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Hiking Las Vegas Blog
In, twenty, or thirty years from now, we will have moments in our life’s stories that include the phrase, “2020 happened”. We will all nod our heads with a collective agreement about the events of this historic year. When 2020 happened we quarantined, one of my former fifth grade students took his life, my 13 year career as a classroom teacher morphed into distance learning, my husband lost employment when the CEO of the company was arrested for fraud*, and my father passed away a month before my visit for a birthday/end of chemotherapy celebration.
The challenges of the past year forced me to rediscover myself and evaluate my life’s purpose. I had conversations that were strikingly intimate, forgiving, and vulnerable. I didn’t want to become defined by circumstances but made stronger from them. My relationships with colleagues, friends, students, parents, and family were deepened. I learned who to lean on and who to let go because we couldn’t get past a surface-level connection. I rediscovered a confidence and determination I never realized had dwindled over the years.
I cannot say any of these realizations would have happened for me without (1) the help of an amazing, qualified therapist and (2) The 52 Peak Club. When 2020 happened, we recognized the need for trained mental health professionals during the mad rush for toilet paper, the volatile political climate, and The Tiger King. I want to show appreciation for the dark horse of my story...The 52 Peak Club.
I was recommended to The 52 Peak Club by a close friend because I loved to hike. Nature is my happy place. We agreed to join together, but my friend backed out. I would tease him a bit more about here, but his decision allowed me to develop new relationships with other club members.
I thought I was a competent hiker before the club. I quickly realized, near the top of Kraft Mountain in Red Rock, climbing peaks in Vegas was more challenging than I laughably assumed. I wore the wrong shoes for scrambling rocks (rookie mistake), huffed and puffed over boulders, was drenched in sweat, and became completely hooked after earning my first card that day. Scrambling encourages the use of physical and mental strength to problem solve while practicing mindfulness of yourself and surroundings at the same time. Unlike the gym, conquering a peak rewards you with an amazing sense of accomplishment and spectacular view.
I was more capable than I had been giving myself credit, and it took marching off into the wilderness with strangers to realize that. The 52 Peak Club is as much about the members and leaders as the goal to finish a deck. It still amazes that this encouraging and validating support system helped me recover my internal strength and confidence when I needed it most. I listened to other remarkable stories, laughed at jokes, posed for peak and ledge pics, and discovered the best buffets in Vegas are at the top. We were all at different levels, but we were a team and everyone’s accomplishment mattered.
I am halfway through my deck and holding each card brings memories and feelings of every accomplishment. They remind me how important it is to challenge the thoughts and assumptions I make out of fear or doubt. As I started to challenge myself, my life’s new purpose opened up and fell rather naturally into place. This month, I was accepted to the Educational Psychology Ph.D. program at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. A peak that I might not have wanted to conquer before this club.
So now, my 52 Peak Club goal has a time-based goal attached. My hope is to finish my deck before my first semester. However, I know that I will still keep climbing peaks, challenging my thoughts and beliefs, and never forget the determination my father saw as inherently...
Branch Whitney is the author of Hiking Las Vegas and creator of the 52 Peak Club where members hike to the best 52 Peaks around Las Vegas, NV