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My husband and I have been burning up our Empire Pass this summer at New York State Parks. We have been hiking 1-2 parks per weekend, with the goal of hiking the gorge trails we missed when they were closed over the winter.

I don’t think much of this now, beyond making sure I wear comfortable shoes and clothes, that I have enough water and a snack if we will be gone for a few hours.

But there was a time in my life when I weighed 335 pounds. Going up one flight of stairs was a true challenge. Hiking an uphill trail, or a trail with hundreds of stairs, for any distance, would have been impossible. I tried. I have distinct memories of my more in shape friends dragging me along to hike with them. I’m sure they meant well, but I have a handful of memories that are some of the most humiliating experiences of my life.

Of course, I hated being obese. Every time I saw the condition listed on my medical chart, I died a little bit inside. I was ashamed of my size, of my inability to lose weight, my inability to blend into a crowd, and my inability to keep up with “normal” people.

What I didn’t know until I started hiking last year was how much I have been missing. I have literally stood on mountain tops and looked across valleys after challenging hikes that would have been impossible for me when I was carrying the weight of an adult male on my back with me. I have seen views that took my breath away after climbing over 200 stairs. I have literally walked circles up and down ravines on mountain tops. I have clambered up hillsides and stone stairs and steep, packed down trails.

And every time, I try to take a moment to remember: I never could have done this before. I almost always say it out loud. I never could have seen this before.

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Buttermilk Falls State Park, Ithaca, NY

 

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