Friday, July 15, 2011

What it Takes to Climb a Mountain

Cowles Mountain - San Diego, CA
Elevation: 1,591 ft. above sea level

On May 11, 2011, I climbed my first mountain. To those native to San Diego or those just generally in good physical shape, climbing Cowles is no big deal. People do that hike weekly. Some probably walk it every other day. The trail is easy to follow with few steep hills and relatively flat terrain. When my friend, Deondre came to visit he decided that climbing a mountain would be a fun thing to do. Having wanted to conquer a mountain myself, I said, "Let's do it!"

It was a beautiful, cool evening and we began our hike up the mountain. There seemed to be two trails. One to a smaller peak and one to the top. Standing from the bottom looking up we both thought the same thing without saying it out loud: There is no way in hell we're hiking up there. Neither D nor myself are what I would call "in shape". I try to frequent the gym as much as possible, but trekking up a mountain is out of my comfort zone.

After walking over a mile, we reached the summit. Looking down from where we came, it seemed like we had hiked a long way. Looking to what lay before us though, we hadn't even made it to the path that would lead us to the top. I told D I would go for as long as he would. Part of me was hoping that he would say he wanted to go back so I wouldn't have to be the one who gave up and went home. But like a champ, he said, "Nope. We're going to make it to the top!"

And so we continued. People were passing us on both sides. We stopped to rest more than once. But then I saw a man carrying his baby in a pouch walking next to a KID who looked like walking back down that mountain was the easiest thing he'd ever done. So it turned out that my will to reach the top did not come from myself, not from Deondre or from the grace of God. It came from a child who I wanted to outdo. If that kindergarten tot could do it, I could too!
Halfway up the mountain, the sun began to set and we were able to witness some truly breathtaking sights. In that moment, I did send up a silent 'thank you' to God for the pure beauty of that sunset. When we finally reached the top, you would think we had climbed Kilimanjaro. That's how I felt. I was in awe of the city, how beautiful it looked, how on top of the world I felt. I could see the a panoramic view stretching out to more mountains on one side and the ocean on the other. I could have stood there forever.

It was setting out to do something, to really experience what it would feel like to climb a mountain and then doing it. It was the difference between going halfway and understanding that would never be enough and pressing on. And in a way only D can express, he summed it up best when he turned to me and said, "We climbed a motherfuckin' mountain, b!"

So, what does it take to climb a mountain? It's just like anything put one foot in front of the other and go. It's no Kilimanjaro, but as always, there will be other mountains to climb. Bigger things just over the horizon.

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