Today I went for a hike with my 2-year old munchkin strapped to my back. I lumbered along steadily climbing up in elevation for 4 miles without resting until I reached our destination. Parents out there understand that when you’re hiking with a munchkin it’s easier to keep moving than it is to stop and unload a kiddo, wrangle said kiddo back into the backpack, etc.
As we hiked along I fed her raisins one by one while I leaned close to trees near the trail so that she could touch them along our hike. I explained how really big rocks are called boulders and she noticed that the sunshine makes your hair hot. As we kept trudging on I explained that we were hiking up to a beautiful lake and I told her how exciting it would be to stick our “tootsies” in the water when we finally arrived.
The closer we got the more my body was yelling at me to get the load off my back and to stop hiking uphill for a while. Lucky (or unlucky?) for me I’ve been conditioned through firefighting to push through discomfort and pain. Finally the moment arrived; we made it to Colchuck Lake in the Enchantments of Washington State.
The last time I had been to this lake I was about 6 months pregnant. As I hiked along the trail this time I was remembering how being pregnant created a different type of difficulty than what I was experiencing today. When I was pregnant it felt like I couldn’t breathe, as if someone was sitting on my chest while I was trying to hike uphill. This time around my legs felt out of “hiking shape” and the pack was digging in heavily to my hips as I continued pushing up the hill.
I think that all boils down to: Same hike, different experiences.
The munchkin and I made the turn toward the lake. I weaved through the trees and scurried over boulders to get us down to the water’s edge. I wasn’t able to reach my water bottle in the pack on our hike up so needless to say I was pretty excited to gulp down half of my water in one sitting. We kicked off our shoes and I scattered our lunch across the boulder we were sitting on as we absorbed our surroundings. Soon more and more hikers found our little oasis by the water’s edge and throughout all the people watching I did at the lake one group stood out to me and they continue to be stuck in my head like a carousel that keeps circling around.
They were a group of 6 hikers, all couples I believe. I chatted with them briefly and they were all perfectly friendly. They had big plans to jump off the boulder into the brisk, jade-colored alpine lake water. It made me wish that I was with someone else that could keep an eye on the munchkin while I plunged in too, but I settled for her and I standing in the water with our pants off.
Finally they had worked up the courage to take the plunge and out came the waterproof go-pro camera attached to a selfie stick. They jumped in with it one after the next. I kept hearing phrases like, “No put your arm out. Yeah, that looks cool if you do it like that.” “Awh man! I had the camera facing the wrong way. Well that was pointless!! Now I have to do it again.”
The munchkin was mesmerized by all the big splashes and laughed as they each took their turns. We finished our lunch, put our pants back on and talked about the mountain peak that serves as a stunning backdrop to the lake before I settled her back into the pack.
As I began hiking away from Colchuck Lake the group had sat down to eat their lunch and I couldn’t help but wonder if they were going to actually experience any of what they were doing or absorb the place they were in. I was witnessing a group of people using this amazing place in the wilderness, which takes real effort to reach as a backdrop for their Facebook feed.
They were taking staged photos and video of how much fun they were having all the while they forgot to actually have fun. It was startlingly noticeable. Not one mention of “wow this lake is gorgeous” or “what a beautiful day to be up here”. There was no inclination that they were even participating in the human experience. All eyes were fixated on the camera and nothing else.
I feel a loss of words about what to say regarding this disheartening epidemic that is taking our society by storm but here is my measly attempt at it.
Smile because you mean it not because someone pointed a camera in your general direction. Be where you are because you may never be in that space again. Feel your pain and figure out what it’s trying to tell you and above all else, live your life not the life you are trying to portray on social media outlets. It will be messy, disappointing, challenging and overwhelming but it will be real and incredibly worthwhile.
If by some off chance that nice group of hikers who forgot to have fun were to come across this blog post I’d like to share something with them; photos of the beautiful place they forgot to notice.
Absorb and enjoy.