I'm breathless, I'm sweating very, very large bullets, I'm this close to exhausting my water ration, and I'm not really sure where I'm going to find the strength to lift myself on top of one more rock. Yet, I'm doing it and am determined not to complain.
"I think the trail is pretty flat from here on out."
"Don't challenge nature, Val! Nature will laugh in your face."
My best friend, Val, is the bubbly, blonde yogi pushing past branches and creating a path for me. She does this "hiking thing" often...and I'm thankful true friends don't judge each other by how long they would survive alone in the wilderness. Let's just say...in matters of the wild, you want Val on your team.
In December of 2013, Miss Kentucky, Jenna Day, and the Boy Scouts of Kentucky brought the Duke of Edinburgh Award to the Bluegrass. The free and optional DofE Award promotes self-discipline, growth, and aims to push you outside your boundaries. Aside from performing one hour of a special skill (I chose tap-dancing), physical recreation (I chose weight lifting), and community service every week for three months, I was required to embark on an "Adventurous Journey."
I just love the sound of that.
The point of the Adventurous Journey is to explore the expanse outside of your comfort zone. Now, I love being outside as much as the next girl, but my comfort zone is about as far as I can drag a beach chair away from the ocean while still getting a gentle salty mist on my face. Hiking isn't my preferred choice of weekend activity, what with all the sweating, and the bugs, and the BEARS...thus, it is quite adventurous a journey for me.
So, I left the planning up to Valerie. I wouldn't trust anyone else to put up with me when I'm tired and dehydrated in the outdoors. When she wasn't helping me climb or stopping and smiling for yet another selfie, we talked about life, her plans to start a women's retreat and spa, and laughed at everything; mostly ourselves.
We hiked Red River Gorge, Natural Bridge State Park, and The Pinnacles in Berea. If I needed any further proof that Kentucky is one of the most diverse and breathtaking places in the U.S.--if not the world--I need no more. I was easily distracted from my own lack of endurance by the sheer beauty of the scenery. So, of course, I took a million pictures.
My Adventurous Journey definitely served its purpose in opening the door to meaningful activity outside of my norm and provided time for much needed self-reflection. My breath was taken away by numerous mountain-top views (and one really dark tunnel), I laughed myself a little closer to a six-pack, and got to practice keeping my "big picture perspective" in mind. It wasn't until I arrived back in Greensburg late Monday night that I realized just how adventurous my journey truly was. I came away with four spider bites, a really painful, full-body sunburn, and a touch of poison ivy (turns out I'm not immune, Val!), but...
Thanks to you, Duke of Edinburgh, I am recharged! And, once the sunburn heals, really tan.