Rock and Roll...Perseverance Embodied with Move Mountains
When I begin to think of all that was accomplished yesterday, in 12.5 hours, it makes me feel blessed to have been part of a team of people that truly dedicated themselves to a common goal, a purpose bigger than ourselves. That's about as far as I could get in the days and weeks immediately following the trip. Three weeks later, after the depth of the experience has had the opportunity to settle, I am reminded of the grit, the resolve and the overall balance of courage and compassion that was present that day. It's probably best to retell the story…
It's 11:15am. We have been on trail since 6:45 A.M. and the 25 6th and 7th grade students with us from Lake Tahoe School have been up since 5:00 A.M. to prepare their own breakfast and lunch and get ready for the day amidst the swarms of mosquitos. Also along with Move Mountains are two remarkable athletes. Marina, from Achieve Tahoe and Taylor from High Fives Foundation are both young women who have been given the additional challenge of not having the use of their legs since accidents earlier in life. Both are in wheelchairs, and both are keeping the group laughing, smiling, and moving forward.
And here we are at the critical moment...a point in time where the two hiking groups are given maps with our exact location marked. Each group is tasked with the responsibility of deciding whether or not to continue or turn back. Keep in mind we have been hiking for 4.5 hours and we have only made it 3.5 miles, mostly downhill. If we keep going, our guess is we won’t make it back to camp until 7:00 P.M. We leave it to a vote, declaring 75% of us must agree. After much discussion and evaluation, one hiking team was unanimous – we move forward. The other was a bit more split. Together, the vote turned out to clear the 75% mark and the decision was made to keep moving, understanding that we were getting further from camp with every step. We would wait to eat lunch until we reached our destination the vista of Feather Falls.
The next stretch was grueling. During the last push uphill photographed below, Marina said, "Charlie, you really are crazy."- a comment that stuck in my head for the rest of the day.
While eating lunch at the vista, we were greeted by several other groups of hikers, all looking at us with a bit of astonishment.
I was convinced that the return trip would be the real challenge. Certainly, after 4.3 miles of hiking in over 6 hours, we would start to face the challenges of exhaustion, low morale and burnout. To add to the challenge, the steeper down hill had to be taken backwards to keep our athletes safe.
Remarkably, the hiking teams traveled over more challenging terrain on the second half of the loop. Trails were more narrow and poison oak was everywhere. Obstacles seemed to greet us at every turn and each time the teams faced them with more efficiency, resolve and laughter.
The telling moment was at hour 12. It’s 6:45 P.M. and the students are practically running the last stretch of trail (a mile long uphill with an elevation gain approaching 1000ft) all the while rotating in and out of sled dog teams pulling as both students and adaptive athletes exhaust their stores of energy. Reaching the trailhead, each team member applauded as the next arrived. Not a student sat to rest until all team members had returned to the trailhead. In fact, one young lady ran back to help the group when she realized she was nearing the end and that others might need help.
After a hot dinner (prepared by the teams) a debrief allowed the students to sum the day up nicely. Many were shocked that they were able to accomplish as much as they had. Others were so grateful for the laughter and humor of peers who kept them moving during hard times. All were proud they had made the decision to keep going, to per severe.
In over 13 years of running leadership development programs with kids, I have never seen a group choose to push this hard. They were mostly positive and encouraging. Each student brought a gift to the team, like each of us brings a gift to the world around us. Taylor and Marina brought an amazing dose of trust and enthusiasm that fueled our minds, bodies and souls.
All in all, this trip is an example of why Move Mountains exists – to create unique experiences that blend awareness of mind and body with positive intentions and a recognition of the choices we have in our lives to take action in words and deeds – the opportunities we have to push ourselves to accomplish great things and treat one another with kindness and compassion in the process.
I have found that most of the time, when people are doing their best in life, they are kind. It is when people are feeling inadequate for not trying, that regret and subconscious self-doubt kindles emotions of resentment, anger and frustration toward others as a reflection of feelings toward self. This particular program offers great insight into the power of purpose. If your purpose or objective in life is that which can be constantly met and challenged within the journey itself, it finds life and invigoration at surprising intervals.
To see photos and reflections from the trip, check out our guest book.