That extra four miles is always the worst. Slogging through mud, almost being carried away by bugs, and falling hip deep into a marshy pool, you don’t understand how you missed the trail to the summit, but you’re too far into the woods at that point to do more than turn around. Finally, after trekking back up the mountain, again, you’ve added an extra four miles to what the hike was supposed to be. When you eventually find the right trail, the summit is still a couple of miles just out of reach. You’ve wasted too much time falling in stagnant water and hiking down into the valley on the other side of the ridge, that now you have to decide whether you have enough sunlight and water to finish off what you had started. You ask yourself, is it worth it, do I have the strength, the time?
No matter how far those extra steps are, the view from the top will be rewarding. You put in that extra blood and sweat to get you there, anything you do because of that will taste sweeter.
You have two options in hiking, in any adventure sport, and even in life; you can put in the work, or you can take the easy road. If you want to become better at something, get somewhere, or even just enhance your physical prowess, why wouldn’t you put in that extra effort. If you hold back, you won’t reach the summit, you won’t stand among the clouds.
That extra work is always worth it. It drives you toward where you want to go, where you need to go. It might be out of your way, or feel like it’s getting you nowhere, but without that extra mileage, you’re sure to stay the same. Breath in the pain, relish the burn in your muscles, power through the hours of stress and lack of sleep. That is what will get you places, that is what brings you closer to that horizon line.
Keep your eye on the prize, and use any time you can muster to put in that work. You may think you’ve failed, your muscles may burn, and you may want to give up, but think about all you have learned from that effort. You found what you want to do, and are willing to do to get it. Keep following those dreams, keep putting in the work, and you’ll get there eventually. You’ll crest that last boulder, and the peaks and valleys will stretch before you, vast and powerful, soaked in the sun.
There is always the hard choice between staying comfortable, and pushing your boundaries. Sometimes you step back and ask, how far is too far? Test those limits for yourself, find your balance, figure out who you are and what you want. Keep walking until you get there, if you don’t break your comfort zone, if you stay safe, and hold back from what may be a risky decision, you will never learn if it was possible.
I found that on a mountain ridge glancing between the sun and the trail to the summit. Water knocking on empty, too many miles left to return to my car, and less number of hours of sunlight left in the day, I made my decision.
Trust me, that extra four miles, it’s worth it.