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.

8) You can start the day struggling, and work through it


When my youngest brother Eric and I started hiking up Yosemite’s Half Dome, his calves were still knotted from hiking into the Grand Canyon only a few days before. Eric has always been the better athlete, but his work schedule had kept him from doing any training other than flatland running and bicycling near his home. The steep decline and incline of his Grand Canyon had hit barely used muscle groups hard, stiffening up so forcefully that he was still hurting days later.


Nevertheless, he wanted to make a go of the climb. Getting up Half Dome had been one of his goals too. Before we made it anywhere close to Vernal Falls on the Mist Trail, he was aching enough to tell me to go ahead. He had to slow down, and figured he’d probably just turn around and go do some flatter hikes or hang out in Yosemite Valley.


I went ahead.


Three hours later while partially up Sub Dome, I was shocked to hear “Mike Bushman” screamed loudly from below. I looked around, trying to figure out who knew me so far from home.


When I first spotted Eric, only a few hundred feet below me, I thought I was delusional. There was no way he could get up here. He was barely moving when I left him. I considered whether there was a helicopter service, or some other lift he could take to the top. But no such service exists, at least not one that is publicly accessible.


When I finally realized it was my brother, I told him I’d wait. He scrambled up to join me, then we struggled our way together up the rest of Sub Dome.


Eric had been encouraged along the way. “It’s your hike,” a passerby told him when he saw Eric struggling. “Go at your own pace.”  The flat section past Nevada Falls had provided a welcome respite to the incline. His muscles warmed up enough and stretched out.


I was shocked to see him. Hearing my name being yelled by someone who earlier that day had barely been able to move reminded me that some days we just have to keep moving forward, hoping to stretch out and build strength as the day goes on.


It doesn’t work every day. But on the days it does, the results are memorable.

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