It might not seem like it given the amount of trip reports I’ve posted lately (at least I’ve been blogging!), but I am having serious problems motivating myself to go on hikes. Or runs. Or social events. Or just getting out of bed. I’m feeling incredibly lethargic, unhealthy and down in the dumps. Depression isn’t anything new to me, and I’ve come to realize that it’s probably something I am going to struggle with for the rest of my life, but I really want to be able to manage it at a level where I can take care of myself and my loved ones.
For me, depression comes and goes in waves. This happens to be one of the really low points, and I can’t really see the surf going up anytime soon. I’ve been looking back over the last couple of years to try to make sense of the ebb and flow of it all, and it seems to really be connected to physical activity. I can honestly say that hiking changed (and quite possibly saved) my life.
I just posted some photos of our recent trip to the Space Needle on Flickr, and I was struck by the difference in my appearance now and the last time we went. It was in the spring of 2007, one of the most difficult periods of my life. I remember how uncomfortable I felt in my body and in my life. I had migraines almost every day. I would always stay home while JK went out with our friends. I had no energy. I was deeply unhappy. Apart from the weight loss (it’s not even about the weight loss), I can see how much more confident, content and relaxed I am now. Hiking gave me exercise, sunshine, endorphins, fresh air, a sense of accomplishment, confidence in learning new skills, and a sense of purpose. So I’ve come a long way, but not far enough.
The last time I felt really energetic, confident and carefree over an extended period of time was in late May and June…which also just happens to coincide with a period where I was doing lots of hiking and, more importantly, lots of running on the non-hiking days. I really think this is key – hiking once or twice a week isn’t enough; I have to keep the endorphins going throughout the week.
For the month of September, I will be doing a little (well, for me it’s pretty big) experiment: I will exercise every single day to see how it affects my mental health. I’m trying to disregard the vague notion I have that this whole experiment is embarrassing to talk about, so I’ll be posting updates on the blog. I’ll try to keep the whining at a minimum, but considering the fact that I had to argue with myself for over an hour this morning to get out of bed, there’s bound to be some bitching and moaning when I try to force my carcass off the couch to go running in the rain.
So there you have it. 30 days of exercise, strenuous enough to get that magical rush of endorphins. There are so many changes I want to make in my life, but I think this first little step is the key to unlocking the rest of them. One foot in front of the other.
The weather forecast was iffy, so another lazy hike was on the agenda for Sunday. Lakes are generally the best destination when you’re not sure you’re going to have any views, so our group of five humans and four furry beasts wandered up to Lake Valhalla in search of the fabled sandy alpine beach.
Sandy it was! In fact, if you ignored the goosebumps, it was almost like being back in Hawai’i! We found a suitably pale Norse god lounging on the beach.
Being part of the wrong mythology didn’t keep Zeus and Athena from enjoying Lake Valhalla, and Wellie did his best to attempt to play with the big dogs (poor Jasper was, yet again, involved in an involuntary swimming situation).
I was the only two-legger brave enough* to face the icy waters of Valhalla…then I spent the rest of the lunch break shivering in my puffy jacket. It is with mixed emotions that I must announce that autumn has arrived in Washington.
From the first moment we set foot on the trail to Noble Knob, it was clear that this was Bobby’s place. Aside from the obvious (peeing on something means you own it, right?), he just seemed incredibly happy there, smelling the flowers in the meadows, looking for critters and snoozing in the sun. We’ve always thought of it as Bobby’s hike.
(Bobby on the Noble Knob trail, 2007)
This week, we went back to Noble Knob to spread Bobby’s ashes and say our farewells on his favorite mountain.
It was such a bittersweet trip; the weather was perfect and the hike was as beautiful as ever (…and Wellie was running around like crazy, tongue flapping every which way – apparently this is one of his favorite trails too!) but saying goodbye to Bobby felt so sad and so final.
I’m not going to write much since I’m tearing up just thinking about all of this, but it was a beautiful last hike for Bobby and I am so glad we did it. Now we’ll always have a place to go to visit our little Scabbers.
A friend sent me this quote today that made my eyes well up all over again:
Who are these characters who come and go from our lives, leaving behind hair on the sofa and more than a few footnotes in our personal history? Who sends them to us, and who takes them away? Does it matter? They are gifts. We can only embrace, enjoy and let go when we must. Even if it always seems way too soon.
(Best friends on Noble Knob, 2007)
I’m also going to try to keep this one in mind (thank you Dr. Seuss):
Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.
To all of you out there who are lucky enough to have animal companions, give your little (or not so little) friends an extra hug today. You will never regret it.
– Noble Knob | 7 miles | 500 feet elevation gain –
…in fact, I heart Canada so much that I’ve been up there four times this summer. The border guards might start getting suspicious soon, but I’m just going for the views, I promise! Oh, and to smuggle discounted Olympic marmots of course.
Anyhoo, this time we were invited to join Scott and Josie on a backpacking trip for their anniversary (they must think our incessant whistling and fake British accents are terribly romantic). In order to break up the drive, we stopped at Josie’s parents’ on the way and played with their new puppy (OMG) and swam in their pool. Well-rested and finally in vacation mode, we crossed the border and drove up to Garibaldi Provincial Park.
We carried our packs 5.5 miles into the backcountry campground (a strange concept, but the cooking shelters were appreciated once the mosquitoes came out), set up camp, ate, talked, relaxed, slept, and woke up to surprisingly clear skies. W00t!
‘Twas time to make our way up to Panorama Ridge. The trail started off with steep switchbacks, just like the day before, but they were over sooner than we expected…and from then on it was all meadows, flowers and freaking gorgeous views all around. I could actually hear Josie singing a certain song from The Sound of Music as she skipped along ahead of me.
There was an ominous-looking layer of clouds covering the peaks in the distance, so we hauled arse to get to the summit before it got socked in. And man alive, was it worth it. The clouds made for difficult photo conditions for a layperson like myself, but that just means I have an excuse to go back on a clear day – this is definitely one of my top five hikes of all time. The view of Garibaldi Lake from the ridge is stunning; the color is so intense it looks Photoshopped in real life (this seems to be an ongoing theme in my Canadian hikes).
We chilled (literally – it was so cold we put on puffy jackets and gloves) on the summit for a while before heading back down. Hiking back was like being on Mount Si, we must have met at least 50 people on the trail…which is understandable since this area is pretty much heaven on earth.
A little while after we came back to the campground, the weather decided to live up to the forecast and it started raining (but with the rain came rainbows, huzzah). We retreated to our respective snooze pods and waited to hike out until the morning, the promise of lunch at Black’s in Whistler motivating our every step. Best weekend of the year so far!