The first impression is important. A first attempt to put the best foot forward and either sink or swim. You never actually get a second chance to make a first impression. Cliche’s are only cliche’s because there is some truth to them. When you are on a mountain though, second chances may be the best option.
I Tried and Failed, That’s Ok
On my journey through the outdoors, and life for that matter, I have been a believer that sometimes you fail. You can have a great plan, a perfect mindset and all the tools and sometimes you just get beat. In the outdoors, failure can lead to disaster in a hurry. Some will say that it is always best to push through, or have that “no quit” attitude but that can get down right dangerous, especially for a new hiker. The mountains will still be there tomorrow, it is best to make sure you will too.
I wrote about trying and failing. Then I wrote about coming back and beating the mountain another day. My mountain beat me but it wasn’t the only one. I have lost on the trail a few times but I keep going back. It was time to take a second chance on another park that beat me. To see if I had it in me this time. It was time to head back to High Dune.
Trial By Wind and Sand
The first time I tried, I failed. I was met with a bitter and relentless wind that blew sand in every direction. Each step forward was like walking through an invisible wall. The external forces of soft sand and harsh wind combined, pushing my feet deeper into the grasp of the earth. My heart wanted to keep going but it also wanted to explode from my chest. Desperately, my lungs heaved through the particle thick air. Both eyes squinted against the Sun and the miniscule daggers the wind carried.
I was done. I had come so far for this chance but I just couldn’t do it anymore. Another step. Sheer will could get me past. Or could it. The longer I waited the clearer my decision was. My body knew first, my mind was the last to let to go. As I turned and headed back down the soft sanded dune, I felt like I lost but was not defeated. Today wasn’t my day, but I would be back.
No matter how hard I pushed the external forces pushed back harder. There has to be a balance between how much you want something and how much you are willing to give up to get there. Is the journey worth the cost in physical or mental health. Is finishing this one hike worth souring the next one?
I made my way back to the Great Sand Dunes. The familiar foe stood silently and stoically waiting for me. While the shifting sands didn’t know this was a battle, I did. I was more prepared. More rested. I was ready. The winds were calmer but still lashed at my exposed skin. The soft sand still tried to hold my feet with each step like concrete trying to dry around a fence post. My lungs still burned.
This time I made my way up one dune, then another. My legs, much stronger now than that first trip, churned like pistons. I cleared another dune. Then the next. I thought I was almost there but realized I was only half way up. I thought about stopping. This time my body convinced my mind. The memories of my last failure crept into focus but then I saw my goal. My eyes were clear, free of the blowing sand and doubt. Instantly my focus shifted from the past to the present. The past won’t define this hike. I will write my own definition.
I weaved my way up the pathless trail to the top of the dunes. At the peak, I took a deep breath and soaked in the views. Others passed who made it for their first or fiftieth time. The peak is special for everyone but for me it was more so. A goal that wouldn’t have been obtained without second chances. The ability to lose but not be defeated. To pick back up a day, a month, a year later and know that you are better now and can do it. I was better and I did it.
The internal desire and external forces will always do a battle. From the moment we decide to leave the comforts and put ourselves out there. On a mountain, on the job, with a new friend. Once we take that first step we allow the safety net to slip away and hopefully we do it right the first time. Sometimes we will win. Other times we will fail. The will to continue after a loss is what prevents a defeat. Defeat takes away second chances.
Second chances don’t always come. Sometimes you don’t earn them, other times the juice just isn’t worth the squeeze. Not every loss is a lesson that needs to be corrected. Sometimes a loss is a loss. The effort isn’t worth the reward. But sometimes, when we get those second chances, we can take a loss and turn it into a victory. A second chance to show how good we were in the first place. A second chance to climb the mountain that has been waiting. Motivating in it stillness. My second chance let my mind prove to my body that it could be done. My body responded in kind, and proved to me that I could do it. I turned a loss into a win and it is all because I took a second chance.
More from The Fatman
If you enjoyed this post you may enjoy more of the posts on my Fatman’s Rambling page. Blogs such as “Screw it, I’m Trying”, “Hiking Alone not Lonely Hiking“, “Winslow, Arizona” and “Another Year” as well as many others may interest you there. If you have any comments or topics you would like me to cover, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can keep the conversation going by following me on any of the below social media platforms.