Change is good. Change is hard.
My transition from a completely competency-based school to a school that’s still in transition has been a challenge. My students made measurable gains and rediscovered the joy in reading, but I still ended the year feeling defeated. And tired.
I just didn’t know how to deal.
So I went hiking.
I’m blessed to live in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, and even more blessed to live within ten miles of most of the trailheads in the Belknap Range. I discovered that I could earn a patch by hiking all twelve peaks in the Belknaps, so I did. In 23 days. Because I’m a psycho.
The mountains in the Belknaps are small, by New Hampshire standards, ranging from 2384′ (Belknap) to 1670′ (Anna). But small mountains can still be tough. Hiking is hard, even when the peak seems small.
I did about 75% of these peaks solo, and about a quarter with my husband. The hikes with my husband were great. We laughed and complained and sang stupid songs together. We ate granola bars and picked blueberries and danced together with our hiking poles.
My solo hikes were a little tougher, not because I’m afraid to hike alone; I don’t mind it at all.
But my phone died at the beginning of the month, and I was waiting for my map to arrive in the mail, so I had to hike these first peaks with handwritten directions and a compass, like ye olden days.
Sometimes, I had no clue where I was going and had to just figure it out. I had nobody to sing to, and nobody to laugh with. I had nobody to dance with but my hiking poles.
Yesterday, I hiked my last three peaks: Anna, Klem, and Mack.
9.3 miles. Alone.
Literally: I did not see another single person on the trail all day.
I started the journey up to Mt. Klem via the Round Pond Trail. One of the toughest things for me to do when hiking solo is to pace myself so I don’t burn too much energy too quickly. I am very bad at this.
I always try my hardest to move slowly, but I’m end-driven. I focus on a goal, and I (thoughtfully) get there as quickly as I can.
There was a beautiful view just before the summit, but when I got to the summit of Mt. Klem: nothing but trees.
I refueled on some blueberries, and continued onto Mt. Mack. I knew there wouldn’t be a view there either, but I was hopeful that I’d see some vistas on the way.
Once I got to Mack, I had a choice: I could hike 2.8 more miles out-and-back to my last peak in the Belknaps, Mt. Anna, or I could call it a day and head back to the car.
I’m nothing if not an overachieving psychopath, so I decided to keep going.
But as I started on this last leg, the trail started descending. Quickly.
Which meant that I’d have to climb Mack all over again on my way back.
I was all in, though. I sang songs to myself that included lyrics like, “I don’t want to climb this/damn mountain again/but I have to/if I want to go home!”
The descent continued. And continued. And finally, the trail started climbing again.
To another viewless summit.
The climb back up Mack was brutal. The trail was steep, and I was losing steam quickly. I had to force myself to take slow, baby steps, because otherwise, I knew I’d burn out.
I’ve never had to reclimb a peak I’ve already climbed on the same hike, and man, it was just as tough as you’d imagine it could be.
All of the same obstacles were there, and I had to navigate around them. But this time, I stumbled around a lot more. Because I pushed myself too hard at the start, I was tired.
I had the goal of conquering the Belknaps in a summer, and instead, I did it in 23 days.
As I hiked down to the parking lot yesterday, I thought about how much this last school year was like reclimbing Mt. Rand.
Because I’ve been teaching in a competency-based school for so long, I’d forgotten about how difficult the journey was to get there. I forgot about the obstacles, the challenges, and just how exhausting it can be. I forgot to move slowly, and to take baby steps.
I only remembered the view from the summit, and it was glorious.
As July comes to a close, I’m ready to continue this climb, because it’s what’s best for kids.
All the same obstacles will be there, and I’ll have to navigate them all over again.
There may not be beautiful vistas along the way (but I bet there will be).
I may have to rely on handwritten directions.
I may not even have anyone to sing and dance with.
But I know that it’s all up from here.