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Tuesday, October 6, 2020

In Other Words: You Can Do a Lot More Than You Think

Map of the trip

By Chuck Keller

It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. You’ve heard that before. But it’s true. And Alisha Kinsella can tell you about it. 

A little over a month ago she stepped out of her safety zone and took off on a four-day backpacking journey with a group of women she had never met.  All had signed up for the trip through Explore Chick - a Cincinnati based business that specializes in empowering adventures for women. 

She signed up for a backpacking trip in Yosemite. Alisha stresses that “We were out in the woods. No electric. No toilets," She chuckles. "No showers. No nothin’!… Not even any service on our phones.” 

As the group prepared to take its first steps, Alisha admits that she was a bit scared wondering what was going to happen. But that’s always the case at the beginning of any journey. “I was very scared. Kind of a what-did-I-get-myself-into moment.” She laughs and adds, “especially the first time we put those packs on. I mean, they were tough. They were really heavy.” 

Women backpackers on this trip

Then after the first step, she says that “You just get into the rhythm of it. It’s really funny, we started at Glacier Point and coming out of Glacier Point there is a tenth of a mile that is straight uphill. And we get to the top of this hill and we are all huffin’ and puffin’.” Of course, they wondered if they could do all twenty-four miles if they felt this way after the first tenth of a mile. “We were a mess,” she chuckles. The guide told them that it happens every time. You just have to get your legs under you. And they did. 

“The first day we did almost four miles. And it takes about an hour to go a mile because the terrain is so tough.”

She discovered that hikers are encouraging and sharing folks. She tells about running into a guy who finishing as they were about to begin. “We ran into a hiker coming down who had a lot of Oreos,” she says. “He wanted to get rid of and I had some beer that I was’t going to carry up so we traded.” They both thought they got the better deal. 

Alisha climbing the cables on Half Dome

 Half Dome is one of the most iconic spots in the national park system. Many years ago, rungs and cables were installed in the rock so people could climb to the top of Half Dome. It is still a dangerous climb. People are going up and down all day so space gets tight and sometimes accidents happen. Alisha says, “We can’t believe we climbed up this mountain that people have died on.” But as luck would have it, “We were the last ones going up and the only ones coming down. So we had it all to ourselves.” And the view is magnificent. If the journey were easy then the reward would not be as great. 

She said they ate well. They brought a lot of fresh vegetables that they carried in their bear barrels, a  “heavy 12 x 8 barrel that locks that you put your food and toiletries in,” she says. “We left them out at the corner of our camp site so we were pretty sure that’s what the bear was sniffing the night he came around.” 

“The first night was Tuesday so we had taco Tuesday,” she says matter of factly. They ate healthy meals like pasta with broccoli and vegan chili. “We had oatmeal for breakfast. We had to pack our own snacks” but the company provided everything else. Old school backpackers will remember all of the freeze dried meals and GORP (Good Old Raisins and Peanuts). 

I asked if she had always been adventurous and she replied,“I think so.” As a child she played in nearby woods and enjoyed figuring out the animal trials and climbing trees and the general terrain. She felt comfortable in the woods. So much so that the house that she and her husband Bob own abuts to one of the city parks so she can easily access those trails. 

You get the idea how steep a climb it is.

Alisha says of her trip that, “It helps to ground me a little bit. Makes me more level-headed and calm.” And she feels more confident.  “It has kept me pretty level-headed and to stay balanced.” 

I asked her why she thinks its is important to empower women? “The way the world is set up, women get overlooked for being able to do great things. We know women can do great things in the office and at home but we often overlook that we can do great things physically too. You have to build each other up.”

 So what adventure awaits? Alisha reveals that a dream is to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. She smiles and says, “I would love to do it.” Why? “I don’t know. The romance of it. You’re on a different continent, different world….It would be really cool.” And that’s a good enough reason to go.

Alisha Kinsella ended her journey but she carries lessons from it with with her. She observed that, “You can do a lot more than you think you can. And I’ve learned that a lot of different ways. I’ve run a lot of marathons and so many half-marathons that I’ve lost track of how many. And each time you do that you come out a little more confident.” 

And that’s the thing to remember. Oh, the destination is nice and all, but you learn so much more from the journey. A destination is not a place. It’s just a way station on the journey. 

Or as the wonderful advice columnist Ann Landers once said that “Sooner or later, we must realize there is no station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip.”

Sunset view from the base of Half Dome

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