Over Labor Day weekend, the family and I went with friends to Colorado for a weekend of backcountry hiking and camping. We had all prepared as best we could for this last-minute travel across the Kansas cornfields into the majestic mountains of the Comanche Peak Wilderness. After the long-drive, we were all excited about the adventure that awaited.
As we began to make our ascent up the trail, it became increasingly aware to me that my body was not up for the challenge of the 850 feet ascent and 4 miles into the mountains. My energy was rapidly declining and I became acutely aware of the the pain in my lower back. A surge of fear and disappointment overwhelmed me as I attempted to calculate in my mind the amount of hiking we had left to reach camp.
I had been on this same trail last summer when my husband and I trekked up the trail bearing our heavy packs for a two-day trip. I knew the trail. My body was prepared. I was fit enough for the challenge. Or so I thought. A few days before our trip I had developed a bladder infection. Not serious, really. I had taken all of my usual herbal remedies and even found a few antibiotics leftover from my hubby's last tooth infection. I thought I was on the mend and would be fine for the trip.
We made it about 2 miles in and my pack became more than I could bear. I was in pain. My back. My legs. Energy waning quickly. We had all stopped for a break and to catch our breath. Everyone could see the pain on my face. It was not like me at all. Normally I'm the one that is pushing up the trail with all of the energy like the Energizer Bunny. But not this day. This day was tough.
As we all sat there figuring out what to do, my best friend Laurie's husband Kevin offered to carry my pack. Mind you, he had a huge pack of his own which probably weighed 60 pounds. So for him to offer to carry mine as well would increase his load tremendously. Now he is a weight lifter. A strong guy. However, he had never before hiked up a mountain in this elevation. It was a risk but he was willing to help me in my time of need.
Laurie decided she would carry my pack, Kevin carried his on his back and then Laurie's on the front. After all was rearranged, I grabbed my trekking pole and we all continued on up the trail. We made it to our camp site after another hour of hiking. We were all worn out and had to set up camp quickly as we were losing daylight. We made camp, fixed dinner and hit the sack. We were all beat and in need of a good night's sleep.
The next day we hike up the trail in the hopes of making it to Lost Lake. A lake that sits on top of the mountain, tucked away in the rock and tree line. A coveted ascent for many hikers that venture up this trail. But our hopes of reaching the top of the trail began to fade when we stopped for lunch. My body was weak. I lacked the strength to continue up the trail. My husband Marty's plantar fasciitis had come on full force and every step he took was tremendously painful. And then Kevin was starting to feel the effects of the elevation with a bad case of altitude sickness.
It seemed that our goal of reaching Lost Lake was not going to be in the cards for us this trip. After much discussion, we decided to head back down the trail to camp. In spite of our feelings of defeat, we all still chose to enjoy the beauty around us. The trees. The blue sky. The warm, mountain air. The wildlife and flowers all around us. Stopping for brief conversations with hikers passing by us. It was breathtakingly beautiful and the weather was near perfect.
The next morning we started to pack up to head back down the trail. By this point, I can barely move. The pain in my back was excruciating. I barely slept. I felt so dehydrated and exhausted. There was no way I was going to make it down the mountain with my 25 pound pack on me. So Kevin devised a plan. While we stayed to pack up camp, he would hike down the trail to the car with his pack and then come back and carry mine.
If any of you know me at all, you know that I am a do-it-yourself, strong-willed, hard-headed, "I will do it myself" kinda gal. I don't take help from others very often. But in this case, I knew I had to let him. To say this was a humbling experience for me is an understatement. I have spent the last 10 years working on my health and getting into the best shape of my life. As a 47 year old mom and "Gigi", I can handle just about any kind of physical activity or challenge. So to relinquish my pack to someone else, again, was quite humiliating.
Pride. Pride keeps us from accepting help. Pride holds us back from seeing our own weakness. Pride keeps us focus on ourselves, not realizing the needs of others. Pride builds up oneself while tearing others down. Another less thought of aspect of pride is that it denies others the opportunity to be a blessing.
I learned a valuable lesson on that mountain. I learned that our journey of life was never meant to be traveled alone. God has placed just the right people in your life and just the right time so that you can be a blessing to one another. And sometimes. Sometimes there will be one or two people who will come along to help you carry the load when you are to weak to carry it on your own.
I still feel a great debt to my friends for what they did for me on that mountain. They may never understand the deep appreciate I still feel for their selfless act. In spite of their own weaknesses, they saw my needs were greater than their own. Such a selfless act to carry another's load. It was a word of scripture brought to life before my own eyes.
The next time you find yourself in need or unable to carry your own load, be gracious enough to allow others to help you. Or you may be the one to help another. Do it. It may very well be the life-lesson you need to learn so that you fully understand God's love for you and how His love shines through you and others.