Saturday, September 13, 2014

Take A Hike -- In The Rain

I realize this is no glamour shot (I am soaking wet and covered with mud) but it was taken at the end of an incredible hike up on Indian Head mountain in the Catskills today.

I've been on plenty of hikes before, and they've been great, but I've never been on a hike that was as physically challenging as the one I went on today. The ascents sometimes seemed to shoot straight up, there was legit rock scrambling, and -- oh, yes -- it rained the entire time. That made lunch and the descent all the more adventurous.

I knew the hike was going to be a little harder than what I was used to (Discover Outdoors ranked it a 7 out 10) but I was surprised by what a leap in physical exertion it was. Or how I managed to keep up with a very quick pace. If you hike with groups you know that unless you are the very last person, you need to keep up so you don't slow down the others. The ascent was insane -- sweat was literally rolling off my face and grown men were drenched. (It was 50 degrees outside on the mountain.) But when we stopped I felt exhilarated, even accomplished. Did I really just climb 3700 feet?

The metaphor is obvious: always push out of your comfort zone. I have a lot of friends in Manhattan, but very few of them show an interest in exploring the wilderness with me, even for just a day. On mental level these day trips do wonders for clearing my head, switching up the exercise routine and sharpening my small talk skills with strangers. The other advantage is on a much more macro level: it teaches that no matter what, you have to get through, or up, or at least to the next clearing.

In writing, it's easy to hit blocks, to have moments when a project seems stalled, even worth abandoning. That is when I need to think about the ridiculous trails that I wasn't aware I had signed up for, yet was obligated to get through. Because realistically, it's not impossible to get up a steep incline or down a very slippery and muddy trail. You just have to focus. Take deeper breaths, adjust to the way the rocks are arranged. Otherwise, you'll fall down the embankment and have to be carried out by the guides. And that's just embarrassing.

Writing can, in fact, be physically painful. I've heard many friends say this. But 99% of physical pain goes away when get to where you're trying to go. Sometimes you just have to level up to get there.