I had an interesting conversation recently with two gentleman who work in the entertainment industry. Our talk was about entertainment, but in the fashion of most of my conversations, our chatter took a side trip to the subject of hiking. I can’t remember how the sub-topic was introduced this time, but that’s not really important. What’s important to note here is my attitude about the subject at the time of this discussion, which I didn’t realize was poison until later that day, long after the gentlemen and I had parted ways and I was safely tucked away in the confines of my modest home.
One of the men asked me what my favorite hike was and I expressed my constant intrigue of Mt. Whitney and shared that I just climbed the mountain a few weeks ago. I instantly found myself in front of a captive audience as both men were suddenly awestruck. One of them said that his girlfriend is a Whitney fanatic and keeps trying to get him to climb it, but he doesn’t feel up to it. I encouraged him to do it at least once in his lifetime because it is truly an epic experience.
Before the hiking diversion concluded, one man mentioned a local hike, Runyon Canyon, which avid hikers like myself hardly consider a hike. The three of us joked about it and then I brought up another hike which is practically in my backyard and very similar to Runyon Canyon. These hikes are local, so they leave a lot to be desired in terms of mileage and elevation gain. Plus, you don’t get that coveted wilderness experience that warrants a road trip outside the city limits. What you do get are crowds, droves of city slickers of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, fitness levels, you name it. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a few celebs getting in a workout.
As I sat in the office joking with the two men about the people who call Runyon Canyon a hike, a fleeting memory began to resurface. The memory that, not long ago, I was one of those people who rated a place like Runyon Canyon as a serious hike. Not long ago, I struggled to walk more than two miles on a relatively flat trail. Not long ago, I didn’t even know Mt. Whitney existed, nor did I have any desire to climb something that tall. Not long ago, I was deathly afraid of heights and had to be literally coached up the Half Dome cables at Yosemite. Not long ago, I wasn’t even a hiker. Period. My, how quickly I forget.
I was invited to the taping of a TV show last year at Runyon Canyon. This show was hosted by a previous winner of The Biggest Loser. The purpose of the show is to inspire and encourage a healthy way of living, including proper diet and exercise. One of the participants in the hike was an obese woman who made regular appearances on the show as she continued her journey toward weight loss. That she even showed up to attempt this hike was monumental as she weighed more than 300 pounds, down from over 400. Each time she reached a waypoint on the trail we all waited for her and cheered when she arrived. She was amazing to watch.
When I put it all into perspective, I cringed at the snobbery that I allowed into my heart and felt awful for laughing and joking about people calling shorter trails with minimal elevation gain hikes. We all have different abilities and, although some of us might believe otherwise, we did not emerge from the comfort of our mothers’ wombs sporting hiking boots. Each and every one of us had to learn to walk just as we learned to hike. We didn’t start out climbing Everest, Whitney, Denali or K2. We mastered the “ant hills” first. Some of us walk to the top of the hill at the end of our block and back and call that a big hike. For some, that’s enough. For others, that may be a step on the grand stair master to something bigger.
No one should be mocked because of the level they’re at. I would even venture to say that even the couch potatoes shouldn’t be criticized because even they are subject to change. There’s always hope for everyone as long as they are living, breathing and have a heart beat. We must always remember where we started on our journey and celebrate others when they join us at the next waypoint.