As my husband Charlie left the trailhead on his four-day backpacking trip in the Eagle Cap Wilderness he turned and flashed a smile. He was in his element, and I wanted to be there too. You see, I had hiked hundreds of miles in these mountains with him. But the 34 miles of up and down with a 25 pound back pack was not going to happen for me, today, or maybe never again.
I was left with time to write, something I had not done much of lately. And this is what I thought about while he was gone.
Part of the adventure of going on a strenuous endeavor is getting there. There is more than just the travel to the location where a backpack trip or a mountain climb begins. Let me tell what I know about the things one needs to prepare for an adventure.
An adventure begins with a thought, a dream, or idea; usually placed in my mind by someone else or something I read. I commit myself to the trip, then I have many decisions. Who will I invite to go with me? What route will we take? What permits need to be obtained. Is my “adventure“ clothing and gear still in usable condition? What food must be planned and procured for our meals?
There is something I do before leaving home that might surprise you. I do a “check” on my emotional and spiritual status. Do I have the heart to do this? Am I open to what God may have in store for me.
Just before Charlie and I were married, we drove to a trailhead in the Blue Mountains, near my home. It was pouring rain and the road we were to turn on was very muddy. And what happened? His front wheel drive VW Rabbit got stuck. He asked me to take over the driving and I waded in ankle deep mud, holding on to the body of the car as I went, to take my place in the driver’s seat. Charlie got to the front of the car and grabbed under the front bumper for leverage. “Put it in reverse” he yelled. So I did. The front wheels spun, throwing mud ahead of the car, and of course all over Charlie. I heard him call out “STOP”. I took my foot off the gas pedal and looked up. Charlie had been replaced by a 5’10 180lb glob of mud! The huge glob took off his glasses and I could see his eyes, rimmed in white from the frames and lenses that had protected him from the slinging mud. “And I am supposed to marry this?” I said. We both started laughing. If I had to get stuck, Charlie was the best to get stuck with.
Ice Lake is three miles into the wilderness and then 6 miles up. From there you scramble alongside a small creek, coming to a level place where you choose right or left to the summit of the Matterhorn, the tallest peak in the Eagle Cap wilderness. We went left, which had us walking across of scree field to get to the trail to the top. Scree is tricky stuff; small rocks slide out from under your foot with each step. If you lose your footing, you will take a ride down the scree field avalanche. Right in the middle of the scree field crossing, I got stuck. I had looked down and thought about the quick trip I might have if I wasn’t careful. I was so scared I smelled the fear in my sweat. Charlie and our two dogs were at the end of the scree and ready to go for the summit. He recognized my inability to move and came back for me. Feeling the strength of his outreached hand gave me the courage to move quickly off the scree trail. We then saw the easy switchback trail that was to the right.
My first trip up Mt Adams, had me getting stuck. On the descent we had to jump a tiny crevasse, less than I foot wide. I froze, absolutely stuck in place. Patient Charlie waited for quite awhile before coming to the “rescue”. His rescue this time was not a subtle outreached hand. He took my pack, threw it down the snowy slope, jumped across the tiny opening in the glacier and glissaded down to my pack. I had no other choice than to go after him. I jumped feet first into the chute formed from his glissade and down I went sliding on my butt.
Don’t get stuck.
Most times I have been stuck, I have been able to get out of it.
Parkinson’s disease, though, I am stuck with. I can’t get out of it. After all it is a progressive neurological disorder for which there is no cure.
As I saw Charlie’s backpack turn the corner and disappear into the forest, I could have let my mind “get stuck” on the obvious; that I cannot walk these mountains anymore. That could bring my thoughts spiraling down to many other things I can no longer do because of Parkinson’s.
But you see, there is no good in that. I don’t see any benefit in getting stuck in the “I cant’s” of life. It is too draining. Instead of getting stuck there I make my own adventure. This time I choose to camp alongside the Wallowa River, watch the osprey dive
through the air to pick up fish, view deer nibbling on the leaves of a tree just outside my camper window, gaze at the clouds building up for their evening thunder storm, watch for shooting stars in the sky, have conversations with the gentle people camped around me.
Through my life I have prepared for this adventure. I get a thought in my mind to do something, maybe write a book or learn to sketch or travel to Japan. I choose wisely who I include in my adventure. I need people with like attitudes to share my journey. The Parkinson’s community provides me with that. I check my “gear”, the stuff I need to get along easier; my walking poles, good shoes, compression socks, even if they are ugly, and a basket of medication. Even now, I learn more about dealing with the Parkinson’s and I am glad to tell you there was no exam to gain my “permit’ to travel in the Parkinson’s wilderness, but I need to do continuing education. And most importantly I have “fed” myself well spiritually and emotionally to sustain me for this adventure.
Don’t get stuck. If you can’t do one thing, don’t stay there dwelling on it. Move on to something you can do.
Don’t get stuck. Move.