Strong burdens make strong backs

IMG_1015I have a rule hiking Devils Hole, when on the stairs ascending from the beautiful canyon, the rule is simple. Do not stop. These are 300 or so stairs that provide very little respite and almost nothing in the way of level ground. Just one way, up.

Today I had to depart early from an organized hike. I was on my own for this part of the hike. Something I can run up normally without stopping.

In case you weren’t aware I like to test physical limits. I like to see what I can accomplish. Today I decided that I would stuff two 50 pound dumbbells into a soft back pack and do this hike (just read, bad idea).

It wasn’t horrible until I left the high energy group I was with. I made it to the stairs and started the climb which if I was to run it would take me in the neighborhood of 4 minutes.

It felt much longer. The roar of the flooded gorge below was drowned out by what I can only describe as a dying farm animal. It was just the labored, heavy breathing. I was annoying myself and just kept thinking “shut the **** up…”

IMG_1016As I got closer and closer to the top there is a new section of concrete steps that had recently opened. There was water freely flowing down the stairs. It reminded me of the stairs Macaulay Culkin climbed in Home Alone out of the basement where the Wet Bandits had struck. Those stairs were me on the inside. Crying for relief.

It was easy to think of reasons I should stop and take a break. “If I rest then I could move faster after.” “Your back is getting bruised from the weights.” “No one would blame you, there 100# in your pack.”

The old phrase comes to mind, “do not pray for less burdens, pray for a stronger back on which to carry them”.

I trudged through and once I made it to the top, I thought the hard part is over so keep going. I did. Slowly at first, but I found that spot just below the red line and lived there for the next twenty minutes or so.

The discomfort of the dumbbells banging relentlessly into my back was definitely going to leave bruises.

I thought the faster I go the faster this is done. The sooner I see that parking lot the sooner this will come off.

I didn’t stop because there will come a time where I cannot simply take it off. I will not be able to undo the clips and drop the bag. I will have to shoulder it. This was practice for life. This was a test of self. What could I handle? What would I handle?

I let out more than a few swear words and grunts. Tried to position my hands in ways to hold some of the load but there was no sweet spot on this one.

Once I got to the car I quickly unstrapped the pack and put it in the car. When I sat down in the driver’s seat to head out I felt incredibly tall. Just straight up and down. It felt good even though those dumbbells have left a lasting impression on my back, literally.

I knew the distance. I knew the path. I had an advantage. Many times we quit when it is hard. We quit when the end looks non-existent. We quit when it seems too arduous.

When it is tough and hard stay strong. When the odds seemed stacked stay resolute. Do not waver because it is hard. Do it simply, one foot at a time, one step at a time.


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