I’ve always loved hiking, but I have a few setbacks when it comes to my health, so there is a fine line between “can” do and “absolutely should not” do. I have been drawing the line so firmly in the sand for the last few years that I have never really tested myself. A part of me is afraid of tackling these mountains because I don’t want to put myself in the hospital, but without the push, I feel as if I’m missing out on life.
Next month, Scott and I have the opportunity to hike into Havasupai in the Grand Canyon. It is a permit-only hike and something that I have wanted to do since I moved to Arizona in 2008. The hitch has always been 1. Getting the permits, and 2. Whether my health issues will allow me to tackle the strenuous hike and still be living afterward. Honestly, I’m worried. I can go mile for mile on flat ground, but it’s the climb out of the canyon that has me wondering if I can really do it. So, Scott and I are putting that question to the test.
The Mount Woodson hike is actually my third hike in two weeks. Two weekends ago, we tackled Cowles Mountain (mile up switchbacks, mile down) and earlier this week, I did a five-mile loop through Rose Canyon, up steep hills through University City neighborhoods, back into Rose Canyon and back up through the La Jolla Colony area. Both were nice hikes and worth it, but I still didn’t feel challenged.
Enter hike three, Mount Woodson. From the Poway Lake Park parking lot to the top it is 3.7 miles of switchbacks, steep terrain and lots of sun. There isn’t much shade, it’s dusty, and it’s a hike I’m glad we didn’t bring Bandit on (can’t imagine hiking this in a fur coat). Most of the way up, I wished I had just stayed home.
To make life even tougher for me, my asthma was in full flare up because of the spring pollen, and the sun was up and roasting, and the temperature also messes with my breathing. I piecemealed my way along the trail, stopping repeatedly to catch my breath and do what I needed to in order to make it just a bit farther. We hiked and hiked and hiked, and then I saw the sign for 1.1 miles to the summit, and I felt like we should have covered that distance and then some already.
I’ll admit, when I saw that sign, I looked at Scott and told him, I don’t think I’m going to make it — because the mountain is big, the mind fears the climb, and the body is often weak. However, when we visit Havasupai, the hardest part is going to be the climb out of the canyon, and there won’t be any turning back because I can’t hack it. So, I kept going with the idea in mind that turning back was not an option.
Most people stop at Potato Chip Rock, which is actually .2 miles from the top, but Scott and I climbed to the summit. When I got there, I wanted to dance like a fool. I had climbed the mountain. I had kept going when I wanted to go back, and I didn’t stop when I felt like I couldn’t go on.
It may not seem like much, but sometimes — while hiking and in life — you just have to work past the road blocks that keep you from the top.
With more hikes on our list to prepare me for the trek to Havasupai, I know I’ll be ready for it. I just can’t let the mountain get in my way.
Hike: Mount Woodson
From Lake Poway Park parking lot to peak top (not Potato Chip Rock): 3.7 miles
Round trip: 7.4 miles
Rated: Strenuous with steep grades and switchbacks, and limited shade
Time: approximately 3.5 hours