Sunday, July 4, 2010

What Was I Thinking?

Today's picture is of the Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Named after Arlo Cammerer, who was the Director of the National Park Service around the time the GSMNP became a national park, the tower can only be reached by hiking.  Although several fire towers still remain in the park, each is unique.  This one has a 360 degree view and on clear days, the vistas are among the best in the park.  Originally constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the 1930's, it fell into disrepair in the 1970's. In 1995, it was reconstructed by the Appalachian Trail Conference and Friends of The Smokies once again allowing public access to the catwalk and interior of the tower. 

It is no secret to readers of this blog that travel and hiking are two of my passions.  With the exception of late June, July and August which can become unbearably hot/humid even in the higher elevations of the Smokies, hiking is something I try to do weekly.  Since it is most definitely July, I really did think twice when a friend invited me to hike to the Mt. Cammerer fire tower yesterday.  It is a 5.6 mile (think 11.2 roundtrip) hike with a huge elevation gain and rated strenuous.  That mileage is well within my distance range, but factoring in elevation change, heat and humidity, I quite possibly should have declined.  But I can't!!  I'm unofficially trying to hike all 900+ miles of trails in the park and this was one I had never done.  I kept telling myself how accomplished I would feel when marking that trail off my map with my bright orange highlighter.  (Little did I know, that marking off "ceremony" would not happen until this morning because once I got home last night and finally believed I wasn't going to die, I went straight from shower to bed.  LOL!!)  Fortunately, my hiking friend, who is a stronger hiker than I am, was very patient with my frequent stops to breathe during the first 2.5 miles which gained 2000 feet in elevation.  Folks, that's STEEP!  Following that, the trail moderates (not to be confused with level) and then there is the amazing construction of the tower itself and I can't even begin to describe the views in every direction.  But guess what?  After lots of gawking, picture taking, and a very nice lunch, there's is the realization that the hike is only half over.  And here's the thing.  Although hiking downhill is not the aerobic workout that hiking uphill is, I can assure you that hiking DOWN 2000 feet is no picnic either.  All 11.2 miles of this trail was incredibly rocky and by the time I saw my car in the hiker parking lot, every last muscle in my legs and hips were crying for relief.  Because of the heat, I had carried extra water in my backpack which meant extra weight, so my entire body was sore and weary. 

And isn't that much how it is with this never ending weight loss journey.  We know we can do it and we know the end result will be worth the pain, but oh my goodness, the journey seems impossible at the beginning.  But we take it one step at a time, the uphill battle is steep.  We stop, we struggle to breathe, we rest, we lean on a stronger friend for support, and most importantly, we keep moving forward, one step at a time.  Then we arrive at the mid-point and there is already such a sense of accomplishment.  Maybe we rest here for awhile, maybe we reward ourselves and enjoy the view.  But then there is the realization that the journey is only half over.  We tell ourselves that we made it this far, the "downhill" part will be easy.  But no, we suddenly want to hurry, we reach a plateau we can't get past, the rocks in the path get bigger, sometimes we get so tired of it all and say to ourselves, "what was I thinking?" and wonder if we should just quit.  But as steep as the downhill is, every step (pound) is leading us closer to the car in the hiker parking lot (goal weight).  And almost immediately upon arrival at the car, we turn around and look at that mountain we just climbed and say, "it was so totally worth it." 

I learned some new things about myself yesterday.   I challenged myself in several different ways and I won.  It wasn't easy for me to accept an invitation from a much stronger hiker than me to do a hike in conditions that I knew would be very challenging.  I wasn't sure I could do it.  But I did.  Am I sore today?  You bet.  But guess what else?  I lost a pound yesterday (which was a little surprising considering I drank 3 liters of water).  That means I'm less than 20 pounds from goal.  I'm starting the downhill part.  Will it be any easier?  No, in some ways it may be harder because losses will be slower, but I'll lean on that stronger friend for support, make good decisions, keep my eyes on the path, avoid stumbling on the rocks, and imagine that goal getting ever closer until all of a sudden, it's right there staring at me from the scale.   And on that day, just as my friend and I did yesterday when we reached the car in the hiker parking lot, I'll grab an ice cold soda from the cooler, look back at the mountain I just conquered, and say, "well done."


  1. What a wonderful analogy! I just loved this.
    It really is true, and now I have a very cool visual to keep me going when I want to quit.

    I liked this for another reason, too. My husband and I have been talking about hiking the Appalachian Trail. We've ordered books and talked, but that's as far as we've gotten. We're hoping to begin it next year. You have inspired me! Deb

  2. Congratulations!!

    I like the analogy.

  3. Congratulations....and Well Done! Meeting any new challenge is worth celebrating.

    Great pic, too!

    Margie M. writes at: