Welcoming Recreation for All

The Nerves That (Almost) Held Me Back


Mt. Pilchuck Summit, Photo by Aubrey McNeil

I have to admit--every time I start packing for a hike the night before, my tummy starts to flutter. Maybe it’s the three cups of coffee I shamelessly drank this morning, or maybe it’s just those darned butterflies they always say come out when you’re about to do something scary. Either way, I’m spooked.


Tossing and turning all night, I'm wondering if this hike was even a good idea. The amount of hikes I've been on in the past few years probably wouldn't even take 2 hands to count, and I'm going with friends that do these hikes on a weekly basis. Maybe I should fake a sudden cold? Too obvious. And probably too late for that matter. I've committed myself to a hike that I'm not at all prepared for and I'm about to ruin a fun time for people who just want to enjoy the sunshine and get outdoors. Great.


The whole car ride there the tummy flutter comes back. I try to play it cool--sing along to songs with everyone as a distraction from the utter embarrassment that lies ahead. "Definitely the last time they'll ever invite me on a hike" my brain says. With each turn in the mountain highway, all I can think about is the safety and comfort of my bed at home--at least my sheets don't require hiking boots and a mass exercise of my cardio in order for me to enjoy them.


"There's the trailhead! Here we go!" a friend yells as we pull into the parking lot.


"Crap," my brain mumbles.


But the second my feet hit the trail, the inner explorer in me finally decides to make her appearance.


I’m the slowest in the pack, and my entire body turns beat red within the first 20 minutes of the hike (a feature that earned me the nickname “Lobster Girl” in 8th grade gym class, but one that I consider to be quite fabulous now, as my cheeks will always have a natural “blush” to them). BUT, none of this stops me, because I am officially one with nature.


I’m surrounded by trees that millions of people will never take even a split second to look up at over the course of their entire, busy lives, and I’m breathing in fresh air that only birds and other mountainous creatures get to enjoy. I’m navigating thin trails along steep drop-offs, sizing up the tiny foothills in the distance that were once towering over us in the trailhead parking lot, and I’m dripping with sweat from all of the hard work and effort I’ve put into getting here. Trail dust is caked onto my skin, and the smell of tree sap and pine needles fill the air as we pass through the treeline. I've got a constant rush of adrenaline pumping through my veins, but rather than fearing it, I embrace it. It is this feeling that pushes me forward and up.


To put it simply, my innermost badass comes out--and it feels great.


And then comes the summit, the view, the reward. Nothing more needs to be said about the reward… other than that Lobster Girl sure can climb a friggin’ mountain.


-Aubrey