Okay, just one more step and I’m through. I can’t make it, I’m too tired. Exhaustion is taking over, my hips and collar bone hurt. I can’t bear it – wait, why am I still going? How are my swollen feet, twisted ankle, and sore legs still carrying me? I’m leading everyone, how can I give up now? I don’t want to disappoint them, get them discouraged. I can do this; I will do this!
Hooray for another family vacation. But, instead of a rigorous-schedule-dad-plans-every-waking-moment vacation, it’s a Jaden-and-I-go-into-the-wilderness-to-fend-for-ourselves vacation. My dad was invited to a leadership conference at a scout ranch in New Mexico, Philmont was the name. So while my Dad received training; my Mom got to do crafts, and Jace, Jaden, and I got to go backpacking for six days. I was super excited but a little nervous.
Though I tend to think myself as a tough girl, I had to carry a fifty pound pack up mountains, over streams, and up switch backs for six days, going at least five miles a day. Needless to say we packed as light as we could and tried to forget. We arrived at Philmont and had to leave in two hours. We checked our packs, said our goodbyes, and headed off for six days, with eight girls, into the wilderness. As I tried to lift my pack off the ground, I couldn’t. Panic set in, how am I going to carry this? I put on a fake smile for my sis who was struggling as well, we helped each other heave the packs onto our backs, and headed up the trail, wondering what we had got ourselves into.
Lucky for us the first twenty minutes of the hike were switch backs. I really thought I was going to die. Death was approaching, like an unwanted virus seeping slowly through my veins, and I was totally unprepared for it. I kept telling myself to make it to the next bush and I would stop, that’d be it for me. But strangely, I kept going. I had just barely met these girls and I didn’t want them to think that I wasn’t tough enough to handle it. Also, my sister was behind me still trekking along; I had to make it to camp. When we got there I was exhausted. A two man tarp tent on the rocky ground had never looked so good to me. As we settled in I waited till the last possible moment to go to the bathroom. You see, for girls, going to the bathroom in the wilderness is quite the process. I didn’t want to go too far from camp since it was dark so I slipped on my boots, grabbed my headlamp, and ran about fifty yards away from camp. I figured it was a good spot; so I turned off my headlamp did my business quickly and then hurried back to camp before a bear ate me, or something like that. As I started to run I hadn’t turned on my headlamp yet; and soon after I was reaching up to turn it on, I heard a pop, and I hit the ground. You have got to be kidding me, my ankle? Sprained? Oh please not now. I limped back to my tent, too exhausted to tell anyone and slept like a baby.
I woke up in the morning as stiff as a board. I couldn’t move. My collar bone and hips were bruised from the weight of my pack, and my ankle was the size of a grapefruit. I got a yell from outside saying it was my turn to lead the girls on the hike. Now the hike that day was of course supposed to be the hardest hike of the trip. We had to cross a stream more than fifteen times followed by a hike with steep rocky, boulder hills straight up a good old mountain. I asked my sister if she would strap me on her back, but she declined, stating she was just as sore. Well, I decided to get up and try to move, and a girl wrapped my ankle. Camp was taken down and we headed off. I had several Ibuprofen that morning, and prayed that numbing would kick in soon. A little bit into the hike, I was surprised that I was doing so well. I had got used to my back hurting from the weight of my pack, and my ankle only hurt when I stepped wrong. Also, when we crossed the streams it was actually really fun. And a bonus was that I was leading everyone in the right direction, which is always a good thing. But the happiness was short lived when we came to the beginning of the three miles of torture. As all the girls encouraged one another, we began trekking up the rocky abyss. When it started to get hard everyone stopped talking. All you could hear was heavy breathing, feet stepping, and birds chirping. That was when my negative thoughts started to kick in. I thought to myself of how sore I was and just how easy it would be to quit. It was the worst internal conflict, story books can’t even compare. Before the trip I would have given up. There’s no question. My mind would win over my will, and giving up would be inevitable. But, this was different. This intense struggle, all those negative thoughts, it made me want to succeed, it made me want to prove not only to others, but especially to myself, that I could overcome my thoughts. In just an instant my mind set had switched. I picked up the pace and we flew up that mountain. It may have been the most straining thing physically that I had ever done, but I knew without that positive mental attitude, I wouldn’t have made it.
We made it into camp and we were exhausted. But, I had the biggest smile on my face because I knew that I had done something hard. I had overcome that mental barrier and succeeded! The rest of the trip was a breeze. I have never had so much fun in my life. Looking back I’m so happy I was able to have that experience. My attitude changed there, and the change has remained with me. Instead of a just-one-more-step- and-I’m-through attitude, I’m willing to take as many steps as I need to succeed, and prove mostly to myself that I can do hard things, no matter what the obstacle.
Author: Jalynn Johnson | Kaysville Utah Central Stake
Jalynn Johnson, 17, shares her experience of the Mountain Women backcountry trek she participated in with her 14-year- old sister, Jaden, during the LDS Week at Philmont. Her 16- year- old brother, Jace, also participated in the backcountry program as a Mountain Man, while their father, Kelly R. Johnson, attended the LDS training sessions at the Philmont Training Center.
Obtain additional information and registration for the Priesthood Leadership Conference on Scouting at Philmont Scout Ranch.