These are the beginning steps of the final destination to reach the pinnacle of Crowder’s Mountain at the Crowders Mountain State Park. We began the journey at the Linwood Road Access point and chose to take the 0.91 mile hike one way to the 1,705 foot view of the 25 miles of piedmont horizon. I know that .91 miles is something that most people can do in their sleep or with a swift run in under 15 minutes, however, the difference her is pictured. The last round of this hike includes 336 wooden steps that have been built into the mountain.
Now normally I would have taken the 2.1 mile hike along the opposite side of the mountain to avoid the stairs all together. But this week I’ve listened as my knees have chewed and crunched the limited amount of cartilage that I have remaining in them as I walk down the steps of my parking garage for work five times a day. In my mind it makes more sense to climb up and avoid the discomfort of my knees slowly separating with each of those 336 steps.
To my wonderful surprise even though this trail still created a sense of “911 I need oxygen” the uphill journey, although strenuous, was bearable as long as I stopped periodically to regulate my breathing.
Something in me shifted when I stood before these immaculately maintained wooden steps. I could see from a distance that they were steeper than what you would find in a commercial space (as they should be after all it is a mountain) but I also noticed that they were smooth and not perfectly rectangular but they curved with the body of the topography.
Completely out of my view, my twelve-year-old was already running and climbing as if he was on the school play ground. All I could do was call his name and await to hear his response to ensure that he was actually safe and not lying in a deadly position along the side of the cliff. Three Hundred and Thirty Six is a HUGE number when you consider the fact that without being fully engaged and willing to take each and every one, the pristine view that we drove 45 miles to see would never be ascertained.
I inhaled deeply one last time, gripped my hiking stick, bowed my head as to see exactly where to place my foot for each step and begin my pursuit to the top.
Sometimes the things we deserve to experience may cost us 336 wooden steps. We can either allow the fear of failure, pain of bad knees or misguided circumstances to deter us or propel us. This was my son’s first time hiking and yes, he is 30 plus years my junior but his energy is what I used to fuel my own. He went ahead of me and even would call back periodically by cell phone to say “Mom be careful of those next set of stairs, they are pretty steep”.
The keys to this story are simple:
1- Never climb alone. People don’t have to walk right beside you in order to be a great support system. He led us to the mountain top without me having my eyes on him for any more than 40% of the time, yet I knew he was there and I had to make sure I made it to where he was already going. Meanwhile behind me were my 18-year-old daughter and her best friend, who was also experiencing her first hike. I couldn’t see them either, but I knew they were my back up if anything were to happen to me as they would approach sooner rather than later. Often times your best support is in the fore front or background out of your view but certainly watching over you.
2-Push through the discomfort. Did my knees hurt? Actually they didn’t because I had to put more energy and focus in BREATHING lol! Our destinies will not always be smooth and pleasant. We decided to take the hike later in the evening to avoid the heat, which was really great when it came time for me to suck in those breezes when I felt their wasn’t enough air left in my lungs to push through. Strategize your plans. There will be potential risks and pit-falls but if you plan for them and readjust where you can, you can potentially decrease your levels of discomfort.
3-Keep your head low and your feet steady. I focused on ensuring that my steps were secure rather than counting each one. Sometimes you need to get the visual of where you are trying to go in your mind, but keep your eyes on the process to get there. I honestly believe I would have exerted more oxygen by looking up at the stairs as I went, rather than keep my head low and just climbing. This way I wasn’t deterred by what was left to climb, I could see my progress with each step.
4-It’s okay to receive a stick. I was so grateful when a little girl coming down the mountain about a half of a mile prior to the steps saw me with a wimpy stick (I picked it up on the trail when I realized I had forgotten to bring one) and extended her love by offering me her more sturdy and secure one. “Would you like to use my stick?” she asked gleaming with the love that only a child can give, “I don’t need it anymore,” she said as she thrust it towards my hands not missing a beat in her rhythmic jog down the mountain. She didn’t know me, but she knew what was ahead of me, saw a need and offered a resource that was easily at her disposal. How often do we miss the support we may need in that moment of destiny because we don’taffirm that the stick offered may create better balance along the rocks and tree roots that will inevitably be in our path? It really is okay to learn, receive and grow from those who have already been where you want to go. Don’t get caught up in your own age, experience or thought processes of what success looks like. If you don’t make it to the top what was the point of exerting the energy! Be receptive to good resources.
5-Fuel off the energy of others. Trust me there were moments in that climb that I allowed my ‘non-committed self’ to question my ‘committed self’ with “what the hell were you thinking trying to do this again?” Have you ever been there? You know what the activity will pull from you and yet you are willing to do it repeatedly but often get stuck at the same spot and question yourself. Luckily for me that 12 year-old who was moving quickly in anticipation and excitement giving me a greater will power to not let him take in the magnificence of the view alone. I had to use his energy to fuel my own. I couldn’t see him, but I answered his phone calls and I noticed each time he rested as to allow me to catch up, even it he took off shortly thereafter and disappeared again. Even as he did, climbers who were decending the mountain continued to encourage me that “You can do it” as they passed me on the trail. Some supporters wont have the encouraging words, experience or even resources but they can fuel you with their own energy. Feed off of all positivity, no matter where it originates. God has a unique way of giving you what you need when you least expect it. He will use many that you do know and some that you don’t! Be open.
Finally, Enjoy the view! Don’t just get to the top of your mountain, stick your chest out and post it on social media. Take the time to sit still and reflect on what you had to do to get there. Remember who helped you along the way whether they were just willing to believe in you, covered you from the front or back, handed you a resource or made certain that their energy ignited yours. Appreciate the people around you that walk with you in your pursuit, especially when they don’t understand why you’re doing it. Strategize your next steps and set new goals as you achieve old ones. Never stop believing in your ability to be great. Its simply a decision.
Proverbs 3:4-6 New American Standard
…4So you will find favor and good repute In the sight of God and man. 5Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. 6In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.…