Chapter 7 – Finding Confidence on a Mountainside

Our community recently started telling us stories about their outdoor adventures. We’re excited to share the experiences of these wonderfully free people and marvel at their abilities and growth.

We hope you enjoy taking a glimpse into their lives, in their own words. They’re worth celebrating and we can learn from them too! 

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We all have things that stand to hold us back in life. Our bodies change, get hurt, catch sicknesses, and age. Our abilities may wane or past traumas cause our minds to doubt. Sometimes, even the people around us make us unsure of ourselves and what we can do. But when we step out with an “I’ll give it a try!” attitude, we may surprise everyone – even ourselves. 

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Jennifer – Overcoming Insecurities & Finding… Well, a Lot!

I grew up in the countryside of Wisconsin in a log home back in the woods. We used to take family camping trips all over the United States and hiking was one of those affordable things for a family with lots of kids. As an adult, hiking became my getaway, my way to connect with nature, just relax and be at peace.

But there was one thing that held me back a bit. I felt uneasy about my abilities. 

Years back, I was diagnosed with May-Thurner syndrome and had a massive Deep Vein Thrombosis in my left leg and abdomen that almost took my life. It caused a lot of nerve damage and blood flow issues to my leg, so trusting it to carry me on longer, more difficult hikes concerned me.

But when my sister and husband decided to go hiking in the snowy range mountains of Wyoming, I wanted to try. At that point, I also just wasn’t in tip-top physical shape or as young anymore. It was a mental challenge simply agreeing to go because I was afraid of being the one that couldn’t catch my breath or couldn’t keep up with the others.

The plan was to just basically see how far we could hike. So I just started, kind of believing I wouldn’t make it to the peak.

As we got further up into the mountains it got colder. But when the sun came out we found a little lake in a nice spot. I couldn’t believe I’d made it about 3/4 of the way up already! It overlooked medicine bow peak which is a really spectacular area. We stopped to put on sunscreen and I took my engagement ring off so I didn’t get it all slimy. Collectively we decided to head back down from there, prepared to face the blazing sun during our descent.

My leg held up and we made it to the truck and started heading back towards Laramie. But on the way, I realized my engagement ring was missing. Looking at photos we’d taken along the way helped us pinpoint exactly when it had been missing off of my hand…  up near the top of the mountain, by the lake.

We immediately turned around, drove to the trailhead, and started the hike back up. 

By that time a storm was starting to roll in. It was raining and thundering, which was fine. But when the lightning started it made me pretty nervous, hiking on an open mountainside after passing the timberline! But we had made it back to that spot in record time and started looking around. 

Within about 20 minutes of looking my brother-in-law actually found the ring. A flash of light hit it just right and he saw something sparkle by the rocks along the lakeside! 

It was simply amazing! 

Shortly after, the rain actually stopped and the sun came back out for our second hike down. We laughed and joked along the way about how proud I was of myself for hiking a mountain twice in one day. It felt SO good!

I had overcome my fear of failing – of not being able to do the things my siblings could. I’d faced my insecurities about feeling too old to do things. It proved to me I could do anything. Maybe not as quickly or as easily as others… but I could do it.

After we made it back home and shared what had happened, my fiance and I decided that finding that lost ring on the mountainside was an omen. Clearly, we should get married up there by that lake! A year later we packed the dress and everything else we needed in backpacks and spent the day hiking up the same trail. Around 30 of our closest friends and family joined us as we got married in the same spot where I’d lost my engagement ring. 

It was the best choice I ever made!

 

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