(ROCKWALL, TX — DECEMBER 31, 2018) Thanksgiving Day dinner consisted of a steaming bowl of Muesli cereal with cranberries and a cup of hot tea, and I was so tired I could barely eat. However, the campfire did its job; the pops and sizzles bring a certain comfort in the wilderness, especially on the banks of a little stream. It definitely took my mind off of my throbbing feet. Yet, I could rest only so long, cold rain was in the forecast and we had five and a half miles left, so we would need an early start despite what our bodies wanted.
My family gave me permission to backpack in the Ouachita National Forest with a buddy during the Thanksgiving holiday. We left early Wednesday morning and planned to hike the entire 28-mile loop by Friday. After my return, we would have a traditional Thanksgiving. It was going to be a pure adventure. Carrying our life on our back with six mountain ridges to cross in the heart of black bear country without a hint of a cell phone signal, I couldn’t wait.
We made 11 miles and two mountains on day one and found a great spot alongside a creek to set camp as the temperature neared freezing. My buddy and I shared stories around the roaring fire. The next day brought four more ridges, some breathtaking vistas, and moments where I had to will one foot in front of the other. The final five-mile leg brought cold wind and rain but we made it back to the truck earlier than we thought. By the end of the journey we had backpacked the 28.2 miles in a little over 48 hours and my feet are still a little sore, but my heart is full.
With no phone to distract, miles to walk, and hours upon hours to think, you can’t help but learn lessons in “God’s Creation” and I’m taking several into this New Year:
- We focus way too much on unimportant things. Being miles from civilization helps you reevaluate priorities. Do I have food? Clean water? Shelter? Can I walk? If you can say yes to all those, life is good. Social media status means nothing, nor does the size of your house or the “image of success” your children project for all to see. So, lesson number one for me is focus on the most important things in 2019; loving my wife and kids, and being a solid friend and a good human being.
- Nobody says on their death bed, “I wish I hadn’t attempted to climb that mountain.” I’ve had several wonder why I would attempt adventures like that hike, my answer: why not? I’m 47 and I’m not dead. The last thing I want is to wake up one day when I’m 80 and realize all I did with life is go to work and climb the social ladder. I have mountains to climb instead. They may be tough and I may fail, but in 2019 (and in the years after) I want to at least give it a shot.
- You can’t quit walking. On one of the most challenging ridges, I was plumb tuckered out. I wanted to quit, but that wasn’t a choice. If I was going to make it back to my loved ones, I had to walk. Period. It was hard, it hurt, I had to take breaks, but I had to keep going. In 2019, I must press on in everything good I endeavor, and I pray you will as well.
May your 2019 be full of life and the things most meaningful… have a great one.
By Scott Gill is an RISD teacher, coach, and author of the book “Goliath Catfish.” Follow Scott’s blog at puptentpapa.blogspot.com and read more of his “Front Porch Ramblings” at BlueRibbonNews.com.
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