“Am I going to cross the mountains there?” I ask my husband, pointing up at a narrow pass in the granite range looming above us.
“Looks pretty high, doesn’t it,” he says, reading the nervousness in my voice. “Maybe you go around the side instead.” He gestures to the forested flank off to the left.
I’m doubtful. (And hopeful.)
I kiss him goodbye and he takes off in his truck on a bumpy 4x4 track, headed back to the farm for work. He’d just come out to camp the night. Just me and Mini, our dog, would be climbing the pass.
Fortunately, Mini, a spry beagle-fox terrier mix, is generally up for anything.
As I approach the mountain, it starts becoming clear that my trail will indeed take me straight up and over on the pass we had seen earlier.
It’s Day 3, the final day my last-minute backpacking trip last week on the Camí dels Bons Homes. The historic “Trail of Good Men” extends from my city of Berga, Spain, crossing the Pyrenees into France). My last challenge is to cross this mountain range in the Pre-Pyrenees to the next valley over.
My destination, some 13 miles (21 km) away, is a small mountain town called Gósol.
The morning is truly beautiful. The sun is already bright and intense. Yet in the shade of the forest and breeze, I can still savor the coolness leftover from night.
I feel strong and my pace quickens. Mini darts on and off the path, searching for animal tracks with her nose. It’s hard to say who’s happier.
I pass a pair of rock climbers. They are far above, calling back and forth as they navigate their climb. They are only focused on one another and the soaring rock wall in front of them.
We don’t meet anyone else on the trail. It’s just Mini and me, and the swallows swooping around their nests that are built high into the crevices of the rock walls now surrounding us.
Steadily, we go higher and higher. There are a few steep places, but now that I am actually on the trail, it’s not difficult.
I am even a little disappointed – it looks like I will be at the top within a half hour.
The views are majestic. I have one of those moments where I suddenly realize I’m in Spain, and that never in my life had I imagined that this is what Spain would look like (or that I would live here).
With little left to go to the top, I diverge from the trail toward a grassy patch deep in the shade of the stone walls. The perfect time for a break.
This is why I like backpacking alone.
I don’t climb mountains or log miles (now kilometers) just for the physical challenge.
Soaking in the beauty of nature, feeling my connection to this much greater world, and being reminded of my humble and simple place in it, is spiritual for me.
It renews me.
Outwardly, for some of my hiking companions, my appreciation of the outdoors looks like too much dawdling or stopping for trail-side breaks. (And granted, sometimes it is.)
When I’m alone, it’s easier to indulge my reveries.
So I sit with Mini and we take in the view. I’m so grateful to be here.
It had taken a lot more than walking to get here.
I’d had to do the usual careful planning about my equipment and food, as well as research into my route and weather conditions.
It had been a challenge to clear my schedule to take a couple days off – and protect that time.
Even more challenging was allowing myself to take the time. To convince myself that it would be worth it, and that the things I had left on my to-do list could wait.
Then I had to get over my remaining fears that I wasn’t in good enough shape to do this and that I would be fine, even though it’d been more than two years since I backpacked alone, and never in Spain.
This is the word that comes to mind.
I keep learning that if I want to live a life according to my ideals, it means I’ve got to trust myself.
To trust that:
- I’ve got the skills and strength to go where I want to go.
- I know what’s best for me and can ask for it.
- I can take time out to rest and renew.
- Things won’t fall apart if I take time just for me.
- I can deal with whatever comes next.
- I can ask for help or support – and the people in my life will back me up.
- It’s worth it.
Mini and I finish our snacks (for her, a biscuit, for me, some peanuts) and hit the trail again.
Too quickly the final climb to the top is over. We are already leaving behind our enchanting canyon pass, emerging onto a grassy knoll and a whole new vista of mountain slopes extending into the distance to France.
Now it’s time to make our way down this mountain and into the valley deep below.
From the top, there is one more thing I know I can trust:
That I can climb any mountain, taking it step by step.