Realizations on Rattlesnake Ledge

“I am doing this for no one but myself.”

This is what I repeated in my head as I hiked up the Rattlesnake Ledge trail for the first time this season.

Rattlesnake Ledge / May 18th, 2023

I’ve done this trail before in similar conditions (although significantly worse shoes) and did not remember how hard it was for me. It might have been the pain from the blisters on my heels distracting me from the huffing and puffing the first time, but all I could think about this last time was how hard this was.

I was angry that I had to stop ten minutes in. Ten minutes and already I needed to take a breather? I knew I wasn’t as well practiced, but I wanted to go at least a mile or two before stopping.

Then, less than ten minutes later, I stopped again. I actually sat down. My head was swirling with reasons why I wasn’t good enough and I wasn’t ready for this and I shouldn’t have to stop so much. I tried to slow my breathing and hide my red, sweaty face as other people passed me. They were so much faster and so much less winded. How was I going to make it up there?

I sat down for a minute and let my breath catch up with me. I looked out at the trees and sucked down more water. It was so beautiful, and hot, and I regretted wearing long pants. Everything was green, and it smelled fresh. I could still hear the rideable lawn mower trimming the grass around the trailhead below me. I could hear the leaves and my heart beating in my chest. The trees looked like a barcode against the blue sky if you looked at just the right angle.

I took another deeper breath and looked at my watch. It said I had been going for fifteen minutes. That was when the quieter voice in the back of my head finally said “See? Fifteen minutes… give yourself a break.”

It’s really hard for me to hear this voice right now. Things have been… rough. And when I’m sitting at home, scrolling through job applications, wondering what my purpose is supposed to be, it’s way easier to hear the voice that tells me I should get my ass off the trail.

But out here, I can start to hear the one that tells me to relax.

So, I recalibrated. I realized I was literally trying to run up that hill, and I started to wonder why. What was I trying to prove by going so fast? Wasn’t it about how beautiful the trees were? Wasn’t it about enjoying the company of the people walking around you rather than internally competing against them?

When I got going again, I decided that instead of being angry at my body for getting tired, I was going to listen to it. Instead of telling myself that I was not as good as whatever ideal I had built up in my head of a Washington hiker, I was going to be good enough for me right now in the moment. I was going to take pictures on the trail and stop for water breaks and take care of my feet, because hurting myself all the way to the top was not the reason why I was out there.

I was out there to listen.

Last hiking season in August, my headphones died a decent portion into my hike up Bridal Veil falls. I was grumpy – it was not worth it to go back for the wired pair at this point and I was unprepared to be alone out there with my thoughts; I came out to get away from the noise in my head, not make it louder. I kept going, replaying the last song I had heard in my head, and gave up on trying to control the riverlike flow of my consciousness in the almost silence.

It ended up being one of the best hikes I have ever had.

I’m sure this is surprising to no one, but turning off all of the background noise can occasionally help you untangle a lot of things in your mind. If you keep yourself distracted at all times (like I know I have been ever since I quit my job in January), you will never have the chance to really focus and think clearly.

Once I was finally at that point at Rattlesnake Ledge, the uphill got a whole lot easier. I enjoyed the clarity and grace I was giving myself and reminded myself that this is what self-care is.

It’s so hard to motivate myself to get out and do this but it’s always rewarding when I do. I have to remember that.

And as I sat at the top, looking down at the blue lake and across the forests and mountains, I tried to promise myself that I would remember. I had this deep feeling that what I had told myself as I was climbing was something that I needed to take with me off the trail. I am doing this for no one but myself, and I need to stop worrying about the perception as much as I am. I need to get outside and keep doing this if this is where I can finally listen to myself – the “myself” that reminds me that I’m doing okay, and that I have the strength to keep pushing through the tough bits. And if I am still being given this time, there is a reason, and I should use it.

While I was crunching on an apple and hiding under my hoodie (because for some reason I brought that instead of sunscreen…), I heard someone say “excuse me?” from behind me. “Yeah?” I said through a mouthful of apple, preparing to scootch in case they wanted an unobstructed photo of the view, or perhaps one of themselves. I recognized her as another solo hiker who had started on the trail just after I did. She had passed me while I was sitting on that first tree stump.

“Do you want me to take your photo? You just look so striking right there looking out across the scenery, so I just wanted to offer.”

I was shocked, and really tempted to say no thanks, but I didn’t. I laughed and swallowed my food as fast as I could as I thanked her, handed her my phone, and let her take my picture. I told her how nice it was of her to offer, and she told me she just couldn’t not take the opportunity when she saw people in a moment like that.

When I posted the pictures from the day on Instagram later, I kind of wanted to hide that one. That grumpy voice came back and told me I was too sweaty, that my arms were too big, that I was slouching, that “this isn’t the kind of picture you post of yourself.”

But then I remembered how happy I felt after that girl had said those nice things to me, and I decided to let it go. And now looking at that picture makes me feel happy rather than self-conscious, and it just all feels so much better that way.

So anyway, here’s to getting out of a slump and trying to be a little nicer to myself. And to dusting off the old blog. All this time it’s still a great reminder that I’m always a continuous work in progress.

Keep it up!

One thought on “Realizations on Rattlesnake Ledge

Add yours

  1. Your openness and honesty is refreshing and relateable – I felt I was with you on this hike. It’s so easy to listen to the loudest voices that tell you to stop and put everyone else first, but I sincerely appreciate the reminder that it’s the voice you feed that will feed you back or make you small. I love that you were brave and open to getting this photo. I have a feeling or hope that this will be always be a memory that sparks you and builds you up. Thank you, thank you. for sharing your voice 💓
    It Is All You


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