So, week in review. 10K-A-Day turns into 30 Hikes in 30 Days.
I enjoyed hiking 10K a day on most days of the last week in February so much that I challenged myself to hike 10 kilometres each day for 30 days. I started on March 2, 2015, so here’s the week in review.
It was a good hike but I found it slightly boring, since the previous week I did some trails that had spectacular views, which the first 5 kilometres of Cottonwood lack (walked up the trail 5K and back down the trail 5K for a total of 10K). However, it was still good to get out into the wilderness.
Only Day 2 and already I had issues. My GPS distance measurement didn’t match the road kilometre signs, which absolutely killed my morale. Trying to improve my morale, I walked up a creek bank for a little ways and ended up slipping and cutting my finger on a rock. It wasn’t too bad but there was lots of blood. Really drove home how alone I felt, how I didn’t bring proper first aid supplies, how there was no cell service, etc. And since I was feeling low and paranoid from all that, I convinced myself that a fall of rocks down a bank near me was evidence of a cougar stalking me. Even though the dogs didn’t sniff at anything or growl or bark. It was a really tough hike emotionally, and I ended up going an unknown amount farther than 10K to make sure I hit my distance goal. My GPS said I ended up walking 15 or 16 km, but like I said, it was undependable. This was a challenging hike, physically (steeper trail with much more elevation gain), mentally and emotionally.
Day 3 (March 4): Bald Mountain
I’d never hiked this trail before or even seen it. The trail map book I had is pretty good but I had trouble finding the trail head. I ended up hiking up a different trail first that was only about 1.6 km long, ending in a pretty little moss-covered lookout. Beautiful, but again, my morale plummeted. Nowhere near enough distance. So instead of taking the trail back down, I bashed through the brush down the other side of the hill and came out onto a paved road. Not really sure what I wanted to do, I wandered around a number of little paved cul-de-sacs in the area and eventually back to my car. I still only hit about 5 km, according to my GPS. I was feeling pretty defeated, loaded the dogs up to head home, then decided what the hell, I’d try to find the trail head for the next day. It was mid-afternoon at this point. Anyway, drove to the end of the residential road and finally found the trail. It was near the end of the road and a little hidden, but the trail is a beautifully maintained and well-kept one complete with a map at the trailhead and signs along the way. I looked at the time, judged the distance against how long my hikes have been taking me, and decided to do the hike. This trail was awesome, by far my favourite this week. The trail itself is well-maintained, free of debris. It’s an actual hiking trail, not an old logging road. It switches back and forth nicely to save your calves. It gains elevation quickly, so that by the time you’ve gone a kilometre or so, you’re looking out over the whole Cowichan Lake area, able to see a number of the communities. On this trail, I was really excited to have found it. My energy was up and I felt like a completely different person than I was an hour ago. This trail was great. My only slight complaint is that there’s not a real ending to the trail, just a sign that says “This is the end of the maintained trail,” and from there the trail switches to an old logging road and continues on. It was really hard for me to turn back, because I hadn’t hit the end of the road and it was really calling me on, but it was about 5 p.m. by the time I hit the top of the hill and the sun sets at 6. I took photos and then actually jogged most of the way down, not because I was too concerned about hiking in the dusk (the trail was well-maintained enough that it would have been fine hiking in the dusk) but simply for the joy of it and because the trail was so good. This was a win-day.
Day 4 (March 5) No hike
It pains me to even type those words, ‘no hike’. Thursday was not a great day for me. This week I’ve also started attending a women’s group that meets Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. It is a discussion group and the facilitator focuses on one topic of discussion for the daily session. There is a lot of learning there in these discussions for me, and Thursday was no exception. The topic was “perfectionism” and it’s clear to me now that a) perfectionism is very hard on a person emotionally, and b) I suffer from perfectionism. Case in point, the emotional turmoil I was in when it became clear that I would not get my hike in for that day. I had tasks to perform, which was part of the reason I didn’t hike. But there was small, barely conscious choice also to challenge my need for perfectionism that factored in to not hiking. My emotional state went from slightly agitated from a long day to downright agonized. I went through a phase of making excuses, and telling myself that I did 3 days of hiking in a row before I even started this challenge, so I could count that, or I did extra distance for the past few days, so I could count that. But no, part of what I want is to be out in nature for a few hours every day, and also to be active for a few hours every day. In not doing that, I treated myself very badly. I berated myself and beat myself up and wanted to punish myself. I argued that now every hike and all the work I’d done to that point was completely worthless, because I just failed the entire challenge. On and on, my mental and emotional state continued to swirl and deteriorate. Luke’s friend, a lay-practicing Zen Buddhist, has been visiting and sharing his ideals of lovingkindness and non-violence. I’ve really been making an effort to embrace these ideals, because they should wonderful to me. But that includes lovingkindness and non-violence towards yourself and on Thursday, I was neither of those things. He talked to us about something they call “The Second Arrow” which I know little about, except that it is the negative feedback loop that happens in your mind when a negative event happens. The Second Arrow, or negative self-talk and feedback, can be more damaging than the actual event, and that was what happened for me on Thursday. I was mean and cruel to myself. I really did my best to be gentle with myself and focus on the positives, or at least understand that just because I missed one day didn’t mean I had to quit the entire thing, and missing one day doesn’t negate the benefit I can gain in the future by continuing to do the project. It was just a different day, a blip on the screen, an anomaly, a different experience. So I learned a lot from that day, too. It wasn’t from being outside hiking, but I still learned a lot from the challenge I set for myself and the learning still pertains to my project, so I’m taking those important lessons to heart. It still stings when I think that as of today, Day 6, I’ve only hiked 50 km instead of 60. But I’m working on reframing that and just celebrating the fact that hey! I hiked 50 kilometres last week! Hooray!
Day 5 (March 6): Cottonwood again
This time my goal was to reach a specific river crossing that I knew was there from a previous trip up Cottonwood, when we went to Lomas Lake last year. I knew it would be more than 5 kilometres, but I didn’t really mind. I had more time, nothing else slated for the afternoon, so I just hiked until I got to the crossing. I felt much more relaxed on this hike and much more able to appreciate each moment, each step, the beauty in each part of the trail. I noticed a lot of really beautiful spots in the creek that I’ve been unaware of. There are some beautiful little canyons in the creek with deep, delicious-looking swimming holes that end in small waterfalls. None of it looks dangerous, all of it looks really perfect for summer swimming. There are even a few trees that have fallen across the river, and there’s one in particular that looks like it might be a candidate for a rope, to swing into the pool below, but I’d have to check the pool depth first. Walking up the trail, I found the 5K mark on a tree, which I hadn’t seen before. Verified the fact that my GPS had again been malfucntioning. It said I had hiked about 6 km already. I let it go though, and accepted that things are not perfect about this challenge, but the important thing is that I’m getting out and doing it and learning and persevering and gaining a lot. I reached the river crossing feeling good, sat for a while and enjoyed the sounds of the water, the birds, the sunshine on my back. Then I had a nap, which was extra great. Woke up feeling rested, like the nap in the wonderful forest/river energy had cleansed me. I felt peace, something I really have felt for more than a fleeting moment in a long time. The feeling of peace remained for the entire walk back. I also focused on paying attention to myself and being kind to myself. I acknowledged that my legs were tired and sore, and I allowed myself to take a number of breaks and sit down and relax and stretch for a few minutes each time. It was new for this project; I’ve been pushing myself to accomplish my goal, to finish the distance, push through any discomfort. I also realized that I was ignoring my need to pee because I just couldn’t believe it. I’d only drank a litre of water, and only just finished the last mouthful. I realized that I was holding it because I couldn’t believe I needed to pee yet, punishing myself for that need by making myself wait, which was making me uncomfortable which was making me sore, which was making it hard for me to gain the full benefit from the hike. So I did all that and felt much better. Later, I walked into a clearing after being on the trail in the forest. The air temperature was so different. I felt the wash of warm air after the cool of the forest, and decided to rest there in it. I sat, smelled the moisture and the earth on the air, felt the warmth on my skin, listened to the lovely sounds of the birds chirping…and that feeling of peace welled up in me again. Luke road up the trail to meet me on his bike and we chatted for a little bit, then he continued on his ride. I finished the hike feeling great, filled with peace and finding the concept of lovingkindness easy to understand.
Day 6 (March 7): Mt. Good Trail
Today I went up the Mt. Good Trail. Luke joined me, and it was really different having someone along. I’m glad we got some nice bonding time, but I found it challenging in a number of ways. My expectations of myself run rampant when I hike with others. I love him dearly, but I found his presence distracting. Not that it’s a bad thing at all. What it did was change my experience of the hike, and I have decided to be okay with that. What I want for every hike was the one I had on Friday, where I attain a feeling of peace and a sense of temporary enlightenment, which puts me in a great mood. Instead, I became aware of a number of feedback loops (most unrelated to Luke) and had emotions resulting from these loops. Not to mention that I had turmoil caused by an action of mine earlier in the day. The things that happen to me each day cause a lot of emotion for me, I’m learning. And my natural reaction right now is to push that emotion away and ignore it if I can. If I can’t, the emotions and the negative feedback loops buzz around my head and I sort of dizzy myself with this whirlwind of worry and emotion and assumptions about what others think of me. Nick, the visiting Zen practitioner, called this habit energy I think. The negative feedback loops create habitual reactions that become unconscious, so deeply ingrained in us that we often don’t even understand why we’re doing something. I feel like I’m at the stage where I notice these loops just before, or often just after, I perform the habitual act, and then I have to figure that out. These days I feel paralyzed, not knowing the more healthy path to take yet but not wanting to go down the habitual path that I know is unhealthy for me. Anyway, I snapped at Luke once on the hike but I noticed that I was doing it, I noticed the feelings that I had and I tried to focus on what was happening internally instead of externalizing the issue and blaming him. The hike turned out fine, though. I hiked the way that I wanted to, he continued on for a bit longer than I did and left earlier than I did so he could make his afternoon meeting. I stayed at my turnaround point for a while, trying to nap and not being able to stop my thoughts whirling in my head. But I enjoyed the sunshine for a while, and the soft moss beneath me and I put my best effort into finding that peace, and acknowledging my patterns and emotions and somehow not be bothered by it all. I’m not there yet, but I put in my best effort. It is easy to feel peaceful and be monk-like in a void where all I have to think about is trees and water and dogs, but when there’s people around and when I’m receiving stimulus from outside of myself, it’s more of a challenge for me. It’s not anything Luke did, he was just being himself. It was the way I was feeling and the way I interacted with one small comment he made that made me snap at him, and it was one text message from someone that made me feel disappointment in myself and stir up a whirlwind of self-judgement and worry. It’s complicated being human, and very complicated trying to be a human that understands myself and wants to grow into a better person. But I’m doing it, and maybe this hiking challenge is a metaphor and maybe it helps in every way, physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. I know I’ve learned a lot even since Monday and I look forward to learning even more.