Disclosure: I'm not athletic. I'm not a hiker nor a camper. I have a very intense fear of crickets. The woods scare me.
How I managed to spend the weekend in the mountains, sleep in a car in the woods, and hike up a mountain, all with no fuss, is beyond me.
My friend is a photographer. He and his girlfriend (who is also my friend!) invited me on their weekend trip to the Adirondacks for an Instagram meetup for East Coast Creatives. And so I tagged along!
We were in the car for what felt like a decade. After enough time, we arrived in Keene Valley, NY. We wandered around the painfully deserted town (seriously, every shop had been closed and it was only 8pm) and sat in a Stewart's until we were able to meet up with the people who run the Instagram for East Coast Creatives. My friends knew the guys who were managing the event, so it was a nice reunion for them, but I was meeting everyone for the first time. So at the only bar/restaurant open in the area at that time, I drank my wine and connected with some amazing people. It wasn't until the next day that I realized how talented they really were.
After a quick, little breakfast at 9 Mile Coffee Co., we all gathered at the first location— somewhere in Keene Valley. There, we were #blessed with free coffee from 9 Mile and free SD cards from PNY. There was a decent number of photographers at the meet up - at least 30 people - and we were able to connect, share our Instagram handles, and get to know the people we would be spending the rest of the day and night with.
Then, smaller groups scattered to different mountains.
I went with a larger group of people to hike the Ampersand Mountain: 4.8 miles. Elevation of 3,353 feet.
I did it.
I have never been more proud of myself than I did in that moment.
When we reached the top, the winds were excruciating. I could barely see. The fog was so thick at the top that I couldn't even see the view. At first, I was frustrated; I wanted to see what I just hiked, I wanted the view, I wanted to feel good. But I sat on a rock, surrounded by the people I had just experienced a lot of sweat and mud with for the last 3 hours, and I just took it all in and felt okay.
I left everyone on top, trying to see through the fog, taking photos to commemorate their accomplishments. I climbed down some of the rocks until I reached a flat surface, away from everyone. I sat on a dry rock and looked up at the trees.
I thought about my body. My hip, popped out of place. My back, my scoliosis, the cost of another massage I desperately needed. My heart rate fluctuating and slowly but surely, coming back to normal. (Yes, I'm a 22 year old with body aches and pains and problems of a 85 year old.) I was in pain, but I knew how to breathe.
At first, I started thinking about the things that had been on my mind lately--a relationship, a home, a career. Stress. Anxiety. Fear. After sitting in the trees, I started to ease. I stopped thinking for a while. Everything was so quiet.
I found something in the mountains that day. Gratitude, I think.
I have never been so thankful to be alive and able to do what I had did. Yes, in the moment, I was in pain. Yes, recovering after the hike left me feeling sore for a while. Yet, I was able to do it, and it felt good.
The next day, we all had one more “family breakfast” at 9 Mile Coffee.
On the drive back, we stopped on the side of the road a few times to admire the trees and the fog.
Next stop: home.