During the twenty years I lived in New Mexico, I explored many wonderful trails including a hike to the highest peak during winter, down steep canyons to the Rio Grande river, and explored ancient sites with mysterious ruins. Then I got the idea to go through the wilderness from one side of the Santa Fe mountain range to the other. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I spent months preparing my equipment, maps, and getting physically and mentally ready to make a solo journey. The end goal was the Sante Fe ski basin where I would leave my car. A friend drove me to the starting point on the other side of the mountain and dropping me at the start of the planned route. This exact way through the mountains was part of many different trails with different numbering systems. Three maps were needed to make all the necessary connections. If all went well, I would arrive at my car in three days.

I decided to travel alone through the mountains as an opportunity to observe my own thoughts and perhaps to learn something useful about myself. We reached the almost hidden place on the side of the road that was to be the start of my journey. This was long before mobile phones, so I would be on my own in the wilderness. I remember standing on the side of the road watching my friend drive away and having the thought, I must rely on my own resources,

I lifted my heavy pack filled with a tent, sleeping bag, camping stove, food, and some extra clothes. I felt mentally prepared for this trek. I knew about half of the journey would be mostly going up the mountain ridge and the second half mostly down to where I would find my car three days later. Since it was late October, there would be no snow but it will be cold as the trail went over 3000 m. (12,000 feet)

About two hours into the journey I had to cross a small stream. My heavy pack and a slippery rock conspired to throw me into the shallow water. Unhurt but wet, I hiked on to a clearing where the strong New Mexico sun could dry me out. I removed my outer clothes, placed them on a large rock, and relaxed in the sun while my clothes dried.

About thirty minutes later it began to rain. I quickly put my clothes back on, adding an outer layer of rain gear, and continued on my way. The rain got stronger as the trail became steeper. I knew my muscles would cramp up from my wet and cold pants if I stopped. I kept going even after it got dark until I found a place to set up my tent for the night.

Cold, tired, and wet, I set up the tent in the rain. Finally inside the tent, I put on some dry clothes and ate trail food. I massaged my calf muscles, got into my sleeping bag, and proceeded to go into a deep sleep.

In the morning the rain had stopped and I discovered a beautiful mountain lake just through the trees. Birds from the area showed up during breakfast and were fearless enough to literally eat out of my hand. A remarkable experience. The hiking that day went well with no rain. By cross-checking my three maps, I could find the route I needed to get to my destination.

The rest of the journey went without any drama, just a calm, beautiful environment. I met no other person during those three days, but once thought a bear might be nearby. As I approached the Santa Fe ski basin I received some odd looks from the more fashionably dressed day hikers. I looked like a guy who just walked out of the forest. Car was waiting, and I drove home.

No one learns anything without some challenge. Our parents challenge us, school challenges us, and life itself presents an endless series of challenges. This is how we learn, grow, develop, and evolve into a better person. As we improve ourselves, we increase our capacity for greater joy and happiness. You can wait until a challenge just shows up, or you can open yourself to new and better challenges. Thankfully, I still have the thirst for new challenges.

Photo of the mountain lake. You can imagine a fearless bird eating from my outstretched hand.

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