One of the first times I went up to Katahdin Stream Falls, my dad worried it might kill me because I was so red and breathing so hard. I didn’t think I would die, but I was not at all happy.
Katahdin Stream Falls is a large waterfall in Baxter State Park, Maine. In order to see it, you need to hike a little over a mile up Mt. Katahdin – as an added bonus, this means you cover some of the Appalachian Trail. Parts of the hike aren’t too bad, but other parts are quite steep, especially the scramble over huge boulders to get to the top of the falls.
The first couple of times I went to the falls, in my teens, I weighed about a hundred pounds more than I do now. It was so hard. I desperately wanted to keep up with everyone, to prove that even if I couldn’t do the whole mountain, I could do this much. That’s why I got so red and out of breath, because I pushed myself more than I should have.
I felt awful enough that I couldn’t even appreciate the beauty of the falls. I just stood there trying not to gasp too loudly and hating how difficult it was for me. This was especially true when I climbed with someone who was six months pregnant and still did it much more easily than me.
I thought about that this year, when I’m over twenty years older, and I didn’t have any trouble getting to the top of the falls.
I’d wondered if I would. Unlike with most of my visits to Baxter State Park, I did no prep this year. I meant to, but somehow the spring got away from me and it never happened. So I wondered, would I really be okay getting up there, or doing any other hiking?
Turns out I was okay, with this and another hike. Even better, I could truly appreciate the glory of the falls – the long cascade of water with white spray, the glistening rocks, the lush greenery, the sense of height and timelessness, knowing how long the mountain has been there and how long it will remain.
But most of all, I appreciated what a gift it is to be able to achieve those heights with such ease. It’s not a given. I know this from my own experience, as well as having a writer friend who’s confined to a wheelchair due to MS; this is something he can no longer do.
And so I humbly offer thanks and gratitude for my body, for taking me to these heights, for allowing me to experience such beauty. Here’s hoping I can say the same in another twenty years.