The wilderness is a powerful teacher. From backpacking places close to home as the Boundary Waters, and as far from home as California and Alaska, I have learned many powerful lessons. The most important realization is the power of optimism. On day 25 of my 28 day backpack in California, we began the 16 hour battle against the towering, 14,162 ft. Mount Shasta.
At first Shasta didn't seem that hard, and I knew I was in shape, physically, and hopefully mentally. As we continued, the grueling climb; the mountain steepened as we became wearier, and our feet began to slip. Yet we pressed on harder. At one point my friend, Brea, told us she couldn't make it, but we all gave her a pep talk and told her she couldn't quit at this point, after training for this climb so long. Brea even ended up summating the mountain as one of the first. .
What one can't comprehend is the way our group fed off each others" spirits. While feeding off someone else's energy, I became more optimistic, which in turn, boosted someone else's spirits, and it continued like a chain reaction. It's hard to feel discouraged when your friend says, "Hey Mike, look how far we've climbed, and just imagine the view from the top!" I knew that when I reached that peak, no matter how difficult it had been, the effort would be worth it. By being optimistic not only was summating easier, it was much more memorable. I really took that day to heart, especially how much power optimism really has.
Looking back at my experiences before and after that trip, and namely that day, I realize how much happier I have been because I make myself optimistic. This perspective developed even further last summer when I was backpacking in Alaska for 40 days. An unexpected problem occurred when supposedly already long day turned into 17 hours of hiking and arriving into camp at 3:30 AM. During the final hours of the day two other kids and I were still moving really fast, but we decided we should slow down and hike with the others.