When life is not as advertised.

Black Butte Mtn

How do you handle the “not as advertised” moments in life?

We were on vacation last week with family in Sisters, OR. We were non-stop summer action; hiking, rafting, biking, swimming, celebrating, and a few moments here and there for just sitting. The day before we left we were deciding on a hike, I was being very careful to not vote for one that would “kill” me (I really should know better than to have that be my focus). I found a nice description in the local must do hikes list – beautiful view, part of the hike on sun exposed south slope so bring water or go early, easy to moderate 3.8 miles. Sounds great right? So great that the twenty something crowd decided it was too easy so they departed for a 7 mile hike of moderate+ intensity. Based on their response I was actually thinking the hike we chose might not even be “legit” and then I decided that would be fine, my body could use an easy nature outing respite.

The drive to the trailhead got more and more interesting and I was starting to think we were on to a nice hike that might not make it seem like we wimped out. Once we left the pavement, we had serious washboard one and a half lane to rugged rocky path and all of it climbing. I loved it and was still oblivious…got to the trailhead, put our day fee in the envelope and 6 of us were off.

Lovely start to the hike, fairly easy grade, in the shade, and I was still happily in the moment marching along. We live at sea level, we were starting the hike just over 4000 feet so I did mention to my fellow hikers as we left the trail head that there was a possibility that they might find my husband and I flopping around on the trail like fish out of water gasping for oxygen.

The trail continued to climb and I started negotiating with myself about the distance to the switch back that had to be coming any moment. I like to use the inevitable switch backs as an incremental mind and body goal as it represents the next lowest point before you start another climb. Take a little break, look around, get a drink, and start again to the next switch back. When it finally came it was insignificant and it was the only one and then we climbed and climbed and climbed. Climbing a trail that is a bit out of my comfort zone  and all of the mental negotiations it took to keep taking one step forward reminds me  of so many situations in life. If we can be aware of our inner dialogue, slow down and support ourselves through the process, believe in ourselves and keep taking one more step forward, we can accomplish amazing things.

We passed a few people coming down the mountain. A couple older than me by a good 10+ years so I again used one of my mental games to point out that they were still alive…so theoretically, I can do it too! And we climbed. We passed another couple and someone in our group asked how far to the top, they hesitated and then replied that we had a ways to go. How could that be? We had been climbing what felt like straight up since we left the truck! When the asker groaned, I was reminded of another mental game rule, it is better to stay in the moment, be present to right now and keep moving forward rather than constantly looking for the finish line and allowing mental and emotional fatigue to over imagine the difficulties that lie ahead. The climbing continued . I was using my best tracking skills to find signs of wildlife; foot prints, scat, hair, bones, or even better, the real critter. That is always a distraction that can transport me out of the physical challenge and into being caught up in curiosity and seeking. I did come across a pair of nut hatches early in the hike that had nested in a big stump near the ground and a couple of ravens flying over head and they were it!

It was so interesting to be aware of all of the choices I had to move through to accommodate the unexpected challenge of this hike and to find a positive, enjoyable way to experience it. It was refreshing to experience how quickly I could reset my mind’s perspective with just a few mental reminders.

I practiced staying in the moment, enjoying being in nature, appreciating the time with family, and loving my body for taking me up this mountain when I hadn’t prepared it well at all…and being grateful that the ad mentioned bringing water which I did do – Thank God.

Then I started thinking about all of the ads I have read and horses I have bought or worked with after being purchased from an ad and how often the horse (or life) and, in this case, the hike was “not as advertised” when we choose to look at it that way. I was thinking that if the ad had mentioned the ability to see wild flowers into the first week of August, I would have had a clue about the elevation. Or something about being prepared to take lots of breaks on the way up and that the summit would be worth the effort. Or that the “lookout” that was mentioned was actually a fire watch tower for the entire mountain region! Give me something to read between the lines on. After decades of experiencing horse ads, I can pretty much read one and tell you the story I think they are not telling. What would happen if the writer was just straight up? Something like this comes to mind: This hike is short but mighty in views, incredible photography opportunities, and physical challenge. You will gain 2500 feet in elevation over 2.1 miles. Some of the trail is fine soil and slippery along part of the steepest climb that is open to the downhill side. Frequent water breaks and a slow steady pace will get you to the top where you can see 360 degrees of unobstructed mountain views. Home on Black ButreExperience the commute the fire watchers make to work and see where they live at the top of the world when not in the tower. See the remnants of a fire that swept up one side within yards of the tower and left the other side of the mountain untouched. And pack a handful of unsalted peanuts for a friendly encounter with the resident chipmunks that relish the hiking season and will politely take a peanut from your hand.

This hike was worth the effort in every way and gave me the opportunity to remember what I am mentally and physically able to do, how emotional flexibility wins the race over physical strength when life turns out to be “not as advertised,” and to feel that sense of accomplishment that can only come when you are pushed out of your comfort zone.

It is easy to wish that life, hikes, horses, and husbands were as advertised and then again, where is the fun, adventure, and opportunity for growth in that? ; )


The comments from the twenty somethings about their hike; “I nearly died” to, “It was Awesome!” I can relate and I think the same person wrote the ad for their hike.


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