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From Humble Beginnings Come Great Things (A Borah love story)

Mount Borah, dressed in white.

It all starts with a Big Hairy Dream (BHD) and ends with a thriving sense of accomplishment and pride in oneself.

A few years ago, I went through some big changes in my life, many of them positive. One way I chose to cope was to start hiking with intent and purpose rather than the opposite. I spent one year traipsing all over Idaho, from its South Western corner to her beautiful North Central forests to the equally stunning South Eastern edge, which borders Yellowstone National Park, Montana, and Wyoming. I was chasing after some of the best trails Idaho has to offer; Sawtooth's, Pioneer Mountains, Swan Valley and many more. I was hooked and thrilled to be hooked. An internal drumbeat, if you will, started its clockwork pattern to the deepest parts of my being. It urged me to get on the trails.

Every weekend I could, and after work, I chased those trails. In heat and cold, sometimes rain and even snow. Thankfully, my body was mainly happy to take the beating it was enduring to see and experience some of the most stunning natural beauty Idaho has to offer. The beat's cadence started faint but grew louder and faster every time I completed a strenuous hike and pushed myself farther. That hook was so intense in me that it didn't matter that I wasn't ready for some of those trails, both from a cardio-endurance level and general physical fitness level. I had mental fortitude and the ability to dig deep in myself and push, even when my lungs and legs were screaming obscenities at me.

I remember vividly the first time I attempted Shaw Mountain (Lucky Peak, via Homestead trail, pushing a Mountain Bike, don't ask me why). I could not walk for three days for more than 10 mins at a time without excruciating and searing pain in my legs and tendons; this is not wise as it means I was overtraining. But it speaks to the ability to keep pushing oneself and "doing it until it's done". I also remember that hike where I came down to the valley floor on a different trail exit and had to backtrack to get to the car. Shaw took a lot of me that day, partly from my lack of preparedness, but also, the Homestead route is arguably one of the more challenging ways to reach Shaw's peak.

Shaw Mountain

And I must have looked terrible to bystanders; sweaty, dirty, and beyond tired. I was beaten down by over-ambition and a ludicrous sense of adventure. But that drum beat kept me eager for more. The peace and solitude of being in nature far outweigh the possibility of things going wrong. Of being tired and sore. Of being uncomfortable. But the feeling of pride and strength I experience when looking at the Boise Front, to one of its tallest peaks (again, only the front, there are higher peaks farther back), is unmeasurable and never-ending:

I climbed that,

I often whisper to myself as positive reinforcement and a gentle reminder of the progress I have since made as I gaze upon the cell tower that sits atop Shaw Mountain from the valley floor. That first year I racked up 119 miles and 23,000 feet of combined elevation gain over 49 hikes. What a fantastic year. But, I needed another BHD. Being a part of a few hiking groups on Facebook, participants range from very skilled mountaineers to casual foothill hikers; it's a great way to see hikes before you do them. I was especially entranced by the pictures of Borah Peak, her summit is Idaho's tallest point. Her granite and copper-hued mountain sides are vivid, as are her jagged lines. I felt the depth of this mountain from her pictures. The shadows in her crevices alone speak to her depth and girth.

She demands and extracts much from hikers (both pro and casual alike) who attempt to reach the top. One reviewer on the AlllTrails app put it: "It is not a mountain for posers' '. Not only is she hard, but she can be dangerous. Her weather systems are as unpredictable as her jagged artistry. And Chicken Out Ridge turns many would-be and wishful summiters around as the embankments are steep. You are walking on parts of the mountain's spine to get from one end to the other. Falling would mean certain injury and perhaps death. That doesn't even mention the small amount of climbing and bouldering skills needed to complete Borah fully. Again, "not a mountain for posers".

So I started this year with intent and purpose. I will successfully climb Borah, no matter the physical toll, so long as I am not injured or it is unsafe. The BHD spread through my veins, though, and it was impossible not to daydream about or prepare for it. Parlaying from the fitness I gained the year prior; I immediately jumped into Boise's Grand Slam Peaks, which consist of Mount Heinen, Cervidae Peak, Shaw Mountain, and Kepros. Mount Heinen is the hardest, in my opinion. But she will teach you how to climb and descend her often very steep slopes safely. It was joked in one of those Facebook hiking groups that I probably have the record for so many Heinen hikes in a single year. She is an excellent mountain trainer, indeed.

Mount Heinen

Once you have a BHD, though, and start telling people about it, there will generally be two reactions. The positive and healthy people in your life will support you and encourage you. They will take your dream on, to a degree, in that effort and wholeheartedly. Cherish and surround yourself with these people. The other set of people will likely be jealous and insecure about something; they might try to discount your dream. Please don't listen to them. The funny thing about BHD's, at least for me, is that it is my dream, not anyone else's. For example, my fitness level is wholly separate from others. I might be in way better shape than some, but there is also someone else who will blow me out of the comparative water. My BHD is based on some seemingly impossible hike that is challenging for me and me alone.

Pioneer Cabin and Mountain Range

So far, I have doubled last year's elevation gain and combined mileage. 66,000 and 237 miles, respectively, And lost about 35 pounds. Will it be enough to complete Borah? There is only one way to find out, and that is "do it 'till it's done" as is scribbled in the back room of the Cabin that looks out at the incredible Pioneer Mountains:

"I've never had a dream in my life

Because a dream is what you want to do

But Still haven't pursued.

I knew what I wanted

And I did it 'till it was done

So I've been a dream I wanted

Since day one"

A Kern, 2005

Borah Peak will be my new Shaw Mountain.

What is your BHD?

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