My friend Meghan and I wanted to start backpacking. We had always talked about it but we never went and did it. We did go once, one July. We went to Pennsylvania. It was a short hike, nothing extreme. When we finished that hike, we had to do it again. There was no way we couldn’t. We both of us are very busy so we thought, “Well, if we do it on our spring break this year we will have a whole week to go together”
We started researching different places. At first, we thought we would go to Colorado because the mountains there are awesome but we looked at the weather and there was snow and it was thirty degrees and we thought, “Not this time around.”
So, we decided on Texas. It was far but not too far of a road trip. We wound up going to the Guadalupe Mountains. Megan wanted to go because of the beauty of the mountains that she saw in pictures and for me it was about Our Lady of Guadalupe. The name just stuck with me.
We saved up a bunch of money and packed up all of our stuff and took off. To get there took us twenty-five hours. By the time we arrived it was five o’clock in the afternoon. We set up our tent and just crashed. We got up the next morning and we decided to hike the highest peak in the National Park. It was about 8,973 feet up in the air and about four and a half miles to reach the top.
We got out our backpacks, packed plenty of water and just started walking. Here in Ohio we are used to dirt trails that are soft on our feet. We started this trail and it was just rocks, the whole trail is just rocks and you feel them through your shoes, and you are like, “Why are we doing this?” We actually got a tenth of the way up the first hill and we were both like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe we decided to do this.”
This is when we ran into the first people we met on our trip. It was this older man, he was about seventy -five and he was hiking with his friend who was about forty or fifty years old. They had met and become friends while hiking. Their goal is to visit all the national parks. Megan and I were like, “Holy Crap, we want to do that!” So, through them we discovered a goal in our life. That was really cool. We hiked with them for about a mile and then they said, “Okay, we are taking a break, you guys have younger bodies, you keep going.”
So, we split ways with them and we reached the top of the first peak and we were like, “Oh, we are here already.” We look around and the trail just keeps going. We thought the first peak we could see from our camping site was the peak and it was not at all. From that point, we had to walk along another narrow ridge and when we got to the other side we decided to take a break. When we were stopped there this couple, both about 25 years old, came walking by us and they go, “Tag you are It” and we are like “Okay, sounds good.”
We finished our break put up our water bottles and started walking some more. There are more twists and turns and another hill we had to cross over and we see them sitting down and we walk by them and say, “Tag you are it!” and they start cracking up and say, “Okay, we got you!” So, this happens like six or seven times throughout our whole hike. Without us having to say much we form this kind of friendship we them as we go up the hill. That was really cool.
We are almost at the big peak which was a whole mile in itself to get up. We are almost there, you can see it, and we were getting excited. Then we met these two brothers, both about fifty years old and they have hiking sticks and are ready to go and they come up to us and say, “Why are you going so slow?”
We are like, “Sorry, we didn’t know it was a race.” and they say, “We are just teasing, walk with us.” We start walking with them and they start telling us about their lives, they are from New York and they are in competition to see which of them could get there first. We are just cracking up. They were just the kind of guys that you want to know. One of them said, “I wish I had brought my wine, would could have had it at the top.” I said, “The elevation would be too high and we would just all fall down, being too drunk.”
It was a really good time just getting to know them. They took a break and we kept on. We are nearing the top now and our legs are just like lead. It got to the point where every ten steps was like, “I can’t do this, I have to take a break!” Megan was like, “Come on, we’ve got this!” and I was like, “I can’t.” Your body just hits a point where it is hard to breathe, it is hard to walk, you are just exhausted.
So here we were trying to push through that and we see this man who is very over weight for his age and body type. He is just going at it, just going up the hill. I look at him and decide, “If he can do this then why am I complaining?” So, I asked him, “I am not trying to be rude in anyway, but is this hard for you?”
“Oh yeah!” he says “but I told myself if you can get yourself this overweight you can get yourself up this mountain. You can do this.”
We thought that was just so amazing, so I was like, “Crap, now I have got to get up there too.” We walked with him a little while but he took more breaks than we did so we continued on. Then he would catch up. It was cool to get to know him, he was a writer for a magazine and he was writing an article about making it to the top of the mountain. He said when we got to the top of the mountain he could record our story and we could be part of the article.
Well finally, finally, we almost get to the top. You are literally rock climbing to get to the top. It is like a ledge where if you took a wrong step, it would be like, “Bye.” You would be falling down. It was very scary but it was also exhilarating. I was almost here and this was the last challenge for me. We finally made it to the top. There were all these people up there, celebrating with peanut butter and jellies because that was what was easiest to bring.
There is a huge pyramid at the top and on it is the mountain’s name plate. It says, “This is Guadeloupe Peak, you made it.” There is like a box right underneath it and there is a notebook in it and you write I made it this date and time, whatever you want. It stays up there year-round and everybody who goes up there gets to see who went up before them.
It just so happened the brothers got there the same time we did, the overweight man and the couple who we were playing tag with were already up there, they had beat us up. We are all sitting there together catching our breath and we all start talking in this group. It was one of those moments where people from all over the country came together and our common interest bonded us. It was really cool.
Debra Wuliger, figurative artist working with color, texture and pattern to celebrate life.
Image silhouetted with story. Ready for hanging.