|Discovery 1994, Day One|
when backpacking on mountain trails, you pay close attention to the squiggly lines on your topographic map that indicate elevation, fingers crossed that your route crosses widely spaced lines, suggesting gradual ascents and descents. but when the lines narrow, your scrutiny intensifies, for these represent the steepest terrain. and when the mountain is tall, the path you take matters a lot.
in that very first backpacking course, i recall my skepticism when our instructor told us that downhills are harder than uphills. he explained it with a thorough discussion of proper rest-step technique for ascents and the benefit of switchback design contrasted with the continuous muscle contraction necessary for descending an incline with a load on your back and the compounded stress on joints. not to mention, unless a body of water awaits, a valley is never as appealing as a summit. but still i didn't believe it until i experienced it.
discovery has been on my mind a lot lately. though i'm not fool enough to compare it to cadet basic training, i do recall the isolation and emotional and mental struggle of the group dynamic paired with the physical challenge of three weeks of wilderness expedition (despite having my best friend suffering alongside). i've tried to share with luke the tidbits of wisdom that have stuck with me and i hope he's taken heed. but most of all, i keep coming back to the lesson of the downhill.
|Discovery 1994, considerably later|
what i hadn't anticipated was the heaviness i would feel on the other side. despite this being the downhill, despite the confidence in his success, despite the increased familiarity with the rhythm, monday was hard. the ache was more pronounced, the weight of what luke unloaded heavy upon me, and the absolute clarity about how long is left and how long it will feel is anything but easier.
four days later i have my head down, one foot in front of the other, leaning on those around me and those who have gone before me. and remembering the lesson of the downhill. it's supposed to be harder. it calls for careful steps, strong core, a sense of humor, and good conversation.
d: strength and steadiness
b: discovery lessons passed down
g: friendships forged in footsteps