The Hardest Part of the Wilderness

We had a long warm day. Lots of PUDs — pointless up and downs — on the trail as we came out of the shade of the rain forest and into the short vegetation. Sun very intense. We’d gain 400 feet of elevation and give back half of it.

[featured-image single_newwindow=”false”]Noah on the trail. Phil LaBelle, 2017.[/featured-image]

Noah got quite ill on the trail. Upset stomach and getting quite overheated from the sun. I had to stop and pour water on him a few times along the way. The rest of our group was fantastic, encouraging him and telling him not to worry about the stops.

He continued on with courage, and I was tremendously proud of him. After getting a break and having food at lunch, he felt better. But then the trail got steep and the blazing afternoon sun got to him again. Finally we descended from the hills and came to the Shira Plateau camp, our destination for the night.

He went to bed early after dinner, and fell right to sleep. I hope he sleeps through and that he feels better in the morning.

When we came to the plateau we had our fist real view of Kibo , the summit cone of Mt. Kilimanjaro with its highest peak. It’s massive, off quite a bit in the distance, and yet seems possible for us to summit if health issues don’t become a persistent problem.

We’ve had loads of dust so far on the trail. It finds every exposed nook and cranny on your body. My fingernails look like I spent the day in the garden. Q-tips nastily emerge from the crevices of my ears. Baby wipes appear dirt streaked even after the third go of my face.

Today I’m experiencing the hardest part of the wilderness journey: when it’s someone you love who’s experiencing difficulty. I’ve felt great so far. Hardly any sore muscles, no issues being out of breath even when hiking, and enjoying the entire experience. But when Noah felt ill on the trail, I only wanted to make it better for him, to walk with him through his struggle. I wanted to love him and reassure him and didn’t want him to feel badly about how his body responded today. I long for both he and Olivia to not experience hardship in life, I want them to be well and not struggle.

And yet I know like all of us they will. So I take my place alongside—with Melissa when we’re together—and give support and love as best I can in my imperfect way. And I pray that as I give care wishing I could take it all away that they find the things they need to get through the wilderness.

So after a long, dusty hike and some 3000 feet of elevation gain and a view of the top and the glory of the Milky Way stretching out above me tonight, I feel love once again in the wilderness. And I am grateful for so very much.


Daily Totals: 5.2 miles and ~3000 feet of gain.

Trek Totals: 9.5 miles and ~4800 feet of gain.

Elevation: 11,843 feet.

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