My husband and I have been together fourteen years and married for twelve; within the last few years, I’ve watched his interest in the outdoors grow significantly. Our definitions of outdoor adventures flow in different directions, though. He’s into via ferettas and steep hikes with exposed trails, and I’m into the “play it safe” trails where I can enjoy nature without having a mini heart attack. What I’m learning at this point in our marriage is that I really can’t ask him not to do some adventure just because it’s something I’d be fearful of doing.
Recently, we spent four nights in a cabin without WiFi just outside Zion National Park.
I believe his fasciation with visiting Zion stemmed from wanting to climb Angels Landing. This particular hike is one with long drop-offs and is not recommended for those fearful of heights and young children. You gain over 1,400 feet in elevation, and it’s a hike that might soon go to a lottery system like Yosemite’s Half Dome. He didn’t even ask if I’d be interested in taking the plunge because of my fear of heights (a huge nope from me). Luckily, his brother was able to take time off from work to make the climb with him.
I initially planned on spending the morning of their hike inside the cabin with the kids. I thought I’d read aloud from my purchases at the park’s gift shop before popping in a couple of the cabin’s VHS until I heard the key in the door. To be honest, navigating the tunnels and switchbacks on the way down to the visitor’s center made me a little queasy. Hiking on my own with the three kids in this very busy national park made me just a little bit queasier.
I had a very fortunate change of heart. We decided to hike.
The kids and I navigate our backyard national park (Joshua Tree) all the time without dad. I’d waited almost seventeen years to return to Zion, and I didn’t want to spend even one morning in the cabin when there was so much to be explored.
That Saturday, while the menfolk climbed Angels Landing, the kids and I navigated the park’s crowded Saturday shuttle system and wrapped up our third hike a bit after lunchtime. We were met with such praise, encouragement, and smiles from other hikers and bicyclists that my heart bloomed exponentially.
This might be considered a drop in the pan for some mamas, but for me it meant everything. I said yes within my abilities, and the kids felt so proud that they’d done three trails without dad.
My first trip to Zion is remembered by slices of fresh bumbleberry pie, horseback riding near bison, a petting zoo where I got to feed the beautiful bison (the attraction shut down not too far after), steep hikes, and those beautiful sandstones. I was much more adventurous back then, but that’s OK. There are so many things I’m going to take away from this trip and that change of heart, third hike.
The first: know your limitations but don’t let them limit you.
Acknowledging my limitations and encouraging myself within my own reason is important. On our last evening, I attempted the Canyon Overlook Trail with my husband and middle child. We trekked at least three-quarters of the way before I admitted I couldn’t go any further. If I’m too scared to enjoy a trail, it’s better for me to turn around than turn three shades of white trying to finish it. No shame.
The second: it is OK to have different interests.
It doesn’t mean we’re growing apart if one of us is growing an interest the other doesn’t share. It’s been a healthy way to nourish our own souls and individuality.
The third: be yourself and know yourself.
This somewhat goes along with the first, but I think it’s important. I am what I am, and I refuse to pretend I’m something I’m not. My trip to the national park was just as much about drinking coffee from FeelLove, roasting s’mores, and reading my gift shop books in the middle of the woods, as it was about trekking about those easy and moderate trails. In whatever you do, do simply what you love.
Say yes, and take the hike. You can always turn around or tread back, if you need to and without any shame.