You're Going to Want to Give Up and Go Back - Don't
Last week my husband and I were in Denver, Colorado and decided to go hiking in the Rocky Mountain National Park. After researching the different trail options, we finally decided on Bear Lake Trail. We chose this one because it passes three different scenic lakes along the way, each progressively larger and more beautiful, with Emerald Lake being the main attraction at the end. The reviews described absolutely amazing scenery but warned that the trail was extremely popular and often crowded. We knew that a 4-mile hike at an elevation of 10,000 ft would be a challenge, but we decided to take the risk.
We traveled almost two hours from our hotel to get to the trailhead. Right as we were arriving, we noticed rainclouds. By the time we got out of the car and began to hike, it started to sprinkle and, of course, we didn’t have rain jackets. As we started on the trail, we were surrounded by about a hundred other people with the same goal as us, to make it to Emerald Lake. However, as it continued to rain, and the winds continued to blow, and the temperature dropped, we noticed more and more people turn around. Most of them made it to the first lake (about a 0.8 mile hike), took pictures, and then turned around and went home.
We, however, were not satisfied. We knew there was more. So with wet hair, cold hands, and rain hitting our face like needles, we continued on. At that point, there were only two other people on the trail and one of them was hiding under a tree waiting on the rain to pass. We began to get tired, winded, and cold. The hike was almost entirely uphill with long stretches of steps carved in the path. We wondered if we should turn around.
As we stopped to take a break, a hiker on his way back from Emerald Lake passes us. “How is it? Is it worth it?” we ask. “You’ve still got a long way to go, and its mostly uphill, but its soooo worth it,” he said. We kept going (with several more breaks to catch our breath) and three more people pass us on their way back from Emerald Lake. They all said the same thing. “it’s not an easy hike, but its soooo worth it.”
Eventually the rain began to clear and our lungs began to adjust to the altitude. The hike actually became enjoyable. We even saw a rainbow in the horizon, beaming out over the mountain like a peace offering rewarding us for our hard work. A few miles later, we finally arrive at Emerald Lake. We crash on the rocks, exhausted, beat down, but so full of pride that we had done it. I wish that I could describe the view as beautifully as I experienced it, but it’s just not possible. All I can do is tell you that it felt like pure and complete peace.
When I was lying on the rocks at Emerald Lake, I kept thinking about how our journey that day paralleled the process of recovery. Lots of people say they want to recover and may even start out on the journey, but when the rain comes, and the wind starts blowing, they are tempted to turn back. They become satisfied with the first sign of progress. “At least I stopped this behavior” or “At least I’m not doing that thing anymore,” they say. They hang out at the first lake and they either stay there for a while or they turn around and go back, not realizing that there’s so much more to the journey and so much more beauty to behold. Sometimes in the thick of the storm it’s hard to trust someone who says, “keep going, its sooo worth it,” but when you take the risk, you open yourself to the possibility that you will arrive at a more peaceful place. Who nows,you may even get to be the messenger along the path that gets to encourage the next person that, “the journey is hard, but its sooo worth it.”
— Emily Burke
ACED Nurse Practitioner