Like Climbing Dog Mountain

“Fitness is a tool I use to build confidence. If somebody thinks, I’m weak, I’m fat, I’m lazy, that’s their reality. I can have them run a mile or do 20 push-ups, and then they’re like, ‘oh, my God, if I’m capable of this, what else can I do?’”
—Jillian Michaels interview, by Amy Spencer,
Redbook, October 2011 (Jillian is the former trainer from The Biggest Loser)

“How much further?” I asked, gasping for breath. My feet felt like lead.

“It’s just around the next bend,” my friend replied.

We made it around the next bend, then the next, then the next.

“Are we almost there?” I asked again, practically begging.

“Almost,” he replied, smiling over his shoulder.

We plodded on. I thought about the car keys in my pocket. The good novel in my daypack. I could so easily turn around, head back down the trail, and wait for my friends to complete the hike without me.

The knowledge that I could flake out at any time somehow kept me from quitting.

Other than my muscles screaming in protest and my lungs burning from desperately sucking in air, I was having a good time. Two years ago, serendipity placed me there on Dog Mountain in Washington state with my sister Teri and long-time friends Rob and Kim. I had warned them ahead of time that I was completely out of shape, and the only exercise I’d been doing back home in southern California was water aerobics. They didn’t mind. They said they’d take it slow and stop whenever I needed to.

Early that morning, I should have known I was in over my head after we parked the car, donned our daypacks, and walked uphill to the restrooms near the trailhead.  I was already gasping for breath.

It was 3.8 miles to the top of the mountain. The hike was rated strenuous/difficult. The elevation gain was 2,850 feet. My desire to spend time with these three much-loved people outweighed my trepidation.

The trail was quiet and peaceful. As we walked among regal Douglas fir trees, the Columbia River winked at us through the branches. At almost every switchback, I stopped to catch my breath while my three companions waited patiently. They chatted comfortably while I concentrated on trying to get oxygen into my body.

With their patience and support, I stuck it out all the way to the top of the mountain. This was the view that awaited us. Breathtaking. Worth every gasping breath up that trail. It was a perfect, sunny day in May. Wildflowers carpeted the alpine meadow. The Columbia River in all its glory was laid out before us. The summits of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens peeked at us from among the lesser mountains of the Cascade Range.

It was a memorable, life-affirming day. Besides having a grand adventure with old friends, I learned that I am capable of so much more than I give myself credit for. I didn’t quit. The sense of accomplishment was incredible.

I love Jillian’s comment: “Fitness is a tool I use to build confidence.…if I’m capable of this, what else can I do?”

I am about 30% toward my goal of losing 95 pounds. As I mentioned in Baggy Pants are Big Fat Liars, I have been slighly tempted to stay where I’m at right now, even though there are clues of much greater things ahead. I feel so much better than I did 30 pounds ago. I feel fantastic. But I haven’t reached my summit. Not even close. What a loss it would be if I were to flake out now. I can do this.

To give myself a tangible goal to work toward, I’m planning another hike up Dog Mountain next May with these friends. I will be lighter and much more fit. I will conquer that mountain in a whole new way.

Tell me about your Dog Mountain. Have you accomplished something you never imagined yourself capable of doing?

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6 thoughts on “Like Climbing Dog Mountain

    • That’s an awesome goal, Kate. Feels great to get out there! You’ll love it!
      I live in southern California, so I may get some shorter hikes in during the winter. : )

  1. Jennifer! I haven’t had a chance to look at your blog yet! Thank you for sharing this – lovely writing…I’m going to check out the rest of the blog.

    I agree with that quote….self-fulfilling prophecy is too often the binds we place on ourselves. Turn it to a self-fulfilling affirmation instead….I’m planning on Dog Mountain in the spring!

    That was a very good day.

    Let’s have some more.

    • Hi sis! Thanks for checking out my blog! I’m ready for many more good days like the one we had up on that mountain! : ) Wish you lived closer so we could explore more together.

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