What if? What if? What if?
What a difference a week makes.
Last week I decided this upcoming hike was going to be too much for me and I wasn't going to do it. With three weeks before I leave, I was on the verge of an honest to goodness panic attack with a tight chest and shortness of breath, freaking out about starting the Nüümü Poyo aka John Muir Trail on August 20th. It had suddenly dawned on me how long this trail is (211 miles plus 30ish more) and how long I'd be out there (24 days). I thought about how hard it would be on my body and how much mental stamina I will need. And mostly I realized how scared I was to do it alone. I started researching alternative day hikes in the Eastern Sierras and wondered how I could salvage my trip.
My mind was full of What If's.
What if I get hurt? What if I don't bring the right gear? What if I don't bring enough food? What if I bring too much food? What if a bear comes into camp at night? What if the stream crossings are still too high? What if I get out there and I realize I can't do it? What if I have to bail and can't finish the trail?
Then I thought of another What If: what if I got out there and loved it. What if I started hiking and I felt so strong and I wanted to keep going. What if I faced my fears and attempted this hike even though I'm still scared. What if I missed out on an amazing adventure because I doubted myself?
I realized that I now had a new fear that was trumping all of the others: I was afraid of not trying. The thought of getting out there for a shorter hike or a 3-5 day backpacking trip only to realize that I can do this and I want to continue when I can't because I already changed my plans, this made my heart hurt even more. In that moment I realized, I still want to try to do this.
Sure I still might bring the wrong gear, or bring too much food, or have to deal with difficult stream crossings, and I'll probably have bouts of fear while hiking and camping by myself. And I might get out there and after a week realize, you know what, this whole thru hiking thing isn't for me.
And that will still be ok because at least I tried.
A mentor told me this week, "for this trip you shouldn't associate success with finishing the trail." Just taking the first step on the trail means I've been successful. It means that I didn't let fear stop me from giving it my best shot. It didn't stop me from seeing what I can do. After all, every hike is completed by taking one step, then another. That's all I can do. Take the Nüümü Poyo one step at a time, one mile at a time, one pass at a time.
I'm ready to go out and try.