There are two types of challenges in life. The ones we instill upon ourselves and the ones that are put upon us.
I much prefer the former and a couple of weeks ago, my sister Eileen, her husband Tom, my son Sam, and I climbed Mt. Katahdin in Maine. This picture shows me at the top where by my facial expression, you can tell it was quite windy.
For those not familiar with this mountain, it is the highest mountain in Maine at an elevation of 5,269 feet. It is also the official northern terminus of the 2200 mile Appalachian Trail.
When I say that Katahdin goes straight up, I mean it goes straight up. Many hikes I have gone on start out as a pleasant walk through the woods for a mile or so. Gentle meanderings on curving paths with some start of elevation.
Katahdin wasn't built that way. Pretty much from the get go you are on an upward trek. Rocks, rocks, and more rocks start to appear pretty quickly and losing focus could mean tripping and falling. We chose the Abol Trail which was about 9 miles round trip. Based on my sister and brother-in-law's recommendation (they climbed this mountain several times before) we slept in the park the night before the hike and also the night after the hike. This seemed the right choice as starting a hike like this after being in a car for 4 hours (not to mention leaving their house at 2 am) and then getting in a car to drive home another 4 hours sounded brutal. (Not to mention the extra 3 hours from their house in Maine to my house). As far as food, no store bought granola bars for our group (Although my sister did make some amazing granola we had for breakfast the day of the hike). We had homemade soup for dinner, muffins, hummus, bread, baked potatoes, and various snacks. All this good food did add to the weight of our packs though!
As you start to gain elevation and are approaching the tree line, the rocks just get bigger. So big in fact, that you soon find yourself using your hands and feet strategically placed to keep going. Losing focus here could mean a serious injury and worse.
If you look at Katahdin from below it is quite overwhelming due to its vastness and massiveness.
However, by taking one step at a time, you make progress and little by little you approach the summit.
I had trained for this hike for about five months by running in the woods pretty much everyday near my house which has some smaller hills. I also did some outdoor stair climbing to try and get used to climbing. I also did some "bouldering" with my son in the Middlesex Fells. If I did it over again, I would have focused more on the stairs!
Katahdin in itself is breathtaking. The views at the top were just amazing and one other thing I experienced were times of total silence. I mean no sound at all. Even when I meditate in the early morning, I can hear something. At those moments, it really was just me and the mountain.
One other thing I noticed as I put one foot in front of the other. Climbing a mountain like this is similar to other goals in life. If one focused just on the end result of a major goal like saving for college or retirement for example, it would appear overwhelming. Instead, we set up a plan and over time, reach that summit. Just as I couldn't take one giant leap to the summit, one can't be expected to fully fund retirement in a day.
Working with a Certified Financial Planner practitioner is similar to the guidance of a more experienced hiker.
As with all goals in life. It's pretty much one step at a time.
Well, happy trails and stay safe!
P.S. I came across this short clip which looks like they are making a movie of Katahdin. Check it out HERE
As always, please feel free to reach out to me anytime for a conversation. I look forward to helping you reach your goals and challenges! Click HERE to see my calendar or just shoot me an email or give me a call.
In good health.
All the best.
Rick Fingerman, CFP®
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