Since 2010 has begun, I have created my own challenges,  faced challenges out of my control, and watched others struggle with their own challenges.  Saturday I overcame a challenge Mike and I set up for us, a long loop hike up to Mount Greylock in Massachusetts.

We began our trek via the Hopper Trail inside of the Reservation.  The trail started innocently enough by a cow farm, where an escapee calf came out to greet us.  Luckily the little fellow wasn’t a hiker, so he stayed near the barn.

I really believed during the planning stages of this hike, the challenged we put ourselves up against was mileage.  Different sources referenced this hike being between 10 and 13 miles, which would put it as our longest one yet.  I was only half right, thinking mileage was our challenge.  The Hopper Trail challenged me in ways I never expected.  For lack of a better word, it was a strenuous uphill.

As I chugged along, stopping frequently to catch my breath. I could only think my job has thrown me some challenges this year that have tested my strength of character.  If I could deal with those challenges and not give up, I could do this.  I learned this year to ask for help and believe in other’s encouragement.  So I for once listened to Mike’s encouraging words to push me mentally up that trail.

After 2.4 miles we made it to Sperry Road Campsite and I congratulated myself for not giving up.  I realize my job this year has more obstacles that are coming my way, but I will remember to use other’s shoulders to support me and let their encouraging words guide me along.   If I can make it to the end of this demanding trail, then my job’s problems will no longer be challenges I can’t face.

At Sperry Road Campsite we then connected to the Appalachian Trail to the summit.  I believe when we face challenges we are rewarded.  To me this was the reward at the end of the Hopper Trail.  It wasn’t too demanding, had some beautiful scenes and the aromas of the forest flooded me with memories of fresh cut Christmas trees.

The summit was inspiring because the only inhabitants of this area worked hard for their right to be there, the roads weren’t open yet.  Challenges make us struggle, make us appreciate our growth more and if we rise to the challenge, meet it we feel proud.

At the summit, we rested, snacked and aired out.

We still had 7 plus miles to conquer. All of sudden my panic meter went off, we have 7 and more miles to do, how can I do it? One of personal challenges is I’m great at psyching myself out, so on this trek I just told myself stop it, you can do it.  I knew I had my friend, Karen believing in me and I hate to let people down. So with that realization, I just set my mind to do this.  Isn’t facing a physical challenge mostly dependent on the mental belief you can or cannot do it?

We continued off of the summit via the A.T. Down, down, down we went.

Finally we reached a point where we leveled off and had a stroll through the woods being rewarded by wildflowers and the overwhelming scent of pine.

Then we had to go uphill to Mount Williams, at 2.3 miles from the summit.  It was a rocky road to the summit, without a spectacular view as a reward.

Sometimes we expect our reward to be grand and we miss something smaller that is even better.  As I reflect on this, I realize our reward to this uphill was chatting with the Appalachian Trail volunteer of this trail section.  We swapped stories of wild flowers sprouting up and his quest for some rare plants.

We traveled the remaining 1.2 miles to the Money Brook Trail.  Once we reached the Money Brook Trail we had only 3.5 miles to go.  Only…..I’ve decided when facing challenges, only is an ugly word.  This was a trail that started off peacefully, relaxing and unassuming.  Mike looked at the GPS and realized in this last segment we still had to descend only 1,000 feet.  See that word only…here is one descent…

Ok, the descent resulted in splashing in the Money Brook, how refreshing.

Then I looked up. Up I tell you, we had to go up. Who put this up here?  I thought immediately about my friends facing challenges they never ever saw coming this year.  Those are the worst challenges, the unexpected ones that require you to stand on the sidelines, not being able to control a damn thing. I did what my friends did this year, pull themselves up, struggle with the challenge and keep chugging away.

The trail leveled out, but a constant annoying challenge started for the last 1.75 miles, two blisters, one on each heel.  I should have stopped and attended to them, but sometimes I think I can overcome an obstacle, by bulldozing my way through it, instead of attending and relieving the minor irritation.  Life lesson to be learned.

We all have our daily challenges, small challenges. This last segment was a wide, even trail full of wild flowers that we had not encountered before.   Focusing on that beauty, putting the petty annoyance of the blisters behind me, we ambled until we could smell the finish, literally.  The cows were nearby.

Reflecting on my lessons earned on this trail (not learned), I turned to the view of the Hopper:

The challenges that others place in your path are demanding, unexpected and heart wrenching.  I much prefer the challenges I set before myself because it allows me to set the course for my personal development and I find that so much more rewarding.

The details:  11. 4 miles, 7.5 hours, elevation gain of 2760 feet.  We went from Hopper Trail (hard, be in good cardio shape), to the Appalachian Trail to the Money Brook Trail, then connect to the Hopper for the last .2 miles.

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