Tales From Camelback Mountain in the Arcadia District of Phoenix, Arizona.
I was rounding up Echo the other day, on the part of the trail where you’ve completed the first three obstacles- the path (the new stairs), the rails and the rocks. I consider this the halfway point- I’m not sure if it really is or not.
My legs were on fire per usual, but I know the greeting of the Phoenix skyline too well to slow down near the top of the rocks, so I kept going. Startled as always at my body’s ability to fight through complaint, I kept my pace once I got to the next section that bridges the end of the first half- that rocky, somewhat flat area- to the beginning of the second half. The real rocks, I call them. The ones that last for seemingly ever.
The flat-ish area started to wind up to the view of Paradise Valley from the north side of the mountain. I told myself to keep up the speed. To keep going. I could probably make it to the top in under forty. For me, this is a great time.
So there I was, encouraging my steps toward the real rocks, sneaking a brief glance at PV when a sister turned back to her brother to encourage him along their descent. She couldn’t have been more than nine. “You can’t focus on the hike,” she told him. “You have to look up. It’s the view that keeps you going.”
I’m certain there are place mats and bumper stickers with those words, it was nothing I hadn’t heard before. But to hear it from such a young mind, stating so obviously the facts of life, I stopped in my tracks.
I’ve hiked Camelback for many years, the views from most vantage points are imprinted in my imagination indelibly.
When is the last time I actually stopped and looked at one those views? I wondered.
Fast times are a testament to my health, an encouraging route in my life motivation, no doubt. I take pride in challenging my body and pushing past my mind’s request to give up or slow down. But how long had it been since I looked up while hiking, at the end of the obstacles, not just once I got to the top?
Too often in life, we race. We put our heads down to get through the tough times because we know what’s waiting as our prize is worth it. And it is. And we know by now that the journey fuels our souls. Our footprints on the soil the annotations of our efforts. The hard stuff gives us character. But what about the views from the trail, while we climb either up or down?
I have forgotten in this life to look out while I’m in the rough. I’ve focused on looking down, seeing myself from bird’s eye view, making the climb. Knowing it was worth it to get to the top. The view would be enormous.
That nine-year-old was onto something. It isn’t about the hike. The challenges. The effort we use to fuel our footsteps. There is beauty around us every step of the way; a new perspective of grandiosity around every hump on the trail.
How fortunate are we to experience life without filter? Don’t forget to stop every once in a while. To take it slow. “You have to look up,” she said. “It’s the view that keeps you going.”
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