Right after high school, I spent 2 summers working at The Aspen Lodge Ranch Resort and Conference Center in Estes Park, CO. I fell in love with the mountains at first sight and the first year, after 2 months of hiking and getting acclimated, I was ready for the challenge of Long’s Peak, the mountain that practically shadowed the resort at sunset.
Our hiking party left at 3am to begin our 14 mile round trip hike and make it above the tree line (11,000’) by sunrise. Let me tell you, that was one amazing view! Then we made our way across the switchbacks to the Boulder Field, which leads to the Keyhole (13,300’). After the Keyhole, it’s only one more mile to the summit, but this hardest mile of all includes the Trough (600 feet of rock climbing while your leg muscles are on fire), the Narrows (a aptly-named narrow ledge along the south side of the peak with a sheer drop to your right), and the Homestretch (a mostly smooth, 300 foot incline with cracks for hand/footholds and the SCARIEST part of all! One slip and bye-bye…or so it seemed to me.).
My first summer, by the time we reached the Keyhole, fog had rolled in to mostly obscure the landmark, and our guide made the decision to turn back.
So, how do I know how scary the Homestretch was? As I said at the beginning, I did make it to the top…it just took me an extra year. In August of my second summer (the month with the best weather for tackling that mountain), another WI native and I lucked out with a beautiful Saturday and completed the climb! I stood looking out at the view in awe and amazement, pretty much on top of the world!
I’ve revisited that feeling when I finished my first novel and typed The End. It came back with the second book. And third. And oh my God, when I held my first published book in my hands! Us writers follow trails (and forge our own) that are mostly uphill and strewn with boulders, but we keep on hiking. We get up at 3am and stay up after midnight. We write through the storms in our lives and sometimes we turn back until the fog passes. But we do return.
And I know writers aren’t the only ones who tackle and conquer mountains every day. Physical or emotional, all of us have things in our lives that mean enough to fire up our determination to succeed even as we’re going through hell. We reach for the summit and don’t give up.
I was physically wiped out for a couple of days after reaching the top of Long’s Peak and then traversing the never-ending, exhausting 7 mile return hike on Jello-like legs…but I’m so glad I did. Heck, making it to the end of a book is emotionally draining at times and I wonder countless times, “Why am I doing this?”
Then I reach The End and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Life without goals seems a bit boring and not much of a life at all. I even find myself a bit lost when I haven’t decided on my next mountain to climb. And if reaching those goals was easy, we wouldn’t experience that satisfying, even euphoric, sense of accomplishment that makes life worth living. I definitely want that in my life and hope you do, too.
Your turn. What ‘mountain’ are you climbing right now? When was the last time YOU had a Rocky Mountain High? Go ahead and build yourself up. Not only do other people’s successes make me want to do better, but you deserve it!
**Everyone who comments is eligible for the prize at the end of the week: ebook or print copy of my new release, TRUST IN THE LAWE. Check out my website for a excerpts of this and my other books.
Stacey Joy Netzel