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Photo by Celia Mitchell (2015/16 Semester Photo Contest Entry), Indonesia Semester.

My Hiking Inspiration

Crossing the river before summiting 17,500 Pico Austria. Photo by Ella Williams (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest, 2nd Place), South America Semester.

In elementary school, my dad and I decided we would hike all of the fifty-four 14,000+ ft mountains in Colorado by the time I graduated high school.  While I will be graduating high school next June and we’ve only summited thirty of these peaks, this journey has still been integral to my growing up.  I am quite proud to call myself a hiker, and frankly thought myself to know it all about hiking.  I realize this is quite ignorant and close-minded, but it’s true.  That’s what made my final descent from our week-long adventure in the Andes so important.

As I turned my back on the snow-capped 20,000+ ft mountains that dwarfed my Colorado peaks, I realized that I had found a new purpose in hiking.  Before this trip, my desire to summit all fifty-four 14ers had molded my inspiration for hiking into a ‘cross-a-name-of-a-list’ mission.  I enjoyed seeing the views from over 14,000 feet, but my greatest feeling came from the validation that I got from eliminating that peak from the list of fifty-four.  The views were great, but being able to show off to others that I’d done it was better.  I’m forever grateful for our trip to the Andes for changing this perspective.

This trip has been pretty special.  I’ve had so many experiences with this group, including cooking dinners with my cooking group, talking with our guides Eduardo and Sinon, reaching a 16,000 ft pass and taking many memorable photos, seeing a turquoise blue lake created by a glacier, and being serenaded by a local harp and violin player.  This trip will provide me memories to last a lifetime, and the amazing thing is, we never summited any peak or crossed any name of any list, we just hiked together.

In not crossing off any name, I had to find a new purpose and joy in hiking on this trip, and I did.  I found a greater inspiration, one driven by an appreciation for the small things around me.  Driven by the jokes in the cooking tent, the sunsets over the treeless ridges, hearing the conversations in Quechua by our guides, and sharing all these moments with my newfound friends.

Although we never crossed any name of any list, this past week has given me memories and a inspiration for hiking that I was quite surprised to discover.  Hiking isn’t about saying you did it, it’s about taking in all the small and precious moments that you experience with your fellow trekkers and holding on to them until you move on, like I did when I turned my back on the snow-capped mountains for the last time.  For this I am thankful.

I hope I can carry this inspiration back with me to the Sangre de Cristos and Sawatch Range of Colorado when I hike with a different companion, my father.  That being said, I will carry the memories with my fellow Dragons forever.