views were absolutely heavenly. Climbing up to the top of the tower? Even more spectacular! (and much windier!) The stairs were rickety and rattling. The wind was whooshing through the beams. But the climb was completely worth it!
I remained at the summit for some time, eating my peanut butter and jelly sandwich (again) and drinking the last of my water. I was extremely thankful I didn’t throw in the towel and turn around earlier on the hike. Functioning on little sleep from the night before, I was tempted to take a nap on the warm bare rock. I settled for writing in my journal instead.
It would be another 3.1 miles on the descent back to my truck. But for now I relaxed with the refreshing breezes and soaked in the views. I reflected on this weekend, as I sat and gazed out into the distance. I thought about my fear and how deathly afraid I was of the night. I thought about my climb and how my heart ultimately won today. I thought about the verse I wrote in the register…”Isaiah 61:3.”
Beauty for ashes…He promises a crown of beauty for the ashes. I wrote those words in my journal, tracing over them again and again.
Besides writing Psalms or quotes in the registers, I also pray on the summits of the mountains I climb. It just feels like the right thing to do.
So I closed my eyes and prayed. I thanked God for the courage he placed in my heart to survive this “gut check” weekend. I thanked him for healthy lungs and strong legs. I prayed for my children, who were at home while their mom took this weekend to overcome her fears. And I prayed for the blessing of serenity and strength the mountains bring to all who wander but are truly never lost.
Beauty for ashes and the climb continues….