Climbing Mt. Baldy

We walked into the dark, cool interior of the Mt. Baldy visitor center feeling the anticipation of the unknown. Neither of us had ever climbed a mountain of this elevation, this intense... yet we intuitively knew it would strengthen and renew our bond in a completely different way.  After 17 years of marriage, the births of our three children, the unfathomable loss of a parent way too soon, multiple homes, travels to far away places, a multitude of memories, ups and downs, crushing loss and victories, tears and joy, we've experienced a lot and yet we are just getting started in so many ways - a refresh was just what we needed as a couple.

When I met Jerold at a friend's wedding 21 years ago, it would have never occured to me to think this far ahead, to anticipate that the handsome guy, fresh out of college, smart as a whip would become my life partner. I remember talking to him and thinking that he was so different than any other guy I had ever met. I was at a point in my life that I was okay with not getting married - I couldn't imagine finding someone that would truly understand me and would be up for the life journey that I had in mind. Obviously God had other plans when Jerold sat next to me at the wedding reception (cliche, I know. If you would have told me that I would meet my husband at a summer weekend wedding, I would have laughed at you) and struck up an intelligent conversation (he's really smart, I thought to myself. Score one). I walked away at the end of the evening impressed and not hopeful in the least. Weddings can be a fantasy world and the reality was he lived hundreds of miles away, living a different life and I had no plan of ever seeing him again. Well, he called me the next day and now here we are... standing in a small mountain town about to begin yet another crazy experience together.
The park ranger at the front desk handed us a detailed map and explained the various trail options to make it the to top of the mountain. As I put my finger on the trail that began from right outside the door, she raised her eyebrows and said: "This is the most strenuous hike up to the top - are you sure you want to do this?" I admit, my ego felt the slighest bruising and I thought: "Does she really think we can't do it? Don't we look like fit bad asses that can do anything?" Jerold brought me back down to earth and mentioned that she was just doing her job and part of that was to make sure that people knew what they were getting themselves into.
We walked out into the sunshine and I say to Jerold: "Look, I think we should talk about this. I feel like I'm the one getting us into crazy situations, so I am okay with driving up halfway and taking the shorter route. We'll still make it to the top of the mountain, it will simply be an easier way of getting there." In the end we agreed that this is what we came for - no shortcuts... let's go big or go home.

Before I get into the heart of our adventure, I want to talk about the fantastic gear we received from Brooks Running that completely prepared us for this journey. Through my partnership wth Brooks, I was able to choose someone special in my life to receive a full head to toe outfit. I chose Jerold because he is the biggest supporter of my running, he never doubts my potential (even when I doubt myself) and he has this way of lifting me up with his words of encouragement. Bonus - he needed new workout gear desperately....

I gave Jerold his present the day before and thought he wouldn't be surprised (I may have asked for his shoe size), but he was so suprised and happy with everything and he really loved the new trail running shoes!

As we began our journey, the climb up was immediate and right down to business. We launched into uninterrupted conversation right away, amazed by the fact that we were alone and there was no one around asking for Mommmy or Daddy. The first 20 minutes we talked non stop about our kids, the fact that we would already be turning around if they were with us, we would never bring them in the first place and whether Josh could conquer this mountain (he is 11 and yes, he could with some experience on a lot of shorter mountain climbs first). I couldn't believe how remote the trail was and we finally ran into two ladies who had done a short portion and were turning around to head back. We kept climbing, completely by ourselves surrounded by nature.

The climb was intense, we had been warned about rattlesnakes, so my eyes were peeled for them and yet I couldn't believe how lucky we were to witness this mountain beauty, fresh air and sunshine. This is my happy place.

Two hours into the hike, we stopped for lunch at the most beautiful spot. It boasted spectacular views and a perfect large flat rock, perfect for two people to enjoy a meal.

We spent about 15 minutes for lunch and then we were off again, excited about reaching the top and having no idea how long it would take us to reach it.

Yes, it is as remote as it looks in these photos, we had zero cell service and at one point I asked Jerold what would happen if we needed to protect ourselves. He had a swiss army knife and that was all we had other than food and water which was quickly dwindling.

There were hard sections and there were points where I felt it was easier to run than hike.

We were about 4 hours into our journey at this point and all said and done it took us just over 5 hours to reach the top. 

There were sections where it seemed like we would never get there.

Finally, we arrived. 10,064 feet  - we made it.

We both were a little speechless when we reached the top and placed our feet on the plaque. Such a symbol that life is a uphill, rocky journey - so beautiful and challenging, yet so worth every step.

We hung out at the top for a half hour and then realized what goes up, must come down and we had a very long journey to get home again.

There wasn't much talking on the way back, just like grunts and a few words of encouragement. A few rest breaks (going downhill is hard), but not many as the sun was sinking pretty quickly and there was no way we were going to be stuck in the dark. We ran into a couple on their way up (probably about 6 PM) and they were going to sleep up at the top, which I thought would be really adventurous to do that someday... I imagine the sunrise is priceless.
I could have kissed our car when we finally made it back - the best feeling in the whole world and one of the hardest things I've ever done. I can see why people run a marathon and say never again!
Ended the night with burgers and beer, which we kept talking about on the way down that mountain, so to finally sink our teeth into that juicy burger, we felt like we were in heaven.

Dirt still under my nails = I worked hard today. 

Jerold and I both agreed that this was the perfect way to celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary. It is such a metaphor for our life - the climb up the mountain is relentless, tough, rocky and precarious, but the experiences and incredible views along the way make it worth every difficult moment.

The great thing about our marriage is... we're just getting to the good part.

Do awesome things.


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