The old saying, “No Pain, No Gain” is modified on the AT to “No Pain, No Gain – No Rain, No Maine.” I understood before stepping out from Springer Mountain that adversity was just around the bend in the trail. The weather, the food, the shelters, and the terrain were all potential sources of adversity. Being soaked to the bone only to have a cold wind chill your shirt so it felt like you were wearing a Frosty the Snowman costume, was only an hour’s worth of temperature change away. Finding yourself surrounded by a baseball team worth of smelly men, all snoring a chorus of the Hall of the Mountain King was going to be a pretty common experience in the shelters of the AT. Rain mixed with rain would transform the trail into rivers of cascading precipitation. Adversity would be a reality.
Knowing that and still wanting to make this journey, I decided that I needed to embrace adversity. So I created a motivational speech for myself. The speech was short and rather redundant but I found it most effective. The speech consisted of four words repeated over and over until I believed its truth. No Adversity, No Adventure…No Adversity, No Adventure.
I tried my best to prepare for the AT by purposely facing adversity and attempting to embrace the challenges as an exciting part of the adventure. I planned an eight mile hike on a day that had a 100% change of rain. It rained and it poured and the MetroPark creeks filled to overflowing with torrents of fresh rain water. I put my rain gear on and attached my rain cover to my backpack and headed for the trail. I had a blast! I was the only idiot in the park and I sloshed through trail and waded through ponds covering the trail. At the end of the day, however I got to get in my car and return home. On the drive I wondered if I could embrace the adversity if I had to pitch my tent, try to dry off and go to sleep after the deluge of the heavens.
I intentionally hiked fourteen miles on a trail that I knew was going to be intensely muddy. I was determined not to avoid the mud but to hike right down the middle of the trail. I slipped going uphill and went to my knees several times, I tried to ski down the descents only to find myself visiting the mud on my posterior in a spectacular butt-drop… several times. But I decided before getting out my car, that I was going to embrace the difficulties with laughter. And I did. I had the best time pretending that I was a small boy playing in the mud. No Adversity, No Adventure.
I also experienced a few situations of adversity that I had not planned. Like the overnight backcountry camp site I reserved. Upon arrival I found the site quite acceptable and located beside a nice pond. However, dusk revealed that I was not alone. There were 10,000 (plus or minus five) frogs that called the pond home. According to Wikipedia (my source for answering stuff like this), “most camouflaged frogs are nocturnal; during the day, they seek out a position where they can blend into the background and remain undetected.” I came to the conclusion that this pond was the training ground for camouflaged reptiles. As the sun went down, the time of hiding was over and the frogs began to celebrate. I began to laugh knowing that a good night sleep was going to be impossible. The later it got, the louder the croaking became. I began to try to sing with them, I conducted them like a giant choir singing a famous aria of Verdi or Wagner, and I told them jokes pretending that their response was just their way of laughing uncontrollably. In reality, I did not sleep much at all and my frustration level did elevate. But when I got home from the weekend out, the first story I told my wife was about the singing frogs and their eight hur concert. Why? Because it was the best story of the adventure. The bouquet of wild flows in the open meadow was beautiful and the bridge over the running brook was worthy of a picture but nothing compared to the frogs – they were unique, they were a surprise, they were a challenge. No Adversity, No Adventure.
So it is in life. The most exciting times in our day to day experience can be often be during those times of adversity. The resistance, the hurdle, the blockade, or the problem can be filled with adventure and challenge. Embrace the situation and find the adventure. Let the adrenaline of adversity pump the excitement of adventure in to your life. Hike it forward!
Camouflage frog photo: https://delaneywma.wordpress.com/tag/frog-2/