#DigitalDetox Challenge 6: Walk up a hill

I'm not going to lie: I was nervous about this one. I was really looking forward to it, but I wasn't certain if my knee was going to hold out long enough for me to complete it.


I was sore the next day, that's for sure, but I did it and it felt good. It gives me hope that my husband and I might be able to return to a joint passion — at least in some capacity.

Let me give you some of the history.

I developed a joy of the outdoors in my late-teens, early-20s

I've always loved the outdoors, but for anyone who has ever seen the movie Troop Beverly Hills will appreciate it when I say that my mother's idea of roughing-it was one bathroom between six people. She would happily go on day hikes, but only if we could ensure that she would be able to use a toilet when she got to the other end. Overnight in the bush... You have got to be kidding! So, when I was in my late teens, I started to explore the hiking world on my own, with the support of one of my oldest friends. (I love you, Kat.)

When I started university, I bought my first tramping pack. Actually, it's the only tramping pack I've ever owned. I still have it and after over 20 years, it's still going strong. A 70L Macpac Espree with a woman's harness. Macpac doesn't make them anymore, but they still makes the bits to help repair the harness when needed — which is a good thing, because I had lent the pack to someone and they destroyed the shoulder straps, rendering the pack useless until I could get new shoulder straps (much cheaper to get new shoulder straps than a pack).

Meeting my husband's father and making an impression

When I was 21 (I had to do the math based on dates on photos), I properly met my now-husband's family. That's when I found out about the tramping test. (And for those of you who might be thinking the worst, tramping in New Zealand is hiking. I have a bad habit of using the two terms interchangeably.)

My husband's father was an avid tramper. He loved being out in the forests and enjoying nature. So, my husband grew up exploring the country on foot. And my father-in-law believed that if you were going to be part of the family, you had to enjoy tramping too.

For my tramping test, my father-in-law decided on the Tongariro Crossing (in the middle of National Park, center of the North Island). When we started the planning for the trip, he was surprised to discover that I already owned my own pack. (I think he was looking at my mother and thought that I thought that roughing-it meant the Holiday Inn.)

He was disappointed that I didn't own a Swanndri. (I still don't.) I tried to explain to him that I can't wear one because I'm allergic to wool, but the man wouldn't listen. For the sake of harmony, I borrowed a Swanndri from my in-laws, but I put that thing at the bottom of my pack, and that's where it stayed. (About an extra kilo of dead weight, but whatever...)

Me on the Tongariro Crossing track in National Park (Photo taken by my father-in-law in 1998) Wow... 1998... Was that really back in 1998? I guess that's the advantage of timestamps on photos.

During our tramp, I was always the last one anywhere — so slow and never really given a chance to rest except at mealtimes. Then we came to the crossing itself — a scree slope — 3 steps forward, sliding 2 steps back — one side a drop into a volcanic lake, the other side a sheer drop into oblivion.

When you get to the top, it's a gorgeous view and you can see right across the country to Mount Taranaki. But the view comes at a cost: there is nowhere for a female to go pee without revealing themselves to all the other hikers.

Me on the Tongariro Crossing track in National Park. This was at the top, after traversing a steep scree slope. Notice the lack of vegetation. I guess that's what happens when you're hiking on an active volcano. (Yes, it's active.) (Photo taken by my father-in-law in 1998)

I was getting desperate to relieve myself, but there was nowhere to go. When I saw the hut in the distance, I was off! A section of track that took my father-in-law an hour and a half to do took me 45 minutes. My husband (then boyfriend) could barely keep up.

Since then, my husband and I have enjoyed exploring the world around us on foot. But in 2012, I had an accident that change everything.

The accident that ruined my knee for life

My son and I heading to Lake Daniell (2012)

My son and I on the track to Lake Daniell (in Lewis Pass) during that fateful trip in 2012. (He was 11 at the time.)

My husband and I had taken our son to Lake Daniell in the middle of snow. It was his first overnight tramp and everything was going well — until we were heading back to the car.

I slipped down a snowbank with my pack still on my back, and my knee wrenched right back under me. It was swollen and black-and-blue. Thankfully, I didn't do anything serious to it, but my knee has never been the same since.

About three years later, things took a turn for the worst. I have no idea what I had done, but the pain in my knee was so bad that I couldn't walk on it. My knee refused to support my weight. And I couldn't bend it either. But the doctors effectively told me the pain was all in my head. All the tests came back clear, showing no signs of any physical damage. They starting throwing around terms like fibromyalgia.

Here I was living with immense pain, and all the doctors did was give me painkillers and other drugs that totally screwed up my system (side effects that I'm still living with some six years later). But through sheer stubborn perseverance, I'm managed to reclaim my mobility and bring the pain to manageable levels. And for the first time in nearly a decade, I was willing to attempt hiking again.

Lake Daniell (Lewis Pass) 2012

Lake Daniell (Lewis Pass) 2012

Almost ten years. My tramping boots don't fit me properly anymore, but being out on that hill was figurately and literally a breath of fresh air.

Our hike for the #DigitalDetox challenge

My husband chose an easy-grade walk in Godley Head Reserve, and it was a reconnection with my younger self and with my husband.

View of Christchurch, New Zealand from above.

This is my home city, Christchurch, New Zealand. Now that was a view worth climbing a hill for. (Photo taken 12 Sept 2021)

While up on that hill, I was able to get some stunning photos of our home city of Christchurch, New Zealand, and I was able to enjoy the view of Lyttleton Harbour. The bum got numb while sitting on one of the old WWII observation bunkers (the Port Hills are littered with them), but it felt so good to be able to experience that sort of exercise again — especially when there was a time when I honestly thought I would never be able to enjoy hiking again.

Lyttelton Harbour, as seen from Godley Head Reserve. (Photo taken 12 Sept 2021)

Lyttelton Harbour, as seen from Godley Head Reserve. (Photo taken 12 Sept 2021)

I will need to get new tramping boots at some point (my normal walking shoes are good, but they don't provide the ankle support that some of those tracks require), and I'll need to get at least one walking stick to help me on the steep sections. (The knee was didn't like the large gaps in the knee-buster stairs.) But it looks like that finally my husband and I can enjoy going on shorter walks together once again.

This was a baby step in the right direction.

The #DigitalDetox diary entry

#DigitalDetox DiarySo, I was able to fill in this particular entry rather early in the week, which also felt good.

It was nice to be out on [a] day hike again. I wasn't sure if my knee would cope, but it did — just.

Gijs chose the track, picking something he knew would be an easy grad. Only a small bit of up and down. Now to keep building on the knee strength so we can eventually get back into the overnight hikes. Last time I did one of those was nearly 10 years ago.

Bring it on. I now have a long-term goal to look forward to. I can do it!

Next week's challenge

So, next week's #DigitalDetox challenge is to write a poem. I can do this. I won't be the literary masterpiece that others write (I'm not a poet), but it won't matter.

How are you going with your #DigitalDetox? Did you manage to get up a hill to enjoy the view?

Copyright © 2021 Judy L Mohr. All rights reserved.

This article first appeared on judylmohr.com

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