Trails have always been a place of adventure, fun, healing, growth, discomfort, and sanctuary for me. Last summer I had the honor of being on two trails for Big City Mountaineers: one in Medicine Bow National Forest on a youth expedition and one climbing the Grand Teton through the Summit for Someone program. Participating on both sides of BCM’s programs was an opportunity for me to share my love of the outdoors with others and deepen my own gratitude for my personal outdoor experiences and the power only found in wild places.
We were hustling. A 2:30 am wake up started the day and the forecast was predicting storms rolling in early afternoon. Nothing like the threat of lightning on an exposed face at 13,000 ft to put a little pep in your step! After hours of scrambling by headlamp and 3 pitches of numb fingers climbing with one of the most stunning sunrises I’ve ever seen, we were standing on the summit of the iconic Grand Teton. The euphoric feeling of completing any athletic challenge was accompanied by a feeling of profound gratitude. So many people had supported me in my journey to climb the Grand Teton but all the hours of fundraising, letter writing, and preparation were affirmed especially with my experiences the previous week.
Just a few days before I had been a mentor on a BCM expedition with 4 resilient young women from partner agency Denver Kids, Inc. On this expedition, our group followed the typical pattern: the first couple of days were incredibly challenging with backbreaking packs and unfamiliar surroundings, summit day was an incredible high point with our girls making it to a ridge line just below Medicine Bow Peak all smiles and positive attitudes, and the final days were blissful with the girls taking on more responsibility and seeing their gained confidence.
One girl in particular, Maxcine, probably had the best attitude of any person I have ever met. She kept a smile on her face even having endured many things that a 13-year-old never should have to. Maxcine was our go-to whenever we needed someone to encourage the group. She consoled crying friends in the tent who missed their families and told struggling hikers that they could make it. On summit day, our fabulous instructor had us pick a rock to carry to the top, when we got to the top we talked about how the rock represented a struggle and then we left that struggle on top of the mountain, free of the weight, literal and figurative, on the descent down. Maxcine powerfully spoke about how the rock represented self-doubt for her. On the outside she was a pillar of strength but inwardly, doubt had a habit of creeping in like it does for most of us. She boldly told us she was leaving her self-doubt on the mountain. She spoke again about how her confidence had grown on our final night together inspiring us all to be more empowered and strong women.
Thinking back to standing on top of the Grand Teton brings back memories of my expedition with the girls and the incredible perseverance they all showed. I also don’t think I have ever laughed and giggled so much in a week. The girls brought a sense of wonder to the backcountry that I hope I never forget. I am so incredibly thankful for the expedition and the SFS climb.