A few weeks ago, I was talking with a good friend of mine and I told her that I wish that I could go back in time and relive my life, but with my current mentality. I wanted to go back and have the experiences of the traveling and hiking for work with the level of gratitude and mindfulness that I currently experience. I just had this idea that I would appreciate every experience, every hike I was able to do, every connection that I made with other people back then so much more with my current perspective on life. In those days, I traveled, hiked, and LIVED in some of the most amazing and beautiful places that you can visit in the United States! And I enjoyed it all at the time, but my life sort of splits at the time that I lost my health. There’s the ‘before I lost my health’ time, and the ‘after I lost my health’ time. Can you relate? Did something change your life so dramatically that you also have a before (fill in the blank) time, and an after (fill in the blank) time?
Before I lost my health, I did what my body could do and didn’t even really think about it. My body did whatever I wanted it to do. If I needed to hike 17 miles in a day for work, I did it. If I needed to carry a heavy backpack for 10 miles for work, I did it. If I needed to lift a recliner into the back of a truck by myself, I did it. After I lost my health, I experienced times when I couldn’t get off the couch because my chest pain was so bad. I couldn’t walk to my mailbox that was maybe 30 feet from our house. Actually come to think of it, maybe I am living in the after I lost my health AND after I got my health back time. I am the same person, except now, I have all of the collective memories from all the time periods of my life. And with the memories of the stark differences in what my body was able to do, I live with an immense gratitude so enormous that when I hike (or do something else that I thought I would never get to do again), I am usually brought to laughter and tears of joy. And I am not exaggerating in the slightest. I’ve asked friends of mine if the hikes they do ever bring them to tears, because it happens so often to me now.
As my friend and I discussed my time travel idea, we came to the conclusion that if I could go back with my current perspective that my life would likely be completely different now. And really, I wouldn’t want that, because I would always choose to have my son. But what I have realized since talking to my friend is that while we cannot currently (I never say never about anything) travel back in time physically as who we were then and experience things over again all “Back to the Future” style, we do have the ability to travel back to places that we once visited, experiencing it as our current selves. And over the last few weeks, I have found that it’s pretty damn close.
I went to Southwest Utah last weekend on a whim. I have been called (ie my heart/gut/ intuition/soul keep bringing it up over and over) to revisit the beautiful red rock of Zion National Park now for a long time, especially for the majority of this year. Because I do not usually have a three-day weekend off all to myself, I was not about to waste it by sitting at home doing things that I could do on any other day. I worked in SW Utah back in 2003, initially hiking through the desert looking for desert tortoises, and later using seining and electroshocking in rivers and streams to collect data on various fish species. I even did some work in the Virgin River in Zion National Park. I fell in love with the contrasting colors of the red rock against the bright blue sky and earthy green sage and cacti. It’s art for the eyes unlike any other place I have ever seen. When I realized that I had a 3-day weekend coming up, I began thinking of things that I could do during that time, specifically where I could go hiking. I immediately thought of Zion National Park. But as quickly as I thought of it, my mind started to work against me. It’s an 8-hour drive and I haven’t done a long road trip like that by myself in a long time. Can I stay awake, driving for that long? How much is this going to cost me? Can I afford it? I can do it if I find a free place to stay, but not if I have to pay. How much gas am I going to end up using and paying for? Is 3 days really long enough to go all the way to Zion?! I mean I’m basically going to drive there, hike, and drive back. But, luckily, there are bigger forces at work than my mind that obviously wanted me to go to Zion.
I began to get messages in the form of Instagram and Facebook posts. For instance, upon sitting on my couch and contemplating the trip while looking up places to camp and stay, I checked my Instagram to find two posts from two separate accounts featuring pictures taken in Zion National Park. You can believe whatever you want, but I have seen enough in my own life to know without a doubt that there are no coincidences in this life. If you feel like you’re getting messages, you are. One of the pictures was taken from the top of Angel’s Landing, one of my favorite hikes in Zion that I planned on doing if I made the trip. I also began to have other quotes, and articles pop up on my Facebook feed dealing with blocks that we sometimes create between ourselves and money, and also about the importance of following your intuition and doing the things that you are feeling urged to do. So between message after message essentially yelling at me to go to Utah, and a sweet guy in Utah who runs a camping airbnb who hooked me up with coordinates for free camp sites on BLM land with a fall back option of his backyard if they were all full, I decided to go to Utah! And man, am I happy that I did!!
Zion was always a magical place to me, but I think it was even more so during this visit! I was able to experience the entire trip with the perspective of getting my health back after losing it, and during every shuttle, and hike, and conversation, I was saying to myself, I cannot believe I am lucky enough to be here right now! I looked around with awe and a huge smile on my face the whole time. I noticed some of the other hikers walking with almost grimaces on their faces, and I wanted to shake them and say “Can you believe that we are here in this magical place?! This place is AMAZING! Aren’t we so lucky that our bodies allow us to hike like this??!!”
I got there on Friday, set up my camp, and then went straight to the park to hop the shuttle and ended up hiking the Emerald Pools trail. As I hiked, I smiled BIG! It felt so right to be back there! I looked around amazed as if I was seeing the Park for the first time! On the shuttle to Emerald Pools, I struck up a conversation with a woman beside me, and asked her what hike she was going to do. We started talking about where we were from and how long we were going to be there. And we talked about hikes that we were going to do and that she had done. She told me that she had hiked The Narrows the day before and that it was so beautiful and that I should do it if I had the time. I had thought about it before my trip, but was not sure that I wanted to rent the gear for $40. This conversation sealed the deal for me, and she told me where she rented the gear and what time they opened in the morning. So again, flying by the seat of my pants, on Saturday, I hiked The Narrows, one of the most iconic hikes in Zion National Park. I have hiked a lot in my life, but The Narrows is now my absolute FAVORITE hike! My soul was overwhelmed with joy to be hiking through a river surrounded by a red rock canyon! If your body is able, and hiking in a place like that makes your soul happy too, you MUST get yourself there and experience it for yourself. No picture, no matter how beautifully taken, can ever capture the feeling of being there yourself. In my opinion, Zion National Park is a must-see and The Narrows hike is a must-do!
Me on top of Angel’s Landing in the Fall of 2003:
Me on top of Angel’s Landing on October 15, 2017:
Our souls/higher selves really do know what is best for us. I see it play out in my life all the time as opportunities and people are placed on my path. After my trip to Utah, I knew that I could in fact travel in time by revisiting places I have lived and loved in the past. But, I had no idea that another hike I did yesterday in Sequoia National Park would show me that again.
I had wrongly assumed that I was working all weekend this weekend, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, until I looked at my work schedule again last week. It turns out that I had Sunday off. So again, I began to think of hikes that I could do that day. I have a friend that I have written about before who does all sorts of cool, epic hikes in this area, and he’s always happy to give me trail recommendations. When he told me about the Lakes Trail in Sequoia National Park, it sounded perfect! There are four lakes on the trail, all at various distances from the trail head, so you can decide on how short or long you want your hike to be, and the scenery at any of the lakes is gorgeous, so you win regardless of how far you go. Before I left, he said to take the Watchtower trail vs. the Hump trail at one of the junctions on the way to the lakes, because of the scenery along the Watchtower trail. Inspired by my friend, I set my alarm, and ended up being on the road to go hike by 4:45 am!! I started the trail at 6:45 am, just before sunrise. I was leaving my plan open-ended and decided that I would see how I felt at the various lakes before deciding on my ultimate destination. The trail was so beautiful! I had the trail all to myself until I hit the first lake, Heather Lake, when I started passing people who had camped at the lakes going in the opposite direction as me. Aside from that, I felt like I had the entire trail to myself. I stopped to take some pictures at the Watchtower. The view up there is amazing! All of the granite peaks and drop offs, the sun just making its way up into the sky. Stunning! I thought of how grateful I was to be able to hike that trail. I felt so lit up from the inside. I kept going. At one point, there was a sign that said something like Emerald Lake 1 mile, Pear Lake 2 miles, and right then, I decided that I was feeling good enough to do the whole 12.4 mile round trip trail to Pear Lake. There was no way that I was going to stop short just 1 mile from Pear Lake. The hike was just what I needed! It felt so good to get out there and do the whole 12.4 miles. I went to bed feeling exhausted (in a good way) and full of love and gratitude for my life. All of it.
When I checked Facebook this morning, I had memories to look back on. Wow, did I! As I scrolled down, I came to a group of photos that were part of an album labeled 6 to 11 months. There was a picture in particular that I noticed where I was holding my son at an overlook on a hike that we did when he was 6 months old. I wondered where the picture was taken, because I had no memory of the trail or its name. So I clicked on the picture and under it was the caption “At the Watchtower.” My son turned 6 months old on October 23, 2009. We must have done that hike almost exactly 8 years ago. And as I just wrote that sentence, I checked today’s date and got chills when I saw that today is October 23, 2017. Wow. There are seriously NO coincidences in this life! I could have gone on any hike yesterday, but I was led to go on the same hike that I had gone on 8 years ago almost to the day! Again, I got to relive my past with my current perspective and level of gratitude and mindfulness. In 2009, the first picture was taken not even two weeks before I started having symptoms that ultimately led to my complete loss of health, so it falls just into the ‘before I lost my health’ time period.
My son and I at the Watchtower in October 2009:
Me at the Watchtower on October 22, 2017:
I know I have said it many times, but without the perspective of gratitude that I have gained from having my life split into two when I lost my health, I would not have hiked with as much joy as I did yesterday, last weekend, or during the last few years as I have been getting back on the trails. I would not be as grateful for all that my body is able to do, because I would not know any other way. The scenery and trails haven’t changed, but I have! I am lucky, because life has given me the opportunity to go back and really soak in the experiences that I have had. I have gotten a second chance at life, so I do not intend to waste it. This perspective is why I do the things I do. It’s why I live my life seeking the things that bring me the most joy. It’s why I don’t wait around for other people to be available if I really want to do something. I know that I woke up this morning and am alive TODAY. I know that I am healthy enough to go on long hikes by myself TODAY. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, friends. What are you putting off for another day? I would encourage you to do it! Be here NOW. I hope that you, too, are living this amazing and magical life to the fullest!
I sang Michael Franti’s song, “Gloria”, all weekend as I drove to and hiked around Zion NP. I was really feeling the lyrics, because I am so glad to be alive! I had no idea of the story behind the song until I just searched for a link to add here! Watch an amazing video of Michael Franti talking about and singing his song, “Gloria” HERE
or the album version of “Gloria” HERE