If someone told me 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago, that I would choose to spend my 30th anniversary hiking and backpacking, I would have thought they were crazy. But hiking is something I have grown to love over the past few years. As we started to think about planning a special trip for our 30th anniversary, we considered a few options - maybe Italy, or a beach somewhere …...however, as pictures of the Canadian Rockies flooded my Instagram, we both agreed: Hiking here is what we wanted to do. We wanted something active and adventurous and filled with beautiful scenery that we could experience together. (Mind you, I’m a hiker but not a camper so this was a pretty big leap for me!)
Mike did all the research and planned a fantastic week for us. Our adventure began in Lake Louise. Not only did we experience a stunning glacial lake surrounded by snow covered mountains, we got to hike 5 miles to a tea house, get up close and personal with a glacier and experience the first of many rumbles from an avalanche. The Six Glaciers Tea House had the most amazing chocolate cake I have ever had - or maybe I was just starved from all the hiking!. Pictures don’t do justice to the sights, sounds and feelings we encountered. When you hear the power unleashed in an avalanche, it evokes a sense of awe. You realize how small and powerless we can be. It was hard to pick a favorite part of the day, but we both agreed that hearing the avalanches was tops on the list. It was an other-worldly experience.
On our second day we set out into the backwoods of Banff National Park, the focal point of our trip. Shadow Lake Lodge served as home base for the next four days. We parked at a trailhead and backpacked our belongings in - a first for me. There were times on the way up when I was sure Mike was right behind me because I could hear his pounding footsteps - only to turn around and realize the pounding was actually the sound of my heart which was reverberating against the straps of my backpack! As we trekked up the mountain, loaded down with our backpacks, I had the sudden realization that this hiking trip was a fitting way to reflect on our 30 year marriage. Over the next few days, i saw many parallels to both journeys. I was thankful that I have been walking for 30 years with the best hiking partner, despite all the hardships of the trail.
The comparison started right in the parking lot. At the hotel that morning we had decided not to bring some of the things we had packed and then we did another purge as we got our backpacks out of the trunk of the car. It reminded me of the way we had to leave some things behind when we got married - selfish pursuits, certain expectations, ownership of how things are done. For this trip it was, “ Do I really need this shampoo?” and “ I can live without this shirt and shorts.” and most definitely, “Do I really need all this makeup on a hiking trip?” (Remember I’m not a big camper - this was a big deal!)
Not too far into the climb, we ran into another couple who were coming down. Our shoulders were burning - we were winded. “You are going to love it!” they told us. They continued to tell us about their favorite hikes from the lodge - in particular, one that was a little scary, but worth the effort for the spectacular view. Encouraged and eager, we moved forward with a new lightness in our steps. It made me think back on the many people over the years that have loved and encouraged us through challenging times. Navigating the journey is much easier with others by your side. Funnily enough some of the trail guides and people at the lodge said the same hike was easy. It most definitely wasn’t! It goes to show that you have to make sure the people giving you advice share the same set of standards!
We finally made it to the lodge and it was definitely worth the climb! Nestled in a meadow, surrounded by snow covered mountains, the log cabins were a glorious site. We checked in and found a spread of food for afternoon tea! Now this was my kind of camping! Our cabin and the main lodge would become a welcome home base over the next few days. Aside from the breathtaking views, we would be pampered with hot showers and gourmet food over the next few days. (The food was packed in on horses every few days, since there is no road access!) Deciding which trail to hike was our toughest decision of the day. What a welcome break from the busyness of life. There was no internet or telephone service. It was great!
Over the next few days we conquered some amazing trails and viewed some magnificent scenery. Despite rain everyday, we set a goal and forged ahead. We mucked through the mud. We battled cold hands and sore feet but we made it to our destination together. We could have stopped and turned around, but we had committed to making it to our destination. We would have missed out on so much if we hadn't stuck it out. It was a constant reminder that life is hard sometimes. Really hard. Whether it is financial difficulties, differences of opinion or challenging children, the journey is totally worth it when you stay committed to your goal.
Thanks to the lodge, we had some great trail mix for re-fueling. When we were tired and started to get hungry and a little edgy, we would take a snack break and it was amazing how a little rest and refreshment would give us a boost for the rest of the climb. Much like we get “hangry” without nourishment for our bodies, we need to nourish our souls and get the refreshment we need to take healthy steps forward. It's good for your marriage and good for your kids.
One day we set out on a trail that was a 3-mile steep incline to a mountain pass in an alpine meadow. Without realizing it, I got pretty far ahead of Mike. I was really eager to get to the end to see the wildflowers in bloom. Part way up, it dawned on me that I didn’t want to get there alone. I wanted to see it at the same time as Mike. My desire was to share that moment together. I had to pull over and wait. In marriage, sometimes we are not always at the same place as our spouse. I remember times when the state of things was pretty clear to me, but Mike wasn’t quite there yet. Undeniably, there were times when the truth was right in front of me but I wasn’t ready to accept it at the same time as Mike. It is my experience that if you wait patiently, without nagging, your spouse will get to the same place as you. By the way, when we got to the alpine meadow of wildflowers, it was spectacular. The colors and varieties were beyond description. I couldn’t stop taking pictures!
Our final day of hiking ended with a downhill 8 mile hike. It was SO much easier than going up! Not only was gravity on our side, but we knew what to expect and we had four days of hiking behind us so we were stronger and more conditioned. Surprisingly though, it was pretty tough on our knees. Be mindful when things seem easy! Throughout our hike out we remembered with awe all the things we had seen together. I cherish the opportunity we had to see things I could have never imagined possible and to share it with Mike. Nature is such a great place for connecting and reflecting.I was so thankful to have the opportunity to think back and see where we have come in 30 years. I encourage you, whether you are on an uphill part of your journey, just coasting on solid ground, or having a mountaintop experience, to take the time to reflect on where you have been and remember the commitment you made to make it to your goal. I urge you to find a special place in nature to contemplate where you are and set goals for where you want to go together. It doesn’t have to be as extravagant as the Canadian Rockies - but maybe a picnic or a day at the beach, or even a walk together in a local park. Nature has so many lessons to teach us and has an incredible way of giving perspective.
If you think back to your childhood, most likely what comes to mind are experiences you shared with friends and family, not the things you had.
As a young child, I grew up near the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. I can remember spending hours on a dock with a string tied to a chicken leg and a net, catching crabs. My brothers and I learned that crabs are fast and DO have eyes on the back of their head!
Then, there was the time we were in New Hampshire and my parents let my friend and I go canoeing alone on the lake. I felt like I had been given the world. But I don't remember what I got for my birthday or Christmas that year!
My childhood exploits and the relationships I had are what make me smile as I look back.
Science supports this phenomena.
Cornell psychologist, Thomas Gilovich has done extensive studies demonstrating that people base their happiness on their experiences not their purchases. And more significantly for parents, I think, is the finding that people reflecting back are happier when telling the stories of those experiences again.
Don’t you want to create that opportunity for your children? It is a win-win situation. You and your children gain pleasure now and when you all look back in the future you get to re-live it again, with joy and satisfaction.
Nature is the perfect place to create memorable experiences. Anything from a walk together in the woods to a week at a coastal beach provide the ingredients for fond memories and rich experiences. Some outdoor experiences come with a cost, while many are free for the taking. Nature is a feast of opportunity that unites and delights. Often when we are outside, one of my children will point to a beautiful flower, an unusual insect or a sunset that paints the sky. In that moment, we are connected - a snapshot to put in the experiential memory album.
Today’s pace of life leaves little room for those experiences. We settle for buying things, instead of creating those experiences that lead to happiness.
I love how Shauna Nequist says it in her book, Bread and Wine:
I am leaving you with a challenge to examine your calendar and see how you can make room for experiences. It may mean saying, “no” to an event or skipping a team sport for your child this season. It could mean taking a weekend trip instead of buying the latest iPhone. But what it definitely means is making time to go outside and experience nature together. Here are 10 ideas for experiences in nature:
This is not a magic list of activities - only a list to get you started. Sometimes special moments just happen without you even realizing it. What you do need is a willingness to step outside, to be fully present, and to engage with your kids. There is no price tag for that.
BE INTENTIONAL AND EXPERIENCE THE OUTDOORS. POST YOUR EXPERIENCES ON THE SKIPPING STONES FACEBOOK PAGE SO WE CAN BUILD A COMMUNITY THAT SHARES IDEAS AND HELPS EACH OTHER EXPERIENCE THE OUTDOORS.
Hi! I'm Ann - mother of seven, grandmother of two and occupational therapist. My mission is to provide the support families need to raise thriving children and to help you build a family environment that supports healthy development and a pathway to success.
Great blogs to check out:
Rain or Shine Mamma
Children & Nature Network
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