My assigned table in the far corner of the dining room at High Hampton Inn & Country Club afforded an unobstructed view of the rear lawn arching its back down to Hampton Lake. Beyond the lake, Rock Mountain crowded the horizon. During every meal, I looked at its stone face. We became familiar with each other. We spent time together appreciating the morning mist rising from the lake, the noonday sun sparkling on the water and the evening sky surrendering its blue.
Rock Mountain winked at me. I winked at it. We made a date for Saturday morning. The intensity of our relationship was frightening. I intended to calm the butterflies in my belly, and, so, I headed out alone to face the formidable challenge that coyly flirted with the wind. I discovered the basic strategies for making the trek.
HOW TO CLIMB A MOUNTAIN 1.0
1. Set out early, while everyone else is still sleeping or eating breakfast.
2. Find the right path.
3. Start walking. (Do this and the mountain is half climbed already.)
4. Stay the course. The path is steep and rocky. Keep putting one foot in front of the other.
5. Reach the peak, insert a flag with your family crest and claim the victory.
Those are the basics for beginners. But while the essential elements of HOW TO CLIMB A MOUNTAIN must be mastered, only advanced knowledge will ignite the fires of perseverance.
HOW TO CLIMB A MOUNTAIN 2.0
1. Name a goal. My goal was to take a picture of the inn from the mountain peak.
2. Don’t waste time hunting for the perfect hiking stick. That’s a distraction from momentum, an excuse to turn back if you fail to find perfection. I picked through sticks in the woods, trying out one and then another, eventually abandoning all that I tried. I resisted the powerful temptation to linger at the trailhead searching for a replacement.
3. Let the mind work while the body moves forward. I composed this article as I went.
4. Expect to sweat. Sweat indicates earning the prize.
5. Fight fears. The brain takes advantage of weaknesses. It taps into anxieties in an attempt to impede progress, because if a person can master the mountain, she can master her mind, too. I battled off thoughts of yellow jackets, bears, falling off the mountain and spiders in my hair. I ruminated on The Blair Witch Project. I worried about diarrhea. What does one do in the wilderness if attacked by a bout of diarrhea? Then I was sure I heard a bear and I thought about diarrhea even more.
6. When you think you’re there, you’re not. If the trail ends and the hike was easy, look around. You missed the markers. I came to a rock outcrop and praised myself and took pictures. Then I turned to move away from the edge and discovered the path ascending onward.
7. After reaching the goal, don’t get in a hurry to come back down. Stay on the mountain top and take in the view, the breeze, the success. It may be a while before standing on another peak.
8. Going down can be just as hard as going up. The trail will still be steep and the path will still be rocky. The difference now is confidence in the fortitude and the footing to traverse it. The mountain is there waiting for you. It will always be there. The owners of High Hampton Inn have placed Rock Mountain in a Nature Conservancy. The question is not how you will conquer it. The only question is when?