Ode to the Uphill Battle


We set out on what we thought was a 10 mile round trip hike to Amphitheater Lake in Grand Tetons National Park that would takes us about 5 hours if we sat and enjoyed our picnic lunch at the top. 

Key word: thought.

The path to Amphitheater Lake was an uphill battle that guided groups take on with gusto, walking sticks in hand and packs strapped to their backs. We took it on our own in hiking boots and with one water pack. The first mile was smooth through a meadow and into a forested area. We kept our bear spray close to our side and clapped to make our presence known. It was about a mile in that we hit switchbacks up the mountain. Each turn we huffed and puffed a little harder. It wasn’t long into the hike that we used each turn as an opportunity to take in the views (aka to catch our breath). Passerbys heading down the mountain became our guide, redirecting us to what would be an even better view, Delta Lake. They warned us that it was a rocky path and a steep incline, some of which had been eroded by rushing rain water. We took their word after a quick 5 minute conversation and off we went. We traversed through bouldering rocks as we struggled to make out where the path was that we needed to follow.

As we “took in the view” for the 28th time, it dawned on me how gentle I was with myself. I took time to catch my breath and to find my footing. I took time, period.

It dawned on me how I have been on many other uphill journeys. The uphill journeys I often encounter are usually mental rather than physical. In these uphill hikes I tackle in my mind, I don’t leave time to catch my breath or find my footing. I don’t take time to take in the view, the journey, or to hear out different perspectives on the way. I don’t take time for anything other than my plan. I huff and I puff and only blow myself down.

You see, my body is easier to say no to - no more pushing or stretching or hurting. Stop and be still. My mind doesn’t seem to work that way, there is no off switch or slow motion button. When my uphill journey is mental, I find it a lot harder to give myself the grace and patience I willingly give myself on this physical journey up the mountain. I find it harder to pause and be still in my thoughts the way I pause to catch my breath and take in the view. 

What we thought was a 5 hour, 10 mile grueling hike to Amphitheater Lake turned into an 8 hour, 10 mile peaceful hike to Delta Lake. Atop a boulder poking out of the Caribbean blue water, we napped for a quick two hours after enjoying our well-deserves PB & J sandwiches.

As I embark on both literal and metaphorical hikes I don’t need to be thinking about how long it will take me or where exactly I will end up. My thought and action on the switchback of the mountain and my mind is now to be gentle. To take time.

To a purposeful adventure,


Katie O'Connel