The Path Less Traveled Into the Woods

I decided to try a new hobby. Trust me, this has definitely been a challenge for me. I am a lady of a certain age, weight, and physical conditioning that does not necessarily scream AVID MOUNTAIN HIKER. I have been intrigued with hiking in the Rocky Mountains since I first moved to Colorado twenty three years ago.

Growing up in the PacNW along the North Oregon coast, I took many hikes around the area beaches and hills. Honestly, these hikes did not have much altitude gain but they did have plenty of other challenges, like uneven terrain and rainy weather. I grew up surrounded with some of the most breathtaking natural scenery, which gave me a great appreciation and love of the outdoors. For some reason, though, I have been intimidated with hiking in the Rocky Mountains.

From my Denver suburb home, I can literally look out my dining room window and see the mountains peeking in-between the houses and trees. Even though I only see the foothills and the initial layers of the mountain range, these mountains are huge. In addition to the incredible size of the mountains, one must consider potentially dangerous interactions between humans and the local wildlife, which include bears, mountain lions, moose, elk, coyotes, and wolves. We also must be diligent about Colorado’s leading weather fatality: lightning.

With all these concerns to consider, I have fallen under the spell of the call of these beautiful mountains, the call to be in the wild, the call to break free from suburbia and listen to birds, bugs, raptor calls, and quick-moving creeks.

As an almost five year breast cancer slayer, still learning the new normal of neuropathy in my hands and feet, as well as lymphedema in my arm, I have followed the non-profit group, Living By Living, for the past few years on social media. This non-profit provides cancer survivors and caregivers the opportunity to hike in a group setting to increase physical conditioning and experience the mental boost of being out in nature.

This year, the group tried a different approach. In the past, as the hikes became more progressively difficult, many survivors could no longer participate. This year they broke up the hikes into three groups: the Easy Trek, the Moderate Trek, and the Advanced Trek. The Advanced Trek train to climb a Fourteener; a mountain which is over 14,000 feet. The Moderate Trek train for good elevation gain and longer hikes. My chosen trek, the Easy Trek, started out with shorter hikes on very easy terrain. We then increased the length with about 150-200 elevation gain but the terrain was still relatively flat and easy to navigate.

I am not sure if I will ever be able to climb a Fourteener. I initially thought this would be a great goal but with the loss of feeling in my feet, even with the assistance of hiking sticks, I am re-evaluating this goal. I don’t know if my body can safely climb a tall mountain. My incredible meat suit, my impressive biological machine, my corporal body, has done a great job in healing from a life threatening disease and continues to hold my soul. For now, I will continue to be on the Easy Trek. I will honor the limitations of the body but continue to enrich my spirit. I am grateful I found this group to help me explore the Rocky Mountains with camaraderie and care.

“The mountains are calling and I must go.” – John Muir