I went on an epic hike this week.
Wednesday was an unseasonably warm October day here in the White Mountains of New Hampshire - a day that peak-baggers like me call a “Presi Day.”
There aren’t too many days of the year that we get sunshine and no wind on the Presidential ridge, a dozen miles of above-treeline terrain that connects the highest peaks in the Northeast. Mt. Washington, at 6,288 feet, is known for having some of the worst weather in the world (think winter temperatures colder than Antarctica, and hurricane-force winds over 100 days a year).
But on the rare days when you can walk the craggy ridgeline without getting socked in or blown over, it’s absolutely magical to stroll the alpine zone with views for a hundred miles in every direction (you can check out my photos in the post below!).
As I emerged above treeline into the felsenmeer - literally “sea of rock,” the name for the miles and miles of jagged boulders that make up the Appalachian Trail along the ridge - I paused to wait for an oncoming hiker to pass.
The woman wearing a purple hooded parka and gray leggings progressed slowly and carefully over the rough terrain, testing the placement of each trekking pole before taking a tentative step forward. Her gray hair was dyed the same grape-juice color of her jacket, and the smile lines on her face revealed her age.
As she approached me in slow motion, she quipped: “I bet you didn’t expect to see an old lady like me up here!”
A few moments into our conversation it became clear to me that she wasn’t out for just a day hike. She was thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, and at 76, she was aiming to be the oldest woman to ever complete the 2,190-mile hike from Georgia to Maine.
As I always do when I encounter a thru-hiker, I asked her trail name.
“Birthday Girl,” she proudly announced, telling me that she had started the trail on Springer Mountain in Georgia on March 30, 2022, the day of her 76th birthday, and had dropped 50 pounds in her 1,200 miles of hiking so far.
Six months into her hike, she still has 800 miles left to go. In order to make the most of the good weather, she had flip-flopped from the halfway point at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia up to the northern terminus on Mount Katahdin in Maine and would continue her hike southbound to finish.
I found out that the petite, purple-haired woman standing in front of me was Pamela Clark from Florida, who had never been on a hike before last year. She connected with some local walkers in the Sunshine State, where her toughest climb was around 150 feet elevation. And somehow from there, she got it in her head that she wanted to backpack the Appalachian Trail.
“I didn’t think I couldn’t do it,” she told me. “It’s all about your mindset.”
It’s not unusual to see people hiking the rugged White Mountains well into their retirement years, but typically those are the types who’ve been exploring these peaks their whole lives. There’s even a patch you can earn for hiking all 48 White Mountain 4000-foot peaks over the age of 70, affectionately dubbed the “Geezer 48.”
But meeting a 76-year-old Florida woman who decided to embark on a solo 2000-mile trek across the entire Appalachian range carrying a 30-pound backpack and sleeping on the ground every night is quite extraordinary.
She didn’t think she couldn’t do it.
I longed to spend an evening around a campfire with Birthday Girl, soaking in her zen wisdom about life. What else had this woman put her mind to and accomplished in her 76 trips around the sun?
But as is the nature of the trail, we both had to keep moving. She departed downhill for her next campsite, and I braced for my ascent of Mount Washington.
“I didn’t think I couldn’t do it.”
As a mindset coach, I know the power of these words, and how our thoughts and beliefs about ourselves dictate - more than anything else - what is possible in our lives.
So in honor of Birthday Girl, I invite you to consider:
What is it you want that you are telling yourself you can’t do?
Do you want to climb a peak? Write a book? Take a road trip? Start a business? Launch a nonprofit? Play an instrument? Move to a new city, state, or country?
And what excuses is your brain coming up with to tell you why you can’t do that thing?
“I’m too old… I don’t have time… I don’t have money… I don’t know how… I’m not good enough…”
If any of that sounds familiar, I’d like to share something with you.
I put together a training last month about all the ways our mindset can hold us back from pursuing what we want in life, and how to overcome those mental blocks.
It’s called How to Ditch Perfectionism and Follow your Dreams, and I’m giving it away FREE for a limited time.
You can grab the free training here, along with the workbook (which is currently just a Google doc… #unperfectionism!).
I would love it if you’d message me on Facebook or Instagram @unperfectionism and tell me about your dreams, and what’s holding you back, and which tools from the training are most helpful to shift your mindset to make them happen.
Let’s all be more like Birthday Girl!
(The photo above of the Birthday Girl Pamela Clark with my two dogs, Baxter and Laney.)
Click here to access my FREE 45-minute training on How to Ditch Perfectionism and Follow your Dreams, and drop me a note to let me know what you learned!
p.s. I’ve been thinking of offering How to Ditch Perfectionism and Follow Your Dreams as a live workshop where I can actually coach you through the process of identifying and shifting the mindset blocks standing between you and your dreams…
If that’s something you would be interested in, would you please message me the word YES? If there’s enough interest, I’ll put it on the calendar!
p.p.s. I totally hope I have purple hair someday, or maybe blue, or pink… That would be so badass. 👩🎤