Three Ridges: A Lesson in Arrogance.
Arrogant. I was arrogant. I was cocky. I was overconfident.
I walked over 800 miles to get here, so I have to know what I’m doing by now, right? No. It seems that no matter how far you go on the AT that you’re never done learning. The trail, well, she always has something new to teach you, and I, unfortunately, had to learn this the hard way.
Two days ago, I sat slumped inside a mud puddle, counting the flies gathering around my feet. It was hot–the hottest day of the year–and the mountain offered me no place to hide from the relentless downpouring of heat waves emanating from the sun.
I was exhausted. I had nothing left. I had overestimated my abilities and underestimated my opponents.
“Don’t take it lightly,” some day-hikers had said. “Three Ridges is harder than it looks.”
“Don’t take it lightly,” I repeated to myself. “…harder than it looks.”
My face was flush. My skin hot to the touch. I felt nauseous, contemplating which direction was easier.
“You could go up for two, or down for two,” I whispered, fully aware that the flies had stopped to watch me. They gathered around to tips of shoes, staring up at me with a myriad of blotted eyes.
I dropped back, dipping my head into a tiny stream. The water trickled out from between an outcropping of rocks, drip-dropping across my forehead like self-inflicted water torture. This was it. This was the place where I failed. I had hiked so far only to succumb to something as simple as heat.
“No,” I muttered, digging my hands deeper into the mud. I had an epiphany. A sudden realization that sent hope racing throughout my veins.
I had something the heat didn’t: Time. With every passing second the sun moved further away, sapping the heat’s intense ability to reach me. I didn’t have to out hike the heat, I just had to outlast it.
So I buckled down, saturating my body with ice-cold blasts of mountain water. The change was immediate. It was working. I could feel my internal temperature lowering as the heat from the fleeting day’s sun dissipated.
I had won. I had beaten the day not by pushing through–or extending my body past its breaking point–but by doing the simplest thing possible: Stopping.
And that’s what I want you to take away from this story. I want you to know that it’s okay to stop. It’s okay to rest. You and only you are the one doing this hike. So listen to your body and pay attention to what it’s telling you, cause sometimes it’s telling you to just stop and take a moment for yourself.
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