There are mental health lessons to be learned from nearly every activity. For NoStigmas volunteer and contributor Mike Bushman, the most indelible of those lessons were embedded on hiking trails. During the next few months, we will share the best of those lessons, and how they apply to everyday life for so many.

10) Even the downhill part of life is fraught with danger.

I was so elated when I finally made it up Pikes Peak that I thought the hard part of the day was over. After taking a 30-minute break at the top, I started my descent, moving more rapidly than the sometimes gravel covering on the Golden Stairs warranted.

 

With hiking boots fairly worn out on the bottom, I stepped too quickly off a stair. As the gravel under my left foot slid forward, it created momentum that sent the right leg forward as well. I pressed hard into my hiking poles. The metal of the right pole snapped in half, sending my body tumbling and my head snapping behind into the step. Because the poles slowed my descent, I stood with only a bloody elbow and a few minor bruises.

 

Another descent could have been far more disastrous. After crossing the Paintbrush Divide from Cascade Canyon into Paintbrush Canyon in the Grand Tetons, I came across a snow- and ice-covered trail section. I’d left krampons in the trunk of my car, where they were doing me absolutely no good. I could see the surface was wet enough to be slick, and that a 500-foot body slide into a body tenderizing rock pile waited at the bottom of the snow slide. A few steps into crossing the snow and ice patch, my left leg slid out. I pressed the hiking poles as deeply as I could, hanging on. Seconds later, I scrambled back to upright. Steps later, however, I slid again. This time, however, I was close enough to the edge. The angle forward took me quickly to dry ground.

 

As with life, when I’m feeling good or feeling like I’ve accomplished something, I lose focus too easily. It’s like playing golf and starting to feel like I’ve got the game after a few good shots, only to send the next three shots into a lake. Disciplined attention to what I need to do to be safe and feel good makes a difference, whether hiking or in life.

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