The Wonderland Trail. Just the name itself is daunting, and that’s why I want to hike it. “The Wonderland Trail is 93 miles long and encircles Mount Rainier. It is a strenuous hike with lots of elevation gain and loss, through lowland forests and valleys and into high alpine and sub-alpine areas.” (NPS) This sounds like my cup of tea.
My aspirations are, and always have been, lofty. I want to summit Mount St. Helens, the mountain in my childhood backyard. I want to camp every weekend for an entire summer. I want to backpack through the Pacific Crest trail. Among many other things, I’m even considering auditioning for Survivor (a TV show that strands you on an island in the middle of the ocean with no supplies and 19 other people for two months straight – sounds terrible, I know).
I yearn for adventure in my life. I climb up cliffs, trees, rocks—I fall down sometimes. I run 30-hour relay races that I’m out of shape for just for the thrill and comradery of the race. I love spontaneity and taking any and all free time to get myself outside. Spontaneity combined with an adventure-seeking lifestyle can get me in trouble sometimes: there’s a balance between recklessness and safety. I can’t lie, I have been on the reckless side many times, but I’m learning.
The longing that I have to live an adventurous lifestyle fuels my aspirations. But, there is a point where all of these aspirations are just that: aspirations frozen in time. I find myself wishing with all of my heart that I could do all of these things, but realizing that I can’t quite do them yet.
There are two big constraints that keep me from accomplishing the things I want: time and money. I have two jobs that I need to work in order to pay rent, so the time I am able to take off is limited. I have commitments to organizations and people, which means that in my free time I don’t always have time to be in nature. Money. I just graduated college and am finding myself in a less-than-favorable financial situation. I have to work to pay for my expenses, and doing these things I’ve mentioned above take money. It’s hard to save money while living in Seattle, and the gear and permits alone could run my savings dry.
Many share the same struggles as I do in getting outdoors, though some communities have even further lack of access (access is crucial to have dialogue about – I acknowledge that I have the privilege to use public lands easily. I wrote about it in another post, check it out).
I often find myself getting frustrated because I can’t go wild and be the adventurous person that I want to be. A few weeks ago I was badly in need of a reality check—I was sad that I don’t have as much time to go hiking anymore, and upset that many of my plans are put on hold until I can reasonably afford to work them out. After being upset for a while, I reminded myself that I don’t have to accomplish everything I want to in my life before I turn 23 years old. I have a lifetime to experience these things, and I’m already acting like I’ve run out of time because I haven’t experienced everything that I want to experience.
At times like these I need to remember that it’s okay to have things to work towards in the future; it’s okay to not yet be where you want to—that’s the point of goal setting. I used to hate when my teachers would make me set goals; I never knew what to say and I didn’t see a point, but now I do. Instead of looking at goals as a chore, you can look at them as dreams. What do you want to do in your wildest dreams?
A few weeks ago I had the chance to visit Mount Rainier and hike Carter Falls, a part of the Wonderland Trail. It was a surreal experience, yet exactly how I pictured it: tall trees, steep inclines, and beautiful rushing water alongside the trail. Carter Falls is only a few short miles of the 93-mile Wonderland Trail, but it was enough for me in that moment. I was in euphoria just knowing that my feet were stepping on this trail, doing something I had wanted to do for so long. Even though it was just a sliver, I’m grateful for the opportunity I was given through the In My Backyard program to take this trip.
Now that I’ve walked a part of the trail, I know that I need to go back, and I know that I can. But at the same time, I am okay with not going back for a while and truly taking the time I need to prepare for the trail. I know that working towards my wildest dreams will take time and careful planning, and that’s okay. Your dreams will always be there for you to work on; you won’t forget about them. Don’t focus so much on what you want to do in your future that you stop living in your present.