~ Pushing Beyond Limits ~
Three years ago, Steph and I marked the end of summer with an adventure on September long weekend. We stayed in New Denver in the cute, little dome houses surrounded by lavender, watched sunsets, chased waterfalls, and hiked Jumbo. At that point, we decided to make it an annual event with the following year taking us to Yoho National Park and this year Kokanee Glacier Park. It was a welcome shift for me. In the years previous, September long weekend was a reminder of what was once my wedding anniversary weekend. A reminder of a dissolved marriage, a past life, and the starting of a new one. A bittersweet mixed bag. Turning it into an adventure weekend was a welcome change to the narrative. But this summer was different than summer’s past. My body has been off this year and I’ve felt it all summer. Many have said that I’m experiencing perimenopause and whether I am or not, I have struggled to accept the current state of my physical self. This hung over me all summer as our adventure weekend got closer and closer. Back when we booked it in April, I had no doubt that I would be feeling better by September. Once June, July, and August rolled around, I started to have uncertainty. But my mind is strong and I told myself over and over—an affirmation on repeat—that I could do it. And I did. The day before we left, I was graced with my period. I was annoyed. Four days in the backcountry with a period, how lovely. I was concerned. I was already pushing my body and now it was going to be in overtime even more. But I was also oddly amused because there was a wild, primal feeling to it as well. Regardless of how I felt, my mind assured me that I was not going to let my period stop me now. I had never went on a multi-day, backcountry hiking trip. This one felt do-able because our cabin was luxurious with its own power system, refrigeration, and a fully equipped kitchen. Despite my best planning and prepping, I still managed to end up with a 50lb pack that I needed to carry in, uphill, for 8.5km. The morning we left, my mind assured me once again that I could do this. As we approached the trailhead, I felt the weight of anxiety settling into my body, feeling uneasy about what I had got myself into. Concerned that I had bitten off more than I could swallow. I had my period, my pack was too heavy, and it was a hot, smoky day. But onward we went. The first 4.5km were the hardest and I felt it in every fibre of my being. I questioned many times if I was going to be able to do it and I kept telling myself, “I’m in it now and I have no choice but to keep going. One foot in front of the other, one step at a time.” When I finally got through the worst of the climb and made it to Kokanee Lake, I welcomed the break to get my pack off, sit down, eat, hydrate, and re-group.
I still had four more kilometres to go. Those last four kilometres felt like the longest I had ever hiked in my life. My neck and shoulders hurt. My body was completely exhausted. When I hit the final fork that said the end was 0.3km away and I rounded the bend to finally see the cabin in the trees, I could have collapsed and cried right there. I did it. I made it. The following days spent at the cabin were incredible. It’s tucked in the woods right off the side of Kaslo Lake. My mornings started early, at 6am. The sun not quite up, I would quietly put on my sweater and immediately head outside to wake up with the earth down at the lake. As the sun would begin to illuminate the mountaintops, I would slip back in to make a cup of decaf, grab my journal, and head back to the lake. It was an absolutely brilliant start to the days.
On our first morning, I was tuning into my body and seeing where I was at. We had talked about hiking into Sapphire Lakes, 3.6km from the cabin. I wasn’t sure that this was the best idea for me after the push getting there. I decided that I should take it easy and hang around the cabin. Then as the morning went on and we started talking, the excitement hit and my adventurous spirit jumped in and I made a compromise with myself. I’ll just head toward Sapphire Lakes to explore the area, but without a commitment to go the entire way. I went the entire way. The lower lake, upper lake, the waterfalls and pools in between. We were all this way up there and the mountains were magical. When would I have the opportunity to do this again? My body obliged and saw me through, and I rewarded it with a brisk swim, rest, and nourishing meal at the end of the day.
At the end of the second day, we decided that our third and final full day would be spent heading toward the glacier. Word had it that the toe of the glacier wasn’t “that” far away. Somehow in my head, I was convinced that it would be an easy hike. So we packed up on the Sunday morning and off we went, heading to the glacier a little after 9am. It was a relatively smooth hike to the Slocan Chief Cabin. We stopped, took a break, and stepped back in time with this heritage building steeped in history. And then we made our way toward the glacier. We climbed and climbed and climbed some more, finally making our way to the tarn and ice sheets near the bottom of the glacier. I was satisfied to reach this point, until others decided to scramble up to the bottom of the glacier itself. There was my mind again. “You’ve made it all this way. It’s not that much further. You can do it.” I quickly chewed a handful of trail mix and grapes and off I went.
I have to say, the feeling of fulfillment and accomplishment of reaching that glacier is not something I have experienced too often. It was incredible, and it felt like we were standing on top of the world. I pulled off my boots and sunk my bare feet in to connect with this destination that I don’t know if I will ever meet again. The sun was beaming and the energy was flowing intensely. And the scramble down was delightful. Igniting my inner child, reminding me how much I love hopping over rocks and sliding down crevices. I couldn’t have got the smile off my face had I wanted to. Our “easy” hike turned out to be 3.6km (one way) with 560 metres elevation gain. But I was so high on adrenaline and victory, my body was able to continue carrying me. We got back to the cabin in the afternoon, swam in the lagoon, laid on a rock and watched clouds roll by, rested, and laughed until our bellies hurt and tears rolled down our faces. We enjoyed every single minute of our last night in this little piece of paradise. The morning that we were leaving brought mixed emotions. I didn’t want to leave. Part of me felt like I could stay out there forever. The other part was missing my boys and ready to get home. I wasn’t nearly as worried about the hike out because not only was my pack much lighter, it was much cooler outside and mostly downhill back to the truck. Those first four kilometres back out felt like a breeze. And from Kokanee Lake, I powered through the steeper downhill sections like nothing. It was the last 1.5km where I started to feel my body pushing back at me. I kept coaxing it, “It’s ok, we’re almost there, we’ve got this.” Finally reaching the truck felt glorious. I did it. I really did. I was definitely the slowest hiker in the pack, which also meant I spent quite a bit of time on the trails by myself. But I feel that’s exactly what I needed. It gave me deep connection to nature and I didn’t hesitate to stop to take in the views, feel the earth under my feet and air filling my body. Because I wasn’t pushing to keep up, I was able to take it all in at a level that I needed. And even though I was slower and the terrain was more challenging for me, I still did it. Every bit of it. And then some. I felt like it was a milestone showing me how capable I was, proving to myself that I could do it. Then I got home and the question of “at what cost?” made its way to the surface. I felt like I had a complete system crash. My inflammation flared up worse than it had been all year. My knees so swollen that they would barely bend. In the day after I got home, I had a couple big reality-facing moments that required me to step back and ask some questions. Moments that required me to get honest with myself. Why is it that I need to push so hard to achieve? Why do I need to continue to prove to myself what I am capable of? I believe in myself, I know I can achieve whatever I put my mind to, but why do I continually have to push my edges? Where did these agreements come from? Do I really want to continue to make choices that cause me physical suffering, potentially leading to irreversible outcomes? One of my greatest adventures and weekends of my life has been met with one of my greatest “getting real with myself” moments where I’m deconstructing many of the ways I approach life. Maybe it’s time to tuck away the over-achieving, pushing the limits badges and surrender to my body and where I’m at in this moment. Accept that maybe this is not the time to be climbing mountains and setting my sights on the next big marker of achievement. This is clearly what my body is asking me to do. I have a wonderful life. I love my home, my work, my community. I love all that I do and I know in my heart and soul that my contribution to this world is valuable. It’s time to rest into all that I have and let go of all that I want and allow the universe take the wheel. That feels relieving to me. I’ve unpacked my bags. Now it’s time to go unpack agreements. What a wild adventure indeed!