7 Life Lessons Learned While Hiking the Cascade Mountains

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7 Life Lessons Learned While Hiking the Cascade Mountains

 by Kelly Beischel PhD, RN, CNE

Our family vacationed in Seattle recently. 

There are 7 of us, including significant others. Planning an entire vacation for a group of this size felt overwhelming.  

So I messaged everyone and requested that each person text to the group 1-2 activities they wanted to be sure they accomplished while in Seattle. 

I accumulated their wishes and then assigned each person(s) to organize an activity or event. 

Mine, of course, was a vineyard and wine tasting tour. Cascades in Washington

My son-in-law, Brandon, planned a hike for us in the Cascade Mountains. 

Now for my unpopular revelation…

I don’t get the appeal of hiking. 

I love walking and exploring but I don’t understand why one drives to a mountain to make a grueling trek up the side of it.  

What’s the point? Is it exercise? Is it communing with nature? With self? Is it a race? To get to the top? And then what? What is the objective when hiking? 

I NEED to know! 

As you can imagine, I wasn’t my typical adventurous self before the trip up the mountain. Mind you; my brand-spanking-new-whale-watching-souvenir-travel-mug caught on fire in the microwave just as we were leaving the house. 

At the start of the trail, I berated myself for not having thought to pack a backpack. I mean, I knew before we left Ohio that we were going hiking. Duh!

After my 105th iteration of how dumb I was Joe, my husband, patiently said to me, “Quit beating yourself up about it.”

And it clicked. 

I realized that I could relax and find the fun in spending time with my family or be miserable for the next 4 hours. The choice was mine. 

I decided to have a good time. And to see what I could learn about hiking and myself along the way. 

Though, just to be sure we’re clear, it wasn’t all rosy from there on out.

In fact, I called hexes down on Brandon when we were picking our way through the ankle-hazardous rock scrambles. 

Lessons Learned on that Hike:

1. Beating yourself up serves no one.

“I’m glad I beat myself up about that incident; I learned a lot.” 

Said No One.


Instead, talk to yourself as you would talk with your best friend. 

Be patient.

And kind.

2. There is value in a coach who won’t leave you behind who challenges you to finish what you start. A coach who believes in you.

A little more than 1/2 way up the mountain I wanted to quit. In fact, I tried to stop. You see, before the hike, Joe assured me that if I was ever too tired to continue (I was just coming off of nearly two months of being ill) I could stop and wait for the group on the way back down.

I thought I had an out.

But, when I told him that I had enough, Joe wouldn’t leave me behind. 

Joe was my coach that day. (And if truth be told, he’s my coach on most days.)

A coach encourages, motivates, and gets you unstuck. A coach doesn’t desert you when you most need the encouragement.  

3. Knowing the goal, the objective, or an answer to the “why” elicits buy in. Knowing what to expect is key. When the brain tunes into the objective, it attempts to fulfill it. Our brain seeks the answer, to accomplish the goal. 

Our youngest son challenged us all to find and photograph the most impressive tree, animal, and plant, giving us something a lot more pleasurable to concentrate on than our burning quads and weary feet.

I loved his challenge because I love goals and objectives. I need a purpose like I need water.

4. Feedback is paramount for sustainability and motivation. How close are we to the top? Where are the slippery rocks? How many times will we stop? What will we do when we get there? 

Plodding along without feedback is frustrating.

Similarly, timely formative feedback is valuable when motivating our students to learn deeply. Formative feedback offers learners an opportunity to readjust, to re-calibrate their efforts or strategies. 

5. Getting uncomfortable is necessary for growth – personally and professionally. Discomfort increases creativity, enabling us to see things from an alternative perspective. On the other hand, being clothed in the cocoon of what’s comfortable leads us on a path of stagnation. 

Accomplishing what we thought we couldn’t is a heady feeling. 

While, yes, I was uncomfortable climbing that mountain, I finished believing I could accomplish about anything. 

6. Maintaining momentum is paramount to success. Continually putting forth energy toward a project is important whether we’re hiking, writing, or preparing coursework.

Our momentum comes to a screeching halt when we stop. Making it harder to begin again.

Whereas, working on a project each day catapults the project toward completion, even if we work on it merely minutes a day.

I wrote my latest published academic manuscript by committing to writing 10 minutes a day. 

 7. When faced with doubts and fears, ask yourself, “What story am I telling myself?”. You see, I discovered that my reluctance about going hiking in the first place arose from my fear of failing.

Hiking is not my favorite activity. This is true.

But, my story was one of potential failure. 

One would think it would be easy for me to speak the truth to the people who love me most.

Until it wasn’t.


While I’m not hiking up a mountain anytime soon, I’m happy that I did the climb. I’m thankful for the uncomfortable experience from which I will draw strength the next time I face a daunting proposition. 

I’m thankful that I persisted beyond my fears to enjoy time with my family and learn more about myself. 

What story, born of fear, are you telling yourself that’s holding you back from all that you could accomplish? 

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