Most Unforgettable Journey
by Jaclyn Tanemura
My most unforgettable journey was not so epic from the outside…it happened internally, years ago, after acquiring my first summit. Leading up to this point, my family had been dealing with serious health issues, and death, and I’d let things that were out of my control get to me.
I had been meaning to make hiking a big part of my life, and get into the mountains before all of that had happened, and so I decided I could no longer put it off. Life is short, and all that.
I found that with my mindset at the time - the sort of terror that something bad, anything bad - could and would happen, had me over preparing, and over-worrying about encountering a grizzly.
So many people had warned us bears were in the area, and everyone back at home expressed worry about our journey. It was a simple half-day hike, nothing to really worry about, yet every little noise along the trail had me jumping…and it didn’t help that every hiker we passed had their bear spray in hand, safety off.
We didn’t see any bears that day. But I was so worried about running in to one, that I didn’t think about how it would be windy it would be up top - on the summit. That maybe I didn’t realize the power of the elements in the mountains. My companion was fighting an internal struggle with a fear of heights, and so even though I offered to turn around several times, to which he said no, the mild scramble up was done with tense overtures. We reached the summit…and nearly got knocked over by the strength of the wind. And it was cold.
My hiking partner basically touched the top, and then retreated back off the summit, taking refuge by a large boulder. I wanted to spend some time at the top, but I was getting thrown around like a leaf. One particularly large gust of wind knocked me painfully into a boulder - hard enough to bruise my hip. Adrenaline rushed through my veins. I could get blown off the mountain, I thought, the realization stunning. Tiny flecks of snow whizzed around in the crazy wind, hitting my face, and stinging as if they were tiny needles instead of snowflakes.
The dark clouds kept opening up, and sending light rays down along with gorgeous sunshine. Lake Louise lit up like a beacon, and I snapped a few photos with my ever-numbing fingers. I grabbed a selfie, just for my own records, my arms barely able to hold up to the camera as the wind battered violently against me. It was in that freezing cold, crazy moment that something inside me clicked, and then I was no longer afraid. It suddenly struck me that there was no reason to be afraid. That you could only prepare, be aware, and go about your business. That you had to live in the moment - not just think it, but truly do it. It was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, and the feeling was exhilarating.
Selfie at Summit
Two fears had been conquered that day, both his and mine. It’s true what they say - that nature is healing.
The way back down was jubilant for us.
I’ve been addicted to the mountains ever since.