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Mountains and mole hills

Sometimes a goal can just come out of nowhere and surprise you. An achievement which is big and meaningful and perhaps you never truly realized was a goal.

This was something I discovered most recently on a hike with my children.

Both celebrating birthdays in June we took a trip to Tiburon where we boarded the ferry and set our sights on Angel Island. As chance would have it, it wasn’t until a third of the way up Sunset Trail enroute to Mount Livermore that my daughter and I realized it was almost six years to the day that we had first taken this hike.

It was June 2016 when I first took her and her brother on this beautiful trail as a Navigator assignment for this very magazine. Being the avid hiker, my son then (and now) was thrilled. My daughter then, not so much. As for myself, I was in premium shape at the time and loved the idea of combining work with family time, not to mention sharing this treasure of a spot with our readers.

The trail to the top of the island, known as Mount Livermore is not a steep climb for the most part. It is, however, long (a four-mile round trip) and does have its fair share of switchbacks with beautiful views from just about every vantage point.

Six years ago, it was torturous for my daughter – she was nine. 

This June, as she and I did the hike together, my son off ahead with his girlfriend, we laughed at the memory of how horrible it was for her.

It was a beautiful summer day the first time we set out on that trail and we had the same luck again six years later. The first time we arrived a bit under prepared by way of snacks and water; it’s a two-and-a-half-hour trek. This time, however, my backpack was set and the mountain was ours for the taking.

While we were a bit slower than my son and his girlfriend, she and I made the best of every curve this time around. Reminiscing on the drama she displayed in the final ascent, which is a bit steep, before we hit it. Her proclamation then, tear-filled and dramatic as she proclaimed to the whole family, “I hate hiking!”

Again, she was nine and openly would share “hiking’s not my thing,” but it was family time. Just as my son the hiker will join us on occasion for a 5k Family Fun Run, we can join him for an occasional hike.

Not one to raise a quitter, I pressed her forward encouraging her, while also reminding her we’d come too far to turn back. We would finish.

And finish we did, in spite of her pleas to end the torture; we got her to the top and took in the beauty of the bay as a family.

This time would be no different, or so I thought.

Laughing at the memory, I apologized about two thirds of the way up. She thanked me for pushing her nine-year-old self and marveled now at how it wasn’t really that hard. Oh sure, we had a few cranky muscles here and there as hiking uses different muscles than our regular activity, but all in all we were making better time than we had before.

Then we hit that final peak, the one that takes you to “the view,” the highest point, Mount Livermore. The same one where my daughter dropped to the ground pleading to turn around her first time through.

As we approached it, she took it like a champ, leaving mom in the dust, ready to put this demon to bed.

No longer in the same physical shape I was then and now six years older as well, with a few physical “issues” of my own it wasn’t as easy as it was then. Pausing a few times as I made that final climb, I became humbled and then I reflected.

Sometimes in life we get so busy simply getting through things that we forget to show ourselves the grace that we deserve. A simple thing we readily do for others, we rarely do for ourselves.

Looking down that hill, back at the bay with more of a climb ahead of me I reflected more on what I’m sharing now. I recognized that I was older, had just completed a final medical battle and was quite honestly grateful to be on the side of this mountain, regardless how long it took to reach that final point.

Standing in my silence, I heard my daughter calling me in the distance. The tables had turned, she was now cheering me on; she’d made it. As I came through the final bunch of bushes on the other side there they were. My duo and a new friend, six years and many achievements later, yet this one was big.

High fives were all around, photo memories captured and hugs for all.

“I did it mom!” my daughter shared as we embraced in a celebratory hug.

“Yes, you did, honey, and know what ... so did mom,” I responded.

As we began the descent, she and I reflected on how our life looked two short years before. My physical state much different than it is now. The medical challenges we faced as a family over the past two years and the gratitude that I was once again “well.”

The lesson when we reached the bottom was quite simple. That hike truly was never a “goal” for either one of us (or so we thought). Yet when we arrived on that 15th of June 2022 and hit the first steep incline, for the two of us, the challenge was on.

We each put some stuff behind us that day. The joy coming down that mountain was infectious. We laughed, celebrated and even danced … sweet victory. 

Life really can be funny and goals; they sure are fun to achieve. On to the next.