It’s been 11 weeks since my ankle surgery. Two weeks ago, my surgeon said I could get back into all things slowly, so I asked if I could crack climb… If you don’t know what crack climbing is, it’s a type of climbing where you torque your toes/feet/ankles (depending on the crack size) inside the crack and push down on it to climb up. Well, I guess I can do a thousand other things with my almost healthy leg and can wait for a crack climbing for a bit. No problem.
I sometimes sound like I’m obsessed with outdoor activities, right? I admit that I have some obsessions but I think it’s a healthy amount of obsession like some of you are obsessed with Netflix series etc. When I’m hurt and cannot go outside to move my body and enjoy myself in nature, I definitely feel frustrated and sad. This time around, I did a good job on not getting too frustrated as I was recovering, maybe beause I was already happy with other things that were going on in my life and did not have to rely on getting outside to seek for my happiness. There was a time I went up into the mountains to escape from the reality and avoid the real suffering in life. But I always came back down from the mountains feeling better with new perspective and hope.
My 2 healthy legs can take me to my happy places again. I am finally back in the outdoors again and doing what I love. I feel so much gratitude running, climbing and playing surrounded by beautiful wild flowers, cold water, rocks and green mountains.
So, what evoked my adventurous spirit and how did it carry through my adulthood? It goes as far back as I was 0.
Being outdoors and active always made me feel better since I was young. When I was still less than a year old, my dad and mom took me to the Japanese Alps for my first backpacking trip. I do not remember anything, but I have seen some photos of me in a tent high up in the beautiful Japanese mountains surrounded by snow. They were avid mountaineers, especially my dad. I remember as a family, every August, we went back to that Japanese Alps (Mount Tate, Tate-Yama- Kurobe) with family and friends for backpacking and camping. I have so many vivid and fun memories from those trips. I remember my dad carrying the HUGE old school backpack to bring all of our food and water in big old school tin cans and I remember thinking “How could my dad carry so much? He’s so strong!” He was a mountaineer and a ski racer when he was younger and climbed many mountains with his high school and college mountaineering teams. He taught my sisters and I how to take steady steps when we were going up the mountains, take deep breaths and not give up. We always summited the Mt Tate and it was one of the hardest things that I had to do when I was a child, once a year, but many years in a row. The summit elevation of 3015m, not so high for a Colorado standard, but coming from the sea level, hiking up to almost 10,000ft as a six-year-old kid was not easy! I still remember the feeling of accomplishment after summiting and the awe looking at the view. Combined with fun experiences of playing in nature, camping, cooking, discovering the alpine flowers and plants, crossing rivers, learning lots about surviving in the mountains from my dad etc, I fell in love with being in the mountains and also challenges and adventures that mountains brought to me physically and mentally.
Growing up in Japan, hiking up the mountains was a bit of a dorky thing to do as a young person. In Colorado, that’s maybe considered a normal and cool thing to do with family and friends. I dug deeper on that dorkiness when I was in high school by making our own girls mountaineering team, training and competing. After school, in the middle of the field, some cool kids were playing soccer, track and field, softball and baseball, we, dorky kids, on the other hand, in the corner of the field, practiced pitching tent (speed practice and we might have even done blind tent pitching practice) and ran with a backpack full of rocks and water. We ended up going to the Nationals on our last year and got into 7thover all.
(Second from left is me at the Nationals in high school.)
Somehow, all these memories and experience stuck with me for a long time and now I find myself feeling grounded and in peace in the mountains more than any other places on Earth. That’s where I find my calm, inspiration and motivation.
Let’s see where these 2 legs of mine will take me to next…