Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Visiting Volcanoes

New Zealand had MANY old volcano cones scattered about.  They make for some challenging hikes and some absolutely stunning views.

Just around Auckland there are 48 volcano cones.  One of our favorites to go to is in Cornwall Park, known as "One Tree Hill" in English or "Maungakiekie" in Maori.  The landscaping throughout the park is truly lovely, and the views from the summit are very special.

Some of the volcanoes, such as One Tree Hill, have roads leading to the top so it's easy to drive up.   Others are strictly foot traffic.  Many a Kiwi hiker has enjoyed ticking off the list of cones they can say they have walked up to the top on.  

Two recent climes for us were Mount Paku in the Coromandel Region and Mount Maunganui down in the Bay of Plenty.

Mt. Paku

Mount Maunganui

As I was hiking up Mount Maunganui I reached a pretty steep spot that had me huffing and puffing on my way up.   I passed an older gentleman on his way down from the summit who smiled at me and and gave these wise words of advise:  "Keep going.  It's worth it.  Anyone can do it, really.  You just have to go at your own pace.  Don't worry if others pass you by.  It's not a race.  Find the pace that is right for you.  Rest when you need to.  Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  You will have fantastic views at the top."

I loved those words!   So often in life we compare ourselves to others - either feeling smug about our own accomplishments or feeling outshined by what others can do.  Whether it is climbing mountains, building a career, setting up a home or raising a family, we all could benefit from heeding those words.

And here's the thing....  whether or not we really climb to the tippy top or choose to stop at any point along the way is each person's personal decision.   One of the women who was on the trip with us opted not to begin the hike at all because she has arthritis in her foot.  It just wouldn't have been fun for her.  So she and another lady went walking around the shops in town instead.    Two of the more fit men in our group went charging up to the top pretty quickly.  For them, that was a reasonable pace.   Larry and I, however, went much more slowly.   We stopped often to gaze out, take photos, and just savor the views along the way.   At the end I was getting pretty seriously overheated, having neglected to use sun screen that morning and having no hat.  I decided I did not need any more direct sun just then.  So I found a shady spot and stayed there while my sweet husband went the last little bit to the summit.    Could I have made it?  Sure.  But I was ok with sitting on a big rock in the shade, appreciating the forest trees around me.   I'd seen lots of other views.  I was perfectly fine with skipping that particular scenery.

To me, "failure" would have been pushing myself just to prove I could do it, and potentially over taxing myself in the process, making myself sick for the rest of our adventure.  I was there to have fun and enjoy beauty.   I could do that just fine from that point.

I think it is great to be willing and able to push myself past my comfort level to build strength and endurance, to teach myself that I can accomplish hard things.  There are plenty of ways I do just that here on this mission. But there is also a time and place for being gentle with myself, for allowing myself to just be present and enjoy rather than having to accomplish.  Learning how to balance those two is sometimes more of a challenge than climbing even the highest mountain peak.

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