My freshman year of college was definitely an experience. Our team was a fairly diverse one, with some local players, a few of us Okies, a girl from Arizona and a girl from Chicago. So to aid the bonding of 15 athletic girls, Coach thought it would be a great idea to take us out to the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and hike some pretty big mountains.
I had never been hiking, but I had played in the woods and I loved that. Being outside and soaking up a little sun was always a joy. My brothers always forced me to play the medic when we played army growing up, so when ever someone actually got hurt, I was prepped with alcohol swabs and ACE bandages. I was ready to see if hiking was for me.
The school had enough Camel backpacks for all of us and the coaches made sure that we had everything we needed: snacks, water and toilet paper in a plastic baggie. There were two mountains Coach had picked out and we were ready to take on anything.
The first mountain we climbed was named Deer Mountain. The 6.2 mile roundtrip trail has numerous switchbacks and a rises to an elevation of about 10,000. Coach lead the way and the post coach brought up the rear. The team fell into line based on stride length and speed. I was somewhere towards the front of the group and eating up the scenery and the conversations.
We reached a lookout point over a lake and stopped to take a few silly pictures.
That’s when we noticed how far down the mountain some of the team was, including my roommate. My roommate was literally bringing up the rear. She and I were oil and water, but both loved the game of basketball. I had made some effort to bond with her prior to the trip, with little progress.
Needless to say my poor Chicagoan roommate was done with the trail about five switchbacks in. This was not her cup of tea. Fortunately the post coach also hiked quite slowly, so she had company and I was free to hike with the teammates who were more my speed.
After hiking the first mountain most of us were energized and having a blast. Not my roommate. She was upset about all the dirt, rocks and the difficulty of climbing a mountain. We tried to cheer her up and say ‘we’ll at least it’s just one more mountain to climb and then we’re heading back.” This didn’t cheer her, but it did seem to appease her.
The next day we hiked Flattop Mountain. Flattop Mountain has a peak of 12,361 feet and was a 8.9 mile roundtrip trail. It’s labeled as a strenuous hike, but I actually enjoyed this hike more than the last one.
This hike presented us with outstanding views, a snowball fight, a bobcat sighting and the most adorable father-daughter duo that made all of our hearts melt. When we reached the summit of Flattop, we all sat down for a lunch break with some impressive scenery. After munching on a well-deserved PB&J, we descended and prepared to leave.
The last clear memory I have from that trip was stopping at the Stanley Hotel, where The Shining was filmed, and our team nearly crashing a wedding that was holding a reception there. It was honestly a great trip and we did truly bond.
Looking back, I can see why our Coach chose that particular outing to bring us closer together. A difficult task that is accomplished by teamwork give a sense of shared success.
We all have mountains in our life, things that we have to do and may not want to. I hope that you have a team in your corner who will take the highs and lows with you. I hope that they push you to be better. I hope that they will join you in celebrating the success of hiking your mountain.
Chloe Goff is a former college basketball player and a former Branson performer who enjoys a plethora of activities, most of which make her sound like a walking oxymoron.