(photo: Bighorn Park, Mt Whitney Trail in Lone Pine, California 10,300 ft)
“….the life came back into my eyes after takin’ a trip up the 395 oh, oh! Everything I’ve regretted, everything I’ve been fretting goes away like the clouds when the sun comes pouring in, mmhmm…”
Last week I had an absolutely incredible solo trip hiking in the Eastern Sierras. I had been wanting to take a trip to the mountains but was waiting until the summer was over and the crowds were gone and my first show was done.
Originally, I was planning to backcountry camp and hike to the top of El Capitan in Yosemite, but the rain and snow forecast forced me to make other plans, and those plans couldn’t have been more serendipitous leading me to 3 beautiful hikes along the 395.
Back in 2020 I wanted to prove to myself that I could be alright on my own and that I was brave enough and strong enough to do hard things alone. So in February of 2020 I entered the lottery to get a permit to summit Mount Whitney which is the highest point in the contiguous US resting at a grueling 14,508 feet… and won a spot!
After 22 miles, a 6,000ft elevation gain, two bears, and 16 hours later, I was successful in my endeavor and summited Mt. Whitney on July, 5, 2020. I prepped for success by doing a lot of solo hikes that had high elevation gain and even took one trip up to the Sierras in June of 2020 for some practice hikes. Ironically, these are the same exact hikes I did this past weekend.
(photo: me at the summit of Mount Whitney 7/5/2020)
On the brink of more big changes, it was no coincidence that the universe led me to these exact same places in nature in a post pandemic state 4 years wiser given the amount of transitions I have gone through since then. I am a completely different person than I was 4 years ago and it was apparent as I did these hikes.
(Photo on the left is me on Mt Whitney Trail on July 5, 2020 vs. October 1st, 2023 on the right)
Below are three big awarenesses and lessons that I learned from the trip:
I needed to return to this magical land to really see how far I’d come as a woman. I noticed how naive I was in 2020 - how did I not fully comprehend that I just walked 6,000ft up a MOUNTAIN! Not just any old hike, but I summited THE TALLEST MOUNTAIN IN THE US. I was humbled as I walked the first 8 miles of this 22 miles roundtrip hike last weekend. I was humbled by her beauty and grandness, and thanked her for letting my trust pass on her land. I needed the perspective for my sense of self too. I had to step away from the mundane to see the complexity of the accomplishments I've had over the past 4 years to appreciate the grandness of my own life, even the day to day greatness.
Nature makes me more kind. This past year, I’ve been tired. Really tired. Like the kind of tired where when I look at myself in the mirror and don’t see any, joy, zest, or passion in my eyes. I’ve felt so defeated and depleted and just tired of fighting. When I returned to my cabin on the first night after a 5 mile hike and 3 hours soaking in a natural hot spring, I caught my own eye in the mirror passing by and said “HOLY SH*T! THERE YOU ARE! WELCOME!!!!!” I recognized the passion and joy for life that I know I had deep down. I saw the shimmer of joy and hope in my eyes again. I guess I must have left some of these pieces of me on the mountains during the pandemic. I was so happy and grateful to see her. I cried for a bit into my pillow releasing the tension and emotions that were long stored in my body. But igniting that spark of joy I had the energy to be even more kind to others that I pass by. In Buddhist terms, kindness is a good cause and I want my life to be of kindness and making good causes and making others feel good about themselves. I want to be a light in this world for others. Nature reignited my light so I can share it.
On my second day, I did a big 13 mile hike to an alpine lake called Steelhead Lake which rests peacefully at 10,350 ft. It was about 6.5 miles just to the lake (with a hefty elevation gain) but that wasn’t the challenging part. This hike challenged me to face my fears. Although I had done this hike previously with a friend back in 2020, I was still terrified. The trail was hard to follow and there weren’t many people out hiking. I didn’t see another soul for the remainder of the hike after crossing the creek about 2 miles in. A few times I walked the wrong way but my intuition told me immediately that it was wrong. Luckily, I had a GPS to show me how far off trail I was (was never more than a few steps) to get me back on track but spiritually, the analogy helped realign and fine tune my inner compass. Facing this fear of being alone, and comparing it to my real life, I faced a lot of the shame and guilt I’ve burdened myself with over the past few years and worked through that with each step. Finally as I got closer to my destination, I did a meditation of resignation and said ‘God, I surrender to you. I give it all to you. Take my fear, my guilt, my shame and transform into something that can serve you and others”. I have returned from this trip with a renewed sense of fuel and direction for my life and things have already beautifully started opening in ways I could only hope for before since.
It’s hard to surrender.
(above photo: Steelhead Lake via McGee Creek Trail)
Final thought: People always warn me to be careful, or ask me “aren’t you afraid all by yourself?” And the truth is…HELL YEAH. I’m terrified. The driving, the hiking, staying in a remote cabin alone YES I AM SCARED. But facing my fears, preparing for all possible scenarios, and being incredibly aware of my surroundings, allows me to succeed. In conjunction with honestly caring for my well-being, I find others start to project their own fears onto the things I do. Part of my purpose is to live by example, and I face my own fears to not only make myself stronger, but to show you that there is away and everything can be and will be okay, and you are much stronger and much more capable than you think.
And when you are alone, I mean truly alone. No phones, no TV, no internet, no music. Just you, and your thoughts (and potentially a journal) that is when you REALLY grow. Plus, I wouldn’t have all these awarenesses to share and teach if I didn’t face my fears. We’ll never get over the obstacle if we hide from it. We have to look at our fears head on, in order to get through them.
So I ask you, challenge you...where in your life can you step slightly out of your comfort zone? Where in your life can you look fear in the eye and say I'm here. Bring it. ?!
I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!
You are so strong and so capable and I am SO proud of you wherever you are on your journey.
Aho, Amen, All my love,
Megan Amanada Czuchra Wren.
Megan Wren is a CHEK Holistic Lifestyle Coach, Fitness Expert, Poet, Author, and Multimedia Performing Artist. You can find her on instagram at @itsmeganwren