I could have stayed back in a warm house playing Scrabble. Instead, I hiked through brambles and briars and oh-my-god wind, ice and swamp to help (OK…watch) hunting man boyfriend take down his tree stand last Sunday. Colton warned me it wasn’t easy to get to, but you know me. In my mind, it was a quick hike through the woods, and I’ve hiked miles of woods. This would be a piece of cake, baby. Nah nah nah nah…fingers in my ears….let’s go!
We 4-wheeled down a muddy “road” to a point where there was too much water to go further.
“It’s 200 yards over there,” he said, pointing ahead over yards and yards of swamp.
I unzipped my fuzzy brown boots and put on Colton’s waterproof boots, which are two sizes too big, and curled my fingers into my fingerless gloves. 200 yards? No problem. I love a good winter hike.
Unbeknownst to me, however, Colton…super considerate guy that he is…decided that instead of going through the swamp, we’d hike around it because he thought it would be an easier hike for me. He truly had my best interests at heart. The problem was that he’d not gotten to his tree stand that way before and so we walked. And we walked. And we fought brambles. And broke lots of ice. And disturbed deer.
“How many more miles?” I whined, 20 minutes into our supposed 200-yard hike.
“It’s…it’s just over there…” he said.
Several more minutes and a million more brambles later…
“Do you know where we are?” I asked, pulling burrs out of my scarf and gloves. “Where’s your *@ing tree stand?”
I wasn’t happy. I had on too-big boots and inefficient gloves. Not to mention I’d been having a really good hair day, but the wind was raw and I had to put up my hood. It wouldn’t have mattered most days, but we were meeting my daughter and her boyfriend for lunch later and…and…well…you know. I didn’t want to look like I’d just walked through brambles and ice.
In my mind, I pissed and moaned, but it’s hard to stay focused on anger when you’re trying not to fall. So I stopped for a second and watched Colton walk several feet ahead of me. What was I mad about? That the plan in my head wasn’t the plan unfolding before me? Colton rerouted us because he honestly thought it would be an easier hike for me than to take me through the swamp (even though we were still in a swamp).
I took a deep breath and hiked on. It wasn’t a few minutes later that Colton pointed to a red tie around a tree.
“There it is!” he said.
That he could find it at all seemed a miracle to me. All woods look the same to me. If it weren’t for trail markers, I’d get lost on every hike. Colton had been hunting those woods for years and, while he hadn’t used the route we took to his tree stand before, he knew instinctually where it was and how to get there. He trusts his gut, one of the many things I admire about him.
He climbed the ladder attached to the tree and began disassembling his stand and umbrella. I held my breath, hoping he wouldn’t fall, wondering how I’d get him out of the woods if he did. Silently, he unstrapped, folded, and guided the stand to the ground, looking up only when I said I wanted to take a picture.
Once the ladder was down, he made an arm strap for both the stand and the ladder so he could carry them on his back through the woods.
I stuffed my jacket pocket with cables, a lock and a set of keys. I wore his safety strap around my neck.
We walked back to the truck directly, through the worst of the swamp. It was challenging, but we focused on each step, not thinking ahead to the next one. Break ice, balance, step. Lift opposite foot, break the ice, balance, step. Even when we saw the truck 50 yards away, we concentrated on the step ahead of us and not on how great it would be once we got there. (You can see where this is going, can’t you?)
No matter how good our intentions, when we meander into weight loss without a plan, it’s easy to get frustrated and lose sight of why we started. Sometimes the swamp is the better route. More difficult, yes, but definitely more efficient. The swamp can be our greatest teacher. One step, one pound at a time; seeing goal, but not striving emotionally or physically any faster to get there above and beyond that one step, that one pound at a time.
There will be brambles and there will be ice, but you knew that before you started. Dont’ be afraid of the swamp! With a good plan and good equipment, you can get anywhere you want to go.
(I feel a Howard Dean scream coming on…)