Magical Mediocrity/Day-Hiking

 I love ice cream, popcorn, and mediocrity and I don’t love exercise. Even the word exercise has me recoil and just try throwing in some slogan like “no excuses” and I immediately start making excuses. I am terrible at all competitive sports as well as games. And fit, as in physically? I was previously so sedentary that I got a side-ache walking to my mailbox. No, you are not about to hear that beautiful turnaround story to the theme of We Are The Champions.

 My theme would be Another One Bites The Dust and over the course of a few years – I did bite the dust – for a variety of reasons that ultimately required soul-searching. So one day while at the beach, looking around for my soul, I miscalculated the time to pick up my son and had to run to the car. I arrived breathless but realized I had completed a mile with no side-ache. I was shocked and, seeing this as a convenient omen, put the misplaced soul aside and began a mediocre physical quest instead. I started half-heartedly running, hit and miss, and eventually topped out at an average of 4 miles a day. I finished – not ran – the LA Marathon. We stopped for photos, dead serious. And people, truly I am sure my time was in the lackluster 8hr+ range but the photos were fantastic. I never hooked into PRs (personal records) and I paid only fleeting attention to form. The running was good but I lacked any real determination and kept  catching a whisper of a feeling that something else was out there, something powerfully different, waiting. There was – it was Whitney.

 Mount Whitney (the highest peak in the lower 48 at 14,505 feet) became the turning point toward hiking and backpacking and also toward a love of mediocrity or what I now term as magical mediocrity. I hiked Mount Whitney solo, beginning at 11:30 at night. I was terrified just getting out of the car, absolutely certain I could hear grizzlies sharpening their teeth with their claws. There are no grizzlies in the Sierras (black bears, yes) but that did not stop my headlamp from becoming a laser show as I jerked back and forth – eyes darting – on high alert for lions and tigers and bears, oh my! The only real danger for me was whiplash. About nine or ten hours after courageously exiting the car, I summited with a crashing, altitude-induced migraine, took Excedrin, and knew that something had changed.

 The change was mediocrity. No, I did not suddenly shake off being average and make the cover of Sports Illustrated. Rather, I purchased the Whitney bumper sticker, drove my screaming muscles home, and made friends with my averageness and when I embraced it, I realized it was quite beautiful. It meant I was showing up and it also meant that this new thing was mine – my own imperfect/perfect experience – not some goal-oriented fitness program. No miracle occurred that day, however, I did catch a tiny glimpse of my soul and I became a hiker. I spent the next few years walking trails while stumbling around literally and figuratively until a good friend asked “and how’s that working out for you?” Unspoken was “and everyone else you might be impacting”. And what I have come to know is that hiking was working out just fine but the soul part is ongoing.

I recently read Cheryl Strayed’s account of soul-searching in Wild: From Lost To Found On The Pacific Crest Trail and found myself relating as I alternated between weeping and laughing at her journey toward magical mediocrity. Reese Witherspoon plays Cheryl in the movie, sans makeup. THAT’S what I love about not being an above average actress like Reese. I would’ve been very happy to play Cheryl and, in the spirit of mediocre actresses, I would’ve eschewed perfection and worn makeup. Cheryl’s story turns the crazy drive for perfection upside-down as she takes her messed up life and naively loaded backpack, and embarks on a wildly imperfect yet magical trek of the Pacific Crest Trail. Along the way, she transforms her own averageness initially into magical mediocrity and finally into a powerful sense of self-worth. Her story grabs your heart and squeezes it in an invigorating embrace and, in the process, assures that you have kindred and they are out there.

 I found mine. Kindred. They enrich my life beyond measure and a good number of them share a passion for hiking but how does all of this really apply to something as simple as a day-hike? Striking out on a trail heals, it clarifies, and it empowers. Flat out, that is the truth. Though I have done multi-day backpack trips, a day-hike can take me to the “zone” on a regular basis. The zone being that stripped away, all the muck left behind, joy. I have hiked with Christians, Atheists, and dog worshipers (this is Los Angeles). And what I’ve discovered is that whether the experience is purely nature-based as in Neil deGrasse’s beautiful passion for science or connected to a celestial entity like Joshua Becker’s mission to deepen spirituality through minimalism and a return to non-monetary moments, everyone seems to meet on a level playing field. Hikers all agree on a love of the outdoors and seeing the magnificence of what Mother Nature has gifted us with. Most of my hiker buddies report coming away feeling renewed, experiencing a sense of reconnect, and certainly a bit of empowerment when conquering nature-made bathroom activities while trekking with a love interest. So friends, hit the trail and take – not a power hike – but a highly personal, magically mediocre, exploration of where the wild things are.

“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.”  ~John Muir

*See our article on day-hiking and send us your favorite day-hikes so we can add to our list.

Day hike 3Day hike 4Day hike 2

2 thoughts on “Magical Mediocrity/Day-Hiking”

  1. Well done. Well written. I could see myself in your shoes. Loved this article as it inspires with no expectations other than just try something different. You don’t have to be perfect, just try something new and watch your heart open!

    1. Thanks Peg!! ANd yes, that was the idea behind the article, shelve any idea of “perfection” and just get out there and soak it in and YOU are absolutely an inspiration in that domain!! 🙂

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