New Year's Resolution on Tecumseh

Submitted by Nancy

Mountain: Mt. Tecumseh (4,003 feet)
Date: December 31, 2007
Time: 4 hours and 30 minutes
Weather: Snowing in am, cloudy in afternoon, temps in the 20s
Miles: 5 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,166 feet
Steps: 13,920
Trails: Mt. Tecumseh Trail to Sosman Trail, out and back
Holy Shit Factor: pretty level considering we were climbing a mountain
Interesting fact: According to Smith and Dickerman, Tecumseh is the easiest 4,000 footer in winter, also the shortest at 4,003 feet
Summit Counts: Tecumseh is our 7th winter 48, and our 83rd mountain we have successfully climbed since May of 2006.

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"In the quick, when it counts, you must have no doubt.
Spit out all your doubt, breathe it out, pluck if from your heart,
tear it loose from your mind, throw it away, be rid of it.
We weren't born into this universe to doubt.
We were born to hope, to love, to live, to learn, to know joy,
to have faith that our lives have meaning...and to find the way."

One Door Away From Heaven, by Dean Koontz

Today, as I hike, I become aware of how hard I make things.

We start out at Waterville Valley Ski area, looking a bit out of place with snowshoes, backpacks and a yellow lab. But we find the trailhead easily and set out on the Mt. Tecumseh Trail at 9:35 am. After meandering through the woods for a mile, we take a right hand turn and see a path that goes up for as far as the eye can see. No turns, no level ground, no deviation from the steady steep climb. Wowsers. I can feel my anxiety heighten as soon as I register the challenging terrain. I immediately worry that I won't be able to get up this ferocious incline.

A wise inner voice comes to the rescue. Don't look ahead, it says. What's up there is in the future. At this moment, right now, I am here and I am fine.

The next moment finds me even higher up the trail and, incredibly, I am still doing fine! I glance up again. Holy shit! Wrong thing to do. The trail ahead hasn't changed a bit. Still a very steep up, still no turns, still no end in sight.

I realize that looking ahead, anticipating how difficult that steep up is going to be and worrying about whether I can make it or not, just makes the climb harder. And while I'm worrying that I can't do it - I am doing it! And I have done it over and over again. In the past 20 months, I have successfully summitted 83 mountains. Why would I think I couldn't do it? I do the same in life. I choose not to believe in myself, which leads to second-guessing myself and I get stuck on a treadmill, not going anywhere, filled with self-doubt and self-recrimination.

I look down at my snowshoes, collecting snow as they shuffle up the mountain. I'm breathing heavy, sweating up a storm. It's snowing lightly, which provides no relief. I keep my head down and watch in amazement at what my body is doing. I do not feel like I am going to die. I feel strong and sure. I surprise myself when I just exist in what is happening instead of anticipating what might happen. It is at this point I realize that I don't have to make things hard for myself. Instead of anticipating failure, I can believe in myself and trust that I can do it. I don't have to worry about what the summit of the mountain will bring until I get there. Right now, I can just be astonished that I am absolutely fine slogging up the straight and steep. And I don't have to go beyond now!

I have made the decision to leave my job. It is not a good fit and I have known that from day one, 7 months ago. So I am leaving in order to make way for whatever is next in my life. But, I am making leaving my job an incredibly huge struggle and it doesn't have to be. I can just leave. One foot in front of the other. Instead, I doubt my decision, worrying about money, and what other people will think of me, and find myself in self-imposed agonizing turmoil. Why do I doubt my decision when each time I have left a job, it has been absolutely right? All I have to do is believe in myself and just take the one next step.

Dejah sets the example. She lives only in the moment. Her 3-year-old-happy-peppy life is centered on food, exercise and most importantly, the people she loves. When we are hiking, Dejah likes to be the middle girl. She doesn't lead and she won't ever be last; she likes to be surrounded by those she loves. Smart dog. Now every once in a while her exuberance gets the better of her and she runs out ahead of us. It usually happens at the beginning of hikes when she has too much energy to contain, or when she just can't stand how exciting the trail looks and she just has to check it out. This happens on Tecumseh. On that straight, steep never-ending-oh-my-God section, Dejah can't stand our slow pace and she bounds ahead of us up the mountain. Then she realizes what she has done -- she has left her loved ones behind -- and she races back down the mountain at breakneck speed, skidding and sliding to a snow-spraying stop an inch from my snowshoes, smiling at me. Here I am, she seems to be saying as she tilts her golden head to the right. Did you miss me? Got a treat in your pocket? I love her and will miss her and my daughter dearly when they move to Texas.

We continue our ascent and I find myself thinking about the last time we climbed Tecumseh. So why are we climbing it again, you ask? Good question. Because it's on "THE LIST." We have a few hiking lists we are working on that give us choices and ensure each climb counts for something. I love stuff when it matters. If it doesn't have some meaning, then I don't really want to do it. The lists give me something to strive for and a way of keeping track of my progress. They help me focus on what is important, so life doesn't slip by with my dreams left undone.

So, this particular list is the NH 48 4,000 Footers in Winter list. We've already climbed the NH 48 once; why not try them again in the treacherous ice, deep snow and freezing cold? What are we? NUTS? Yes, I think so! But, in the spirit of "living in the moment," we only have to climb one mountain at a time, one step at a time. If I focus on how difficult some of those hikes were in the spring, summer and fall, and imagine what it would be like to hike them in January, I wouldn't even consider it! So I don't anticipate. I just celebrate each success as it happens.

Lists are a part of my life. I have my To Do List, my Life List of things I want to do before I die, Pat's and my Mountain Lists and my New Year's Resolution List. Climbing up Tecumseh, I announce to Pat my first New Year's resolution: To be completely 100% on my own side. If I were completely on my own side all the time, I wouldn't need any other resolutions - that one would take care of everything! If I were completely on my own side while climbing Tecumseh, I would be cheering for myself as I climb, blown away by my own strength, determination and stick-with-it-ness. But instead I'm worrying that I won't make it because it looks too steep. New choice. I choose to be completely 100% percent on my side. I choose to believe in myself. I choose not to worry about what anyone else thinks of me - only what I think of myself. I choose not to project failure into the future but only to react to my strong beautiful self in the moment.

Finally the steep levels out a tiny bit, whoops, only for a few feet and then it begins again on its relentless climb up. Holy moly! This is supposedly the easiest 4,000 footer in winter. A clarification folks. The words easy and 4,000 footer should never be used in the same sentence. There is nothing easy about climbing any of the 4,000 footers.

We reach the summit at 11:54. YEAH! It is Pat's birthday today and we are marking it by hiking. I have learned to mark important occasions. I try and find a way to put meaning into a special day, making it stand out so I will remember it as a bookmark in my life's story. If I don't, time robs the memories and they drifts away as years pass. So we mark Pat's 53rd birthday with a high-five on top of Tecumseh, our 7th 4,000 footer in winter. Check it off the list, baby. Done!

We head down the mountain and the going is immediately easier. I let my bodyweight move down the mountain quickly, letting the snow cushion each snow-shoed step, getting an extra slide in at the end of each footfall. Whooo Hoooo! The trees are beautiful covered with snow, and we can hear the whoops and hollers of the skiers on the neighboring ski trails. We meet a snowboarder hiking up and we take a minute to chat. As we part, I take a step down and immediately do a header, falling ungracefully face first in the snow -- with Pat and this guy watching. Nice timing. I start internally berating myself for falling in front of him. Why do I choose to berate myself, that's not being on my side! New moment. New choice. I made him laugh. In fact, we all laughed. I can choose to give myself a hard time or I can choose to know the fall and the laughter were gifts. I'll take the gift option.

By the time we reach the car at 1:50 p.m., I am back on my side. I am right where I am supposed to be.

7 out of the Winter 48