This past weekend, I headed out for a combination solo/girlfriend trip to the mountains. Just the right combination of what I needed, turns out.
The trip’s main intention was to scatter Brewer’s ashes in his final kitty resting place. I had initially checked out some cool Airbnbs across the state, but nothing really felt right. (I almost went with the goat farm in central Colorado, but alas, they were a three-night minimum, and I didn’t want to stay in that one spot for so long.) And so, I decided on my #1 top favorite hike of all time – West Maroon Pass from CB to Aspen.
Side note: Always do this hike CB to Aspen. Multiple reasons for this, ask me about it later, but it’s hands-down the best direction to go.
In case you’re not familiar, this is an eleven-ish mile hike from remote Crested Butte over a mountain pass and down into Aspen. In the middle of summer, it’s like walking through a wildflower paradise. Truly, something out of a fantasy movie. Or The Sound of Music. There is much frolicking involved.
Marty and I did this hike several years ago, and I just fell in love. We couldn’t quite figure out the logistics with his work this year, so when he had a work trip come up, it felt like the perfect opportunity to make it happen on my own. I enlisted the help of one of my best friends here in Denver for some logistical stuff, and she was wildly enthusiastic about the whole thing. Fabulous! Let the adventure begin.
I managed to snag a campsite at one of the most coveted campgrounds in CB Thursday through Sunday, and when I arrived, I literally got chills. It was just gorgeous! I took my time setting up camp just how I wanted it, did a little exploring, and settled in for the night all cozy in my mummy bag for an early wakeup call.
After a smooth trip to the trailhead, I started my hike and as expected, it was immediately breathtaking. Seriously, tears in my eyes. Pictures cannot capture this kind of beauty. It’s impossible. I felt electric. Totally whole.
About a mile in, I found the spot I had in mind for Brewer and spent a little time saying goodbye and settling him in. The perfect perch for a cat to enjoy for forever, I felt very at peace and ready to move on.
As I did, I enjoyed every footstep even more. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, the sun shining on those wildflowers to set them alight. Plenty of friendly people on the trial. Not too crowded at all. A healthy huff and puff from a challenging climb. Basically, the perfect environment to do exactly the kind of noticing and observation I love to do.
It’s no fun unless you take a detour every once in a while, y’know?
I smiled. Indeed, I thought to myself. There’s value in doing a little practical planning and preparation, certainly. But there’s infinitely more in allowing yourself to experience a little adventure in the moment. Life will hand you detours anyway, so how about going for a few of them intentionally?
Yes, it is! I’m just happy to be out here.
Me too, I said, and we all continued on our hike. But I smiled again thinking that, that awareness, that kind of gratitude to just.be.here. To be alive. It’s bringing tears to my eyes right now thinking about it again. In the hardest of moments, a pause, a quick look around, a breath to feel the life in you and all around you – it’s a small thing, but also, somehow, one of the biggest things. No matter how tough the day, I never want to forget that I’m happy to be here, living in the possibilities of one more day on this earth.
The most memorable field note of note happened when I passed a man, probably in his 70s, climbing up as I headed down. It was getting more crowded at this point, and after saying hello, he asked if I was with the group ahead of me. Nope, I said, I’m just me! He then said to me:
Well, then, you’re lucky.
I smiled hard at that one. Yes, I answered, I am.
Self-discovery is always worth the effort, though.
In the quiet moments after this friendly interaction, I thought of so many things. I wondered about this man’s life, who he was, what his family and friends and community looked like, if he had experienced loss, if he had always been so in touch with himself to be comfortable and content on his own.
I thought of my own experiences. How I’ve always had a strong sense of self, how it’s allowed me to live my life with intention. How comfortable and content I am on my own, how much I need that space and time. But also, how very much I value the friends and family and community I’ve built. I thought even of the little expressions of this – like how many people I know would never venture out for a big trip like this alone, and might also think I’m weird or brave for doing so. They’d depend on other people to distract from their fears or from spending any real time with themselves.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking that my self-knowledge, self-confidence, and independence were bad things, fault or weakness, or even a defense mechanism. But when I have time to reflect on it a little deeper, like during and after this hike, I understand it differently. I think of it more as a deep, inner knowing of my Self first and a comfort and reliance in that, which then allows me to have better, way more genuine, connections to the outside world and other people.
My relationship with my Self is a firm foundation.
My ability to know and trust myself in any time in my life, no matter what’s going on, what changes are happening, who I’m with if anyone at all, has always helped me to feel better, soothe my own anxiety, be more resilient, experience life more expansively, and ultimately build better relationships. I can’t really think of a time when I felt lonely or even isolated, even in the years I was most alone for the longest stretches, because I always had myself. It’s only in the times when I allowed someone outside myself to tell me who I was that I struggled.
In my experience, so many people I meet and clients I work with are struggling with exactly that. They’re living their lives for other people, and they’ve either lost touch with themselves, or never really had that strong connection in the first place. They do feel a little lonely. There’s no comfort or reliance to be had. And while it might seem counterintuitive, what’s missing isn’t other people or things, it’s that sense of self. Relationship with Self has to come first, has to be understood, healthy and supported, or everything else is muddled. It’s the reason why one of the very first things I do with all my clients is identity work.
At the AspireHer conference in June, I bought a little ring for myself. It’s one of those super cute, delicate pieces – a tiny, gold knot. It came with this note:
Knots often symbolize relationships. When it comes to mental wellness, the most important relationship you will ever build is the one you have with yourself.
Let this tiny Knot Ring symbolize your efforts to be kind and present with yourself, no matter where you are in your journey.
I now wear it every single day on the finger right next to my wedding ring. The two most important people in my world are me and my husband. The two most important relationships in my world are my relationship with my Self, and my relationship with him. And, of course, they’re also the two most complex, and rewarding.
I could write another 1500 words about just how rewarding, but suffice it to say that this weekend adventure does a really good job of encapsulating it. Having a strong enough sense of my Self to understand who I am, all the different parts of my identity, my strengths, my needs, and then trusting that enough to make choices and take actions that support it is the very best way to live a full and embodied life. In these short four days, I accomplished that completely. I relished every single second of time with nature and with myself, and I relished equally every single second of time with my great friend, and a whole bunch of other friendly strangers. Then, I relished every single second of my reunion with my wonderful husband upon returning home.
All this to say, it was an epic weekend. And though I spent plenty of time in the company of other folks, the time I spent alone was both necessary and (field) noteworthy. (Apologies and thanks to the really nice woman who offered to take a few pics of me and kept company with me for a mile or so before I casually dropped the conversation and picked up my pace.) The experience wouldn’t have been the same if it had been with anyone else. And so, yes, I do feel lucky that I’m just me.
For me, this was a powerful alignment and expression of Self. And that might look totally different for you, never having anything to do with a solo camp or hike. But no matter, I just wish for you to find it. Your sense of Self, that is, and your chosen expression and embodiment.
On the trail or anywhere else in your life that feels right, I hope you’ll create this luck for yourself too.
Helping folks foster their relationship to Self is my wheelhouse, friend. If you need some support in exploring that, email me grab some free chat time with me here.
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