I’d been climbing a mountain, huffing and puffing my way around Pinnacle Peak, Arizona, for about 45 minutes when I saw the sign. Strenuous beyond this point. I laughed. Out loud. Didn’t they think the part I’d done so far was strenuous? And how much more strenuous was it going to get?
There wasn’t any further explanation.
So, I chose to sit down and think things over for a minute.
Gazing down the trail, I could tell the going down part was going to be easy. Coming back, not so much.
But how much more walking was there? And by strenuous, did they mean I better be in tip top shape if I was going to tackle it? Because I wasn’t in tip top shape. I’m not.
After thinking it over for a minute, I figured I wasn’t going to be in Scottsdale, Arizona, again any time soon, so what the heck? Why not put myself to the test?
And I hauled myself up from my rock seat and started walking.
About five minutes into this walk, I started psyching myself out. The people who were in great shape were breathing harder than I was on the way back up, so would I even be able to make it if I kept going? I knew I could make it back from the turn where I currently stood, so I gave myself a pass and turned around. After all, why would someone CHOOSE to take a more strenuous path?
I made it back to the ‘easier’ part of the trail and walked all the way back, feeling satisfied with myself for getting up and hiking a mountain first thing in the morning, something I did in my running shoes because I never really planned for this when I decided to take this trip. But I was disappointed in myself for not pushing harder to see what the rest of the strenuous course was like.
So, the next day, I tried again. This time, two friends had come along on my morning hike. And they agreed with me to go ahead and walk the entire trail. I was happy for the company, knowing if I couldn’t make it, at least I’d have someone along to call for help.
And you know what? That trail kicked my butt.
I’m not going to lie.
But I am so glad I kept putting one foot in front of the other down that trail.
And so glad they were willing to take a couple breaks on the way back up. Because that part…that part really came close to killing me.
Seriously. We hit one point where we saw a funky lizard (a chuckwalla is what they called it) hiding in a crack in the rock and I was relieved—not freaked out—because it gave me more time to catch my breath (while pretending to be interested). Plus, it makes for a better experience when you pass nature on the course.
The day before, there was a rattlesnake. I wasn’t quick enough with my camera for a photo of that. But it was there. At marker 34 in case you ever want to look. They say they tend to hang around in the same spot, so, yeah.
My experience on the trail taught me a couple things.
First, I really can do whatever I put my mind to. Even tackling literal mountains.
Second, when given a warning that something is going to be tough, believe it. Respect it. And then try or don’t try, but going halfway and turning around isn’t worth the effort. Either go all the way or go home.
Third, I wish life offered up these warning signs.
Wouldn’t that be fabulous?
Wouldn’t it just be magical if, before you were going to walk into the next disaster in your life, there was a sign at the door to give you pause?
Before you made some life-changing mistake, some sign pops up saying you are about to make things much more difficult?
STRENUOUS BEYOND THIS POINT.
It’s not telling you not to go. It’s just saying it’s going to be hard.
You can decide whether that’s a direction you want to take.
Who knows if it will be worth it—you don’t get to see beyond the next curve, and then the next one, and then the next.
There’s no indicator for just how strenuous it will be, or how much longer you have to go on this tougher trail.
You just have to decide to try.
Either way, you know if you go down that path, it’s going to be tough. And sometimes, that warning is all you need to get your mind set on making it through.