The School of Climbing, Paddling, and Peddling
Five lessons learned about 2020 while on vacation.
Escaping the record-breaking stretch of 110 plus degree days in Phoenix, Arizona, my husband and I took to the foothills of the Bradshaw Mountains in Prescott, Arizona’s “mile-high” city. We stayed at a bed and breakfast nestled in the Granite Dells north of town near Watson Lake. The Dells is comprised of 1,400-million-year-old granite boulder formations filled with its own natural ecosystem. An awesome vista! We decided on an active vacation of hiking, kayaking, and cycling all within the Dells recreation area. As I reflected on our climbing, paddling, and peddling experiences, I realized some global lessons emerged that could apply to 2020.
It’s not what you’re going for, it’s what you get
When plotting our cycling routes on the trail map the night before, we opted out of those trails denoted by squiggly lines, thinking all would be smooth sailing. I’m not sure why I expected the biking route to be flat, maybe because everything on the map looks flat! I was surprised by the elevation changes, and our trek ended up being much harder than we planned.
On January 1st of this year, we entered the year on a hopeful note. A nice, even number, 2020 — this would surely be a banner year. My calendar grew populated with speaking events and international travel. In my planner, the year looked very different than what it turned out to be. Life is not always what we expect.
Momentum is the key to getting up the small hills
When cycling, as the trail grade started to increase, I immediately shifted to a lower gear to make it easier. My cadence increased and I was peddling fast, but it took much longer to get where I was going. I realized my husband always shoots ahead of me at these junctures on the trail and I wondered why. “Actually,” he said, “If you shift to a higher gear and start peddling faster when the grade increases, momentum will propel you up the smaller hills more easily.”
He was right. My fear that something was going to be hard made me play it safe instead of attacking it with enthusiasm. My attitude this year has been everything is hard, and in many ways, it has been, but maybe there are some things I need to begin fearlessly running toward. Gathering momentum could make a world of difference.
Do not look ahead when climbing big hills
We hiked down a big canyon to a nearly dry creek bed as the trail wound around boulders and sagebrush. While descending the trail it occurred to me: What goes down must come up. Yikes! I tried not to think ahead but rather to enjoy the easy part. We were approaching midday and it was getting hotter. We decided to circle back toward the trailhead. I looked up the hill we had just come down and wondered if (doubted!) I had the energy to make it back to the top. I was psyching myself out. So, I shifted my sights onto what was directly in front of me, paced myself, and got to the top much sooner than I thought I would.
Many days this year, I focused on how long it would be until things opened up again, and I got discouraged. Will this ever end? Will we have to do this forever? It’s much more enjoyable (for everyone) when I keep my head down and take it one step at a time.
Stop and enjoy the view along the way
When we stopped hiking, paddling, or peddling, we saw some incredible sights: A bald eagle majestically perched on a tree limb, a wren gracefully walking on its stilt-like legs, and a turtle sunning on a rock on the shore. We would have missed those amazing sights had we not stopped periodically to rest.
Would we have looked, really looked, at the Dells if all we did was keep moving towards our destination? After all, the unique boulder formations that make up the Dells have a story to tell if you look with imagination: round, naked people huddled together, dinosaurs roaming the hillside, or tall Native Americans surveying their land.
I’m glad we took time off for a vacation; with precautions, we were able to create a much-needed getaway. We pushed pause and got to enjoy a part of our state we hadn’t explored before. You’d be surprised by the beauty you find when you stop and look for it.
We were paddling along the crooked shoreline in our kayaks when suddenly my husband turned to me with his finger up to his mouth and whispered, “Listen.” I stopped and heard nothing. Everything was perfectly still. “Exactly,” he says, “Nothing.”
Our everyday lives are filled with noise. The noise of the TV, a Zoom meeting, or a video streaming on a phone screen is perfectly normal to us. It’s important to shut off our electronics and let the world stop for a moment. Soak up the stillness as your breath moves slowly in and out.
I shouldn’t have had to drive a couple of hours out of the city to learn these lessons, but stepping away for a few days can provide perspective. We are headed onto the home stretch of this year, and there are sure to be more bumps in the road before it ends. Be mindful out there and look for the lesson. There is always something to be gained, even during a year as challenging as this one.
Hey! Just think, we will forever regard anything messed up as “a 20-20.” Really — this slang term will probably make it into the dictionary.