Firsts / My Journey Into the Unknown

Written by: Susanne Menge
Susanne is a coach, writer, and speaker. She writes for HuffPo and loves playing in the outdoors. She loves laughing with her girls, witnessing transformation from fear to joy, and embarking on wild new adventures.

I have backpacked many times, with him. I’m strong, fit and highly capable, but in backpacking (and many other areas of my life) I had decided to defer to others.

Until the summer of 2014.  

I put dates on the calendar for me. I had 4 nights and 5 days to play, children were with my ex-husband, and I could do anything. I planned to return to the Maroon Bells but as the dates got closer I knew I didn’t need to go far from home. I knew I needed to trust myself right now, I knew I needed to stay open and move, from my center, not someone else’s knowing.  And, that was all I knew.

Summer was busy and by the fourth week in July I did not know anything more than the dates, July 30-August 3rd. I could have freaked out. I did at times, but a small voice inside reminded me I would find my way. I live in Boulder, Colorado and can walk 15 blocks to be in the foothills. All was well. 

A few days before my trip the skies let out the biggest rains we had seen in ages. I went to the Wilderness Permit office in Boulder the day before departure and she told me not to go out, the forecast was pure rain on all of her favorite forecasting sites. I listened. I adjusted. I said yes to the James Peak Wilderness where no permits are needed. I had a plan and an open mind. I bought a map of that area. I didn’t give up.

The next morning, rain poured. I was packed and ready yet decided to stay home. All dressed up and nowhere to go rang through me. I settled in to my quiet house. I listened to my heart, slowed wayyyy down. I was on vacation even though I wasn’t yet on the trail. I had permission to accomplish nothing; I rested, got a haircut, even got some work done!

By the end of the day on the 30th, there were breaks in the rain and I got clear, I was going the next morning, rain or shine. I was worth it.

Everything was already packed, so just after sunrise on July 31, I loaded the car and headed for Moffat Tunnel, 30 minutes away. I would stop at the hardware store in Nederland to buy a water bottle and rain poncho.  

I arrived at the trailhead, donned my pack, changed from flip-flops to running shoes and headed up the trail. Rain sprinkled my head. A smile crossed my face in combination with my eyes watering. I was so excited I could scream and so scared I was making a mistake. Could I really do this? Would it be ok? Could I trust myself this far to set out in the rain, to stay open to stopping if needed, to make decisions about my own safety in this weather, to be ok, even with all these unknowns?

Since I am sharing this now. You already know the answer. I ascended the South Boulder Creek Trail to the Continental Divide. Amongst low clouds and limited visibility I traversed the Divide, which has no trail but rather intermittent signposts. In sunny weather (I’ve been back since) one can often see the next signpost, but on this day, I didn’t have that luxury. I had to leave one signpost behind, not yet seeing the next.  

Along the Divide, thunder began cracking and I dropped off the ridge for a time while it passed, returning when if felt safe. Then, just when I thought I could take no more cold, wet, windy weather, the clouds broke enough for me to see Dead Man and Pump House Lakes. I was close to my destination.

I dropped down off the ridge toward the lakes and my ultimate destination, Corona Lake, as the sun started to warm my whole body (and mind).  I was in the home stretch, in awe of this day, and almost to my home for the next three nights.

I could tell a million stories about this adventure.

I have written pages about the fears I had to walk through to get myself through this. About the challenge of having a basic plan but no one to rely on but me. About the last day on my walk out when I missed the direct ‘social’ trail and walked in sobbing terrified tears over two long train trusses that felt like they were a million miles off the ground. (I thought they would collapse under me, yet in reality they held, well, trains!)

But those stories are the fuel for me to say it’s all worth it. I am worth it. You are worth it! 

Facing into the unknown and testing all of these edges gave me a strength, courage and capacity I had never known before.

Photos courtesy of Susanne Menge.