My goal was never to reach the top. I had only two goals when I hiked the trail up to the renowned granite jewel called Half Dome. It became clear to me about a half hour from starting the trek that they were a) don’t cry and b) don’t faint.
I really had no idea what I was getting into when I volunteered to spend a day hiking with my friends to the top of that silver peak. “Sure,” I said. “Sounds like fun!”
Just to make certain I could hold my own, my grand plan was to go to my gym, GB3 Fitness, to spend some time on the StairMaster one week prior to our sunrise meet up in Yosemite Valley. I was sure this would be all the prep I needed.
Half Dome is 8,839 ft above sea level. It’s about 17 miles round trip. It has an elevation gain of a little under 5,000 ft. from Yosemite Valley (imagine the height of nearly 3 Empire State Buildings). It’s a 10-12 hour hike, which is considered “steep, but moderate”, and there is a cable segment for the last 400 feet. Meaning, the cables there on either side so you have something to hold onto because there’s a chance you could fall and die. People have, actually. But I didn’t know any of these facts prior to my experience. I was just happy to go along with my friends. I must not have been paying attention to the details when we discussed it. I’ve been known to do that.
The day of the hike arrived. What I thought would be a fun day in the rugged outdoors turned into a prayer for mercy. I literally—sometimes even out loud—prayed my way up nearly the entire 5,000 foot elevation climb. Oh. my. goodness.
The thing was, I couldn’t quit even if I wanted to. There was no turning back. There were four of us, and you just don’t say in the middle of the forest that you’re going to turn around and go wait in the car while the rest of your friends hike up and down Half Dome for 10-12 hours. I had too much pride to ever turn around.
We had started on the trail head at sunrise and didn’t return to the parking lot following the hike until after the sun set that night. We only stopped for a very quick lunch break. Also, it was imperative that we continue on so that we wouldn’t be forced to turn around in the afternoon if we didn’t make it to the cables in time.
Around that time in my life, I had been memorizing the book of James in the bible. In the very first chapter of James is the verse, “Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” I was glad to have those words imprinted in my brain, because those were the words that ultimately pushed me up that mountain. When I wasn’t praying that my out-of-shape lungs wouldn’t give out, I was saying that verse over and over as if it would give me strength. And it did.
My other three friends were in much better shape than I, and had more hiking experience than I had. I’m not even sure how I ended up there with them, actually, but when all is said and done it’s one of the most memorable experiences of my life. And the thing is, I didn’t go to the top.
I didn’t go all the way to the top of Half Dome.
After hours and hours of hiking we finally made it to the cables section, but I decided to take a rest on a rock and enjoy the view right from where I was. I looked up at that granite dome, I looked on both sides of the thick cables bolted into the side of the dome, looked at the smooth slope of the rock…and I just decided, “Nope, not gonna do it.”
But even though I had come so far and most people would think it was not worthy of a triumph, in that moment I was super proud of myself for even making it that far. It was good enough for me. To proudly watch my friends ascend the last 400 feet, to watch all the hikers around me ecstatic and tired from their journey, to feel the powerful winds rushing past my face….that was enough.
You know, so many people compare themselves to others and feel not enough because they didn’t accomplish the same things or the “best” things or the “greatest” things. But what about your best or greatest thing? Doesn’t that count for something?
The fact that I, a young woman who had been overweight her whole life….whose “P.E.” for most of her school years was band…who grew up eating fast food and who found it painful to run…the fact that I was standing nearly 400 feet from the peak of Half Dome after hiking uphill for 5-6 hours and made it without crying or needing medical help (okay, maybe I did cry a little) and knew there was another toe-bruising 5-6 hours back down hill in the dark….that is a feat in itself!
Some might say, “You only had another 400 feet to go!!!You should’ve gone for it.” And I’d say this:
I have no regrets about it. None.
When I got up to the point where I stayed behind, I was completely content. Something in my heart knew to stop and enjoy the view right from where I was. So I did.
Life is like that, too. It’s good to be ambitious, but there is also a place for being satisfied with what you already have. Others may surpass you, but that doesn’t make you any less valuable or unable to experience joy in the space you are at the moment. We are able to do hard things, but we should also be able to sit back and enjoy the view now and then.
For the rest of my life, I will remember Half Dome with fondness. I hiked with some awesome salt of the earth people. I persevered like I never had before. The crunch of the pine needles. The cleanest of air. Count it all joy. The sweat glistening from my brow. The way the Clif bar tasted when we finally took a rest, as if I were dining at Morton’s. The gorgeous view from the almost top. So good. So, so good enough. Yep. No regrets.