As I face the mountain of stresses that have built up in my life recently, I'm reminded that I recently climbed an actual mountain... My 1st mountain. Maybe there were some lessons learned there that I can apply now.
Almost a month ago, after the San Diego SparkRally in March where we collectively worked on our individual vision collages, some of us headed out for a post-party event organized by ABB698 and THEMIGHTYLEX. I felt a little trepidation, but had every expectation of being able to make the climb. ABB698 reassured me a bunch of times, it seemed like no big deal, and I had ADVENTURE-GIRL, one of my regular walking partners, to accompany me. (The familiarity made me feel stronger.)
PLUS, I had built up a little confidence after doing my very 1st hike in February. For the San Diego SparkRally, our local team leader, SPRING4FAL led us up the hugely long sloped road to the top of the cliff, across to the beach and down stairs chisled into the rock. It was an amazing experience, worthy of its own blog, especially since I took 350 photos trying to capture the beauty that surrounded SPRING4FAL, CGEM, PINKCIS and me at the top. I was severely breathing hard (it felt good) trekking up there with these women, who were all much more fit than I was but never, ever, EVER made me feel inadequate or slow. I powered up it, and they were so generous with their support and encouragement. I'm so lucky. But more on that another time. I knew I could hike this mountain, because, SHEESH, I did that! Pffft. ;D
I got this neat topography/GPS graph from an internet posting.
Here are the stats: At an elevation of 1,591 feet, the summit of Cowles Mountain is the highest point in Mission Trails Regional Park and the city of San Diego. Views are superb, including the Cabrillo Monument, downtown San Diego, La Jolla, and the Pacific. On clear mornings it seems all of Southern California lies within the 360-degree summit panorama, with views of San Clemente Island (81 miles away), the San Gabriel Mountains (108 miles away), the Laguna Mountains, and Mexico.
More info here: www.trails.com/tcatalog_
I have family in Colorado, so I've always carried their attitude that California has foothills, not mountains. I spent almost every childhood summer staring up at Pikes Peak in the Rockies, 9 times (oh wait, only?!) this elevation. So even it being called Cowels MOUNTAIN (pronounced "Coals") didn't faze me. Therefore:
[#1: I believed I could do it.]
Time Up: 1 hour
Distance Up: 1.5 miles
Elevation Gain: Started at 680 ft elevation, so almost 1,000 feet!
Time Down: ~45 minutes
ABB698 & her daughter
THEMIGHTYLEX & his guest
Another Sparker started, and turned back. Her name is Faye, and I'm proud of her effort to attempt it! I wish I knew her SparkName.
***Top of San Diego, "Mountain" Climbing!***
Do you know what's at the top of San Diego? LOTS OF BLUE SKY, BABY! A day-time moon and butterflies dancing in mini tornadoes of their own making!
[#2: The triumph is worth the effort, and you can find unbelievable surprises.]
360-panorama...I should put this on Flickr so that you could see the view in more detail. I set the camera to auto, so it kept changing the focus and exposure. I realized when I got home that there's an "autostitch" function.. OOOH, perfect for next time. ;)
If these miniature doggies can do it...
First bend.. The trail snakes its way toward the first third of the elevation...
Already there were wildflowers and views of San Diego... :) There's nothing quite like being amongst the chapparal and native plants that crowd the hills, because seeing them from the road below and imagining how big or small they are really doesn't compare. It's fascinating to me.
Parts of it weren't very challenging, just hard packed dirt.
Then it got steep a bit.
And rocky. Bonnie indulged my incessant photography. LOL. And even turned around a few times so that I wasn't ONLY taking photos of her booty.
[#3: Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better.]
The peak is nowhere in sight, by the way, but we keep going up!
1st 1/4 mile marker
The peak is the top of that. Waaaay over there. You can actually see people walking up the trails, but they look like teeny tiny ants.
A peek behind...
The view ahead. Bonnie in the Karate Kid Pose... OMG. I just found out there's a website image blog called karatekidpose.com. We have to add this one. Haha.
Lesa pointing out the peak (better perspective in this photo)... People around us kept asking "Are we even halfway there yet?" "Where are we going?" It was somewhat frustrating, feeling the weariness and like there was no sense of it ending, and wondering about endurance. I said very few words (because I was too busy trying to breathe), but internally I started joining them, "...Where is it?" until I realized that it was NOT helping me.
[#4: Complaining about how hard it is is harmful, saps needed energy. Focusing on how far I've come or the bigger picture or even just the next few steps ahead is more useful.]
The next steps...
How far we've come (that's Lake Murray)...
Bonnie & our goal...
Done with 1 mile!! YAY!!
[#5: Celebrate successes.]
Bonnie was so helpful!
I was tired, but LOOK how HIGH we are!! HEheee.
Views... I was a little dizzy, which explains me leaning back strangely.
We're on the final switchbacks near the peak!! Hooray!
WOOHOO! Done makin' it up the mountain!
Daytime Moon! :D
There really were real butterflies swirl fluttering all around. And lots of wind. :)
I think I made Bonnie pose with me 20 times. LOL.
They had the great idea of posing with FHAMWHEY's house in the picture...So that she could be there in spirit! HEehee. Thanks for letting us come to your house for the vision collage! We waved to you repeatedly!! :D
ACTION STARS!! Whaaaa -wah-waaaah! :D (That's action-themed music playing.)
Look how HIGH we ARE!!! HEheee.
The only other group picture with Marty in it.. We kinda persuaded her. But we had to mark the MONUMENTAL OCCASION!!!
The fun is not over... Now we get to go down.
Times I fell: Once, well it was more of a slip all the way to sitting/landing on my booty than a fall, and happened on the way down. The camera was safe (that's what I was most worried about after not wanting to take out other people if I fell)! Luckily I didn't fall forward, and luckily I had plenty of cushioning, so except for a small cut, lots of granite dust staining the apple bag that my SparkFriend made for me, I didn't break the skin, or get a bruise, or anything! SparkFriends were there to help me up, and Bonnie (thankfully) helped brush all the dust off my clothes.
[#6: The only way to finish after a set-back is to get up and keep going.]
Done! At the bottom!
What I learned:
**I was reminded AGAIN how SparkFriends are as helpful & encouraging in person as they are online. It was a joyful experience, as it always is with them. ADVENTURE-GIRL was my official hike buddy, and lead the way up for me. ABB698 was our official cheerleader, a strong hiker that was kind enough to follow me, MARTY12345 was the girl that gave up giving up, and THEMIGHTYLEX mightily helped me & the others past some of the steeper steps! And his guest was our peak group picture photographer!
**I will definitely do this again in the future to compare how much stronger I am then! I'd love to have hiking boots to help support my ankles and give me more traction.
**Stretching is the miracle motion that I knew it to be. I spent a few minutes getting some good stretches in before washing up back at the parking lot. I was not even sore the day after! During my knees were complaining a little. All of the rebound/recovery reminds me how lucky I am to be so young (32), and how much I want to have greater stamina and flexibility when I'm 3x this age.
**I got a little frustrated that I wasn't going as quickly as I thought I should. This brought a little dark cloud over a super sunny day, filled with victory! I respect that strenuous exercise can bring out unexpected emotions in me. Some of them felt like the very first time I tried walking around my building at work, when I could not walk for 5 minutes without being heavily winded. I've come a long way, but when I really push myself beyond Zumba, and the Arc Trainer, into completely unexplored challenges, I realize how much farther there is to go/how many great adventures still await!
I got home and took a hot hot shower. I felt so revitalized, and burned almost 1600 calories on that hike. I didn't quite fuel myself enough after that, so that's something I'll improve for the next time. But my circulation was good, and I felt like I was glowing. I was proud of my accomplishment, and it helps to put everything else in perspective. The 5k I walked a couple weeks later felt like nothing, even though my lower back hurt a little. There really is something special about PUSHING yourself past your limits, to discover the new limits.