The last time I hiked this shady, steep, serene and private little trail above the Frying Pan was about two years ago.
Before I became a single mom. Before my Sun was speaking in full sentences. Before he was sleeping like a big boy in his Lightening McQueen race car bed downstairs. Before my little one was hiking over a mile with me every evening, or really hiking by himself at all…
Before I had even conceptualized the three delicious startups I’m working with right now. Before I fell helplessly in love when I arrived in Austin Texas with the girlfriends who inspired me out of my despair. Before I fell helplessly in love yet again when I left Austin and got “home” to the Aspen valley. Before I fell helplessly in love with my Self.
Before I lost my old tribe amidst relentlessly desperate, cruel, false, and unnecessary stories about me erected from a hurting soul for whom I’ve since developed an immense about of compassion… and even gratitude.
Before I worked through that accute trauma and humiliation in the wise counsel of a new, enlightened and inspiring tribe (See: gratitude).
In the same way you can’t step in the same river twice, I can’t hike any trail twice as the same woman.
I’ve learned that I’m infinitely more wary of biting ants than I am of mountain lions or bears, which are far less inclined to fuck with me. But a few bad encounters with ants has also taught me, for better or worse, to keep my feet moving and stay on the trail…
I’ve learned that any hike is sweeter in silence than with a book in my ears… although under writing deadlines I still periodically cram in some Audible books…
I’ve learned to drive slowly for the two or so miles above the dam where the unpaved, rocky road once gave me a flat tire that left me at the mercy of some suspicious ranch hands with my infant. I’ve found that driving slowly is truly much better for wildlife spotting anyway; such as the marmot who just scurried ahead of my car.
I’ve found that when I hike in silence, I’m more in tune with the dozens of black and white butterflies and the last of the wildflowers still here following an otherwise dry Spring. And as I tip toe up to them it feels like they’re teasing me and we dance while I try to count spots and swirls on their backs.
On this trail I find crazy delight in the sturdy well-packed straightaways at my chosen summit point where I take a few childlike sprints that leave me feeling giddy and exuberant.
I see my own child running towards me when I pick him up from school or his daddy‘s house, and it reminds me of how much I love him; and how acutely those wind-up hugs and kisses have shown me my purpose in life; to love through my entire reserve every day.
New trees have fallen since my last time up this trail; massive trunks and mazes of branches radiating five feet on either side; encumbering the path that was once there. New paths have emerged around the freshly fallen trees since I last hiked up here, and I imagine that someday hikers won’t know where the original trail even was. I stare at the ground, laden with remnants of thick grass that’s been trampled and settled into the new path; where shards of small, smooth sticks create the new path and periodically slither under my feet as they become garter snakes. And as I follow this “new” path on an old, familiar trail, I realize that this exact route has always been here, even though I used to walk another.
I relish the smells on this trail, alternately a sweet that resembles the skin of a cabbage patch doll at my grandma’s house or like Christmastime, and I delight in the satisfactory crunch of the pinecones under my feet.
Although I snap a few pictures in my favorite spots or of my favorite foliage, I’ve learned that it is simply imperative to revisit inspiring places rather than to rely on pictures or even memories.
I’m startled when I reach the end of the trail, realizing that my meditative state while hiking caused me to completely zone out for hundreds or even thousands of steps on an otherwise steep cliff with countless jagged and insecure edges that could have taken me down. And as I think, “this is the end of the trail” I quickly change my mind to say, “this is the beginning of the rest of my beautiful day.”