Prior to the temperatures hitting the 90’s towards the end of this week, we ventured out this weekend on an adventure. Well, it was an adventure for me. Unbeknownst to me, the hike that I was embarking on would be a twelve (12) mile round trip hike with more elevation gain than I have ever experienced before.
Fossil Creek is part of the Tonto National Park and is in the Camp Verde area of Arizona. Just far enough outside of the city that there are no good places to eat and not a Starbucks in sight. The trip to the turnoff took about ninety (90) minutes but passed quickly. With our permit in hand, we made our way down a fourteen (14) mile dirt road. The road was so rocky that my Fitbit assumed that I was mountain biking based upon how I was being jostled about in the cabin of our Subaru. When we arrived at our assigned parking lot, we had a good one (1) mile hike to the trail head.
At the trailhead we had to cross part of the creek. And there were no rocks to hop on. This meant that we needed to remove our shoes and go barefoot. In my head I was starting to panic. I had not brought a towel to dry my feet, and after walking through the water my feet were bound to be dirty, and gosh how am I going to put my socks on. I told myself to woman up and recalled I had a handkerchief in my bag that I could use. The water was chilly and refreshing. I made it across the creek and sat on a rock and dried my cold to the touch feet. I was able to get most of the crud off my feet but there was lingering dirt. I just bit the bullet and put on my socks. What’s a little bit of dirt between my toes?
Up the first incline, something happened to my right lower back and pain started to trickle down into my hip socket and the back part of my thigh. There was no turning back, so I just powered through it. The sun shining down on my skin that was lathered in sunblock made me feel like a snake sun bathing on a large rock. There was a gentle breeze that brought a nice cool relief on my warm to the touch skin. The lack of rain this season was evident as much of the scenery could be described as dull and muted browns and yellows. There was only a sparing amount of green in the landscape and that was near the areas where the creek was rustling through the forest. As we marched through the trails it became known that it would be five miles until our destination. This was hard to swallow as I had pain with every step that I took, but I had made the commitment so there was no turning back.
Upon arrival at the watering hole, I thought that I was in Fern Gully. Lush, magnificent green, surrounding a pool of crystal clear water. Holy Jesus and Moses, this is breathtaking. After much debating while hiking to this point, I made the decision that I would swim. I was not prepared, I had not known that there would be an opportunity to take a dip, and therefore did not bring a suit, or shave my legs (gasp!) But after the trek that we took, and the amazingness of what was sitting before my eyes, I said, I’m doing this. In just my under garments I propelled myself into the water and it was the most refreshing moment I have experienced in my life. There were fish swimming around me and my eyes were taking in the pure, unedited beauty as I tread water and hollered at the men to jump in. The thirty minutes or so respite was rejuvenating, but all good things had to come to an end.
The hike back to the car was a long six miles. Although not as much incline and elevation gain as the first half, there was still a bit and my body were screaming in pain. I think that the only reason I did not cry was because I was too dehydrated and had no tears to cry. The pain was taking my breath away, however, there was no other option but to persevere and power through the discomfort. I will also admit that I was focusing on the cheeseburger I would inhale once we got to town and just how amazing it would taste.
When we made it back to the trailhead, we spent a few minutes just standing in that original creek. That cold, icy water was like heaven on our aching, blister ridden feet. I no longer cared that there was dirt on my feet and in my socks. Nor that there was dirt on my legs, that I had sweat through my shirt and was wearing clothes that I had gone swimming in (something I had never done before and found that it was incredibly liberating and freeing). The walk from the trailhead back to the car was long and agonizing. I think it was that I knew we were close, but just not quite there. And oh, how I wanted to sit on the heated seats and get relief for my back and my right hip and knee that were now screaming like an infant at 3 am.
When we stopped for a burger, I could hardly walk. The time spent in the car, was a wonderful respite, but it allowed the pain to really set in. I was moving like a 90-year-old woman, I very well could have used a walker with no shame, or even a wheelchair. But goodness, that time in the creek, the way it felt, the calming, the communing, the amazingness, made the pain just a little less severe.
And then there’s the way I wrap it altogether. In life we at times embark on adventures and we don’t know all the details of what we can expect from the trip. We make decisions along the way and do the best with what we have and challenge ourselves to move outside our comfort zones. At times, through this, the moving outside our comfort zones, we experience something new, something that stays with us, that shows us we are stronger than we thought we were. We create memories of these experiences and even though we can barely walk the following day, we smile. We look back and say, I did something I never thought that I could do, and I am stronger today as result of yesterday.
Press on my friends, regardless of what it may be, move past the tough times, knowing that there will be light at the other end. Persevere.