Giving thanks: a quiet end to the #52hike challenge

I started this post the night before Thanksgiving, but it got too busy to finish it. Now it’s the day after Thanksgiving and the serenity of that moment is gone, but the sentiments remain.

Here on the this Thanksgiving eve, before the Turkey Trots and family visits…after the food prep is done and Sadie and I can enjoy our freshly vacuumed living room and pretty Christmas tree, I’m finding myself finally, at last, feeling what the Thanksgiving spirit should equal: GRATITUDE.

Do any of you remember the #52hikechallenge that I started back in 2018? If you don’t, I don’t blame you; I haven’t talked about it for a while. It never became the community/adventure journal that I wanted it to be. Moving to the flatness of the beach didn’t help, either. I finished it without fanfare because, well, it just didn’t really seem to matter to anyone other than me. If I’m honest, the construct of the challenge didn’t even really matter that much to me; it’s a given that I’ll get out and hike, challenges or not.

But I did keep a record of my last few hikes:

Hike 40: The Living Room, aka Jodi’s Utah meltdown
Hike 41: Donut Falls, a lovely little hike where I got to use my microspikes in the snow
Hike 42: Delicate Arch, take 3
Hike 43: Hickman Bridge hike, Canyonlands National Park
Hike 44: Cassidy Arch and the Grand Wash, also in Canyonlands
(Hikes 41-44 are chronicled here)
Hike 45: First Landing State Park Valor Run course
Hike: 46: Jordan Bridge, “training” hike
Hike 47: Valley of the Five Lakes, Jasper National Park
Hike 48: Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park
Hike 49: Edith Cavell Meadows Trail, Jasper National Park
Hike 50: Sulpher Skyline Trail, Jasper National Park
Hike 51: Bertha Falls and the US Border, Waterton Lakes National Park
Hike 52:  Ptarmigan Falls, Glacier National Park

Looking at this list, and remembering all the pictures and adventures in each of these hikes makes me shake my head at how lucky I am.

Hike 52 came midway through an epic two-week adventure in Canada that still feels a bit like a dream as in did I really do that and can we go back right this very second, please? Hike 52 was supposed to be a 17K trek in Waterton Lakes Park that’s one of the best in Canada, but rain sent us south into Montana and Glacier National Park instead. We did an easy, quiet, misty, lovely little hike to a pretty place called Ptarmigan Falls.

It was a quiet hike on a quiet day, and I didn’t even realize it was hike 52 until we were nearly done. I guess you could say the #52hike challenge went out with less than a bang. So why am I including it in this gratitude essay?

I think it’s because the 20 months that it took me to complete the challenge were a mixed bag, personally, and as I look back at the 52 hikes that were part of that mixed bag, they represent the things I love most about my life, and that I’m the most grateful for. Even when I was tired and unhealthy and gloomy and stressed, the hikes of the last two years were always there to remind me what mattered, and who matters:

Friends: The folks who often have more faith in me than I do in myself
Family: My steadfast fans, who let me drag them into my outdoor adventures, even if they’re skeptical
Sadie: My loyal pooch, who never strays too far from my orbit
Views: Vistas and horizons and rippling landscapes that fill up my soul as nothing else can
Nature: Those gorgeous places that need our protection even as we enjoy them
Health: A state of being where my body and I are working together to get better

That I am healthy enough, prosperous enough, and supported enough to do something like the 52 Hike Challenge is a blessing and a joy.  Since it’s Thanksgiving, I thought I’d end by mentioning that my hikes over the past years have taken me all over the country, and everywhere I’ve visited, I’ve learned a bit about the people who lived on the land long before my ancestors arrived on the scene. Sacred, desert spaces in Utah, healing rivers and waterfalls in Canada, all the different tribes that lived in New England forests…there’s a lot of history folded into those places.

For my first Virginia Thanksgiving , it’s worth remembering hike 37 of the challenge, which took me onto the nearby land of the Nansemond Indian Tribe, whose descendants lived in Virginia before English settlers arrived. There’s a long and violent history of the settler-native relationship going back to the 1600s, but I am grateful that the members of the tribe we met back in March are still maintaining their land and doing their best to educate their fellow Virginians about their tribe and the history of the land we call home. And I’m so, so grateful that I am able to visit these spaces.

Mostly, I’m grateful to be healthy enough to enjoy this life that I’m living, and that my two feet have taken me to so many wonderful places, taught me so much about our country, and allowed me to share so many magical moments with the important people in my life.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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