A new Facebook friend recently called on the phone. Actually, Gary is an old friend, although we haven’t communicated in years.
The last time we talked, neither of us had families, neither of us had been diagnosed with cancer and neither of us had yet launched our careers. In the course of getting caught up, I told him of my wild adventures with the American Red Cross and he regaled me with even wilder stories from his career as a trooper with the Colorado State Patrol.
We stretched each other’s memories as we recalled experiences we shared in our carefree, youthful days when we both lived there in Colorado. I’m sure our macho memories have marinated over the years and the stories are now relived with greater gusto than when they actually occurred.
One incident, though, needed no embellishment. It actually happened just like this:
Along with another guy, Gary and I were hiking up the winding trail toward the 14,259-foot summit of Longs Peak. The night before we camped in the Rocky Mountain National Park so we could begin our ascent well before sunrise. You see, we wanted to reach our destination before the afternoon thunderstorms rolled in with their deadly bolts of lightning.
Bob, the third member of our group, wanted to lead so he walked a few steps ahead. The two of us followers concocted an idea. We decided to test the fortitude of our self-proclaimed leader. So…
Every few minutes we picked up a small rock and dropped it into the open pouch of his knapsack. Oblivious to the incremental additions of weight, Bob kept trudging up the steep incline of our eight-mile-long path. He thought his pack was a growing burden because of the increased altitude. Over time he accumulated a sizable assortment of rocks. Had he been a rockhound he would have been quite proud of his new collection.
Hiking at that high altitude, we maintained our energy by periodically stopping to catch our breath, to drink water from our canteen and to eat high-energy snacks. The fun peaked when Bob reached into his bag for trail mix and discovered he was also carrying part of the trail.
My memory fails to recall the specific words Bob used to express his feelings, but that’s okay because I probably would find it awkward to publish an exact quote. He let us know, though, that he failed to appreciate the humor of our prank. His displeasure actually made the event even more memorable.
On the phone, Gary and I laughed as we recalled the fun times we had together.
After I hung up, I kept smiling as I thought about the unfortunate plight of our trail leader. He didn’t know he was carrying extra baggage. Without his knowledge or consent, extra rocks had somehow become part of the load he was carrying. Only when he paused for a brief break was he able to discover and discard the unnecessary clutter.
Throughout this past year, I’m sure I have accumulated extra rocks. Without my knowledge or consent, extra projects, expectations and tasks have krept into my daily routine. As the new year begins, I will take a brief break and sort through the load I carry. I resolve to discard unnecessary rocks that might hinder me from reaching new heights.