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Days of Clay and Clouds

This weekend I completed two items of my #50for50 – pottery wheel lesson and a winter backpacking trip to Mt. LeConte (in snow). The two experiences were completely different and yet the main lesson I learned from both – I am getting better at not being great.

Trying new things means you aren’t going to be good at it at first. You try and fail and try and fail better and with time you can succeed. However with so much on my list there are only a few items I can devote a lot of time at to try and succeed. I’m succeeding on the Bible reading and meditation practice.

I am barely better now at swimming than I was two weeks ago but I keep trying.

The pottery wheel lesson seemed like something I couldn’t possibly fail at. However soon into the lesson with Leigh, the owner of Claying Around Asheville , told me that most people don’t learn to center their clay in the first lesson. I believed her and yet deep down I thought, I bet I can.

And I didn’t.

I tried for awhile and never got the clay centered, admitted defeat and let her center it for me so I could move onto shaping. The end result is kinda a cute “Goblet of Fire”. Or squatty little cup thingy, not exactly a work of art. However I can definitely agree with Karen Speer’s comment that pottery wheel is relaxing. Even if I am not good at it yet.

I hope to do more lessons to get better, but even the one session did keep my mind off the building anxiety level as I got ready for my weekend trip to Mt. LeConte.

It’s possible to be both excited and scared. I was trying to be more excited than anxious, but I had a lot of fears.

One thing that I feared was being slow and holding back the group I was traveling with.

That fear was totally right. I was extremely slow hiking up.

I could blame it on being so short because I am and it does make me slow.

I could blame it on the mountain and indeed the elevation gain was brutal.

I could blame it on the ice and snow filled trail and it truly was more difficult from three miles and up. After about a mile of slipping and sliding I finally put my Kahtoola microspikes on my shoes and it did help.

However the main reason I was slow was I had underestimated my preparedness. The training hikes the two prior weekends had helped but I had used mere daypacks on those trips.

It was shocking how my full 65 liter backpack not only slowed me down but also affect my stride.

I sucked.

At times I wondered how I would make it all the way.

Three things got me to the top.

One, I was comforted by my hiking companions. Three of the four to turns hanging back with me and coaching me along. Although I certainly did hold them back they never made me feel that way.

Two, I kept praying that God would help me keep going, that He’d guide my feet and keep me safe. Some of the trail is along narrow and dangerous ledges.

Three, the scenery was an immense comfort. Rainbow Falls was breathtaking in its huge icy flows with rushing water underneath. The views were vast along the way, with blue skies and sun. The wooded areas were cool but fragrant with fir trees. The snow was enchanting despite the added element of danger.

Once I made it to the top I was ready to collapse but as always with staying outdoors, there were things to get done.

Getting water. Setting up my sleeping gear in the shelter. Eating a quick supper.

Despite my muscle fatigue I was determined to watch the sunset from Cliff Tops.

I managed the short hike out to the jagged rock formation and finally sat down to wait. The vista there is incredible.

The sea of mountains and gorgeous colors as the sun sinks beyond the horizon made every minute of the bone tiring climb worth it.

I hiked back to the shelter before bed everyone else to make sure I had dibs on the privy.

With 10 guys staying there with me, there were practical considerations to maneuver like picking the right moment to grab the privy unoccupied. And I ended up not changing out of my base layer to avoid getting down to my skivvies in a room full of strangers. However everything dried quickly and by bedtime I only slipped off my outer pants and put on fresh socks.

I worried if I could manage to sleep. Lying on a wooden deck in mid 20’s temps. Surrounded by the noises of 10 other people sleeping. With my body aching. And yet I managed at least 7 hrs of sleep in the 9 hours I was in my sleeping bag.

It would’ve been longer but I’d drank my weight in water and had hot tea with dinner. So I did have to slip out at 5:30 am to relieve myself.

The next morning as we started hiking out I felt fairly refreshed – going downhill helped. Plus I felt more confident in my microspikes as we headed down a snow and ice covered first few miles of Bullhead trail. However I got a little overconfident and tripped over a root sticking up and face planted. Other than some bruising on my knee and my pride, the snow completely buffered my fall.

We traveled through miles of charred tree remains from the fire of 2016. This side of the mountain had significant damage and it felt somber to be reminded of the devastation of that disaster.

Some of the downed trees are newer, creating challenges in maneuvering over or under to pass. Much of the path was loose rock that made it tricky. The unimpeded views however were rewarding along the way.

Reaching the cars felt like success despite the failures along the way.

Falling on my face. Not being good at things. Getting out of my comfort zone. Embracing the suck. Knowing I am not likely to succeed on my first try.

But trying anyway.

Its a lesson I suspect that will continue as I work through my 50 for 50.

4 comments on “Days of Clay and Clouds

  1. Julie Bryndal says:

    I love reading about your adventures. Way to knock them off this list!


    1. Tracy Cotton says:

      Sooo many more I gotta get cracking. ๐Ÿ˜‰


  2. Lee Buck says:

    What beautiful photos from your hike! Also, great job embracing your failures, but your goblet is adorbs and it sounds like you had a great adventure hiking. Thanks for sharing another step in your journey, and I am excited to find out where this year takes you next! ๐Ÿ™‚


    1. Tracy Cotton says:

      Thank you Lee. Truly appreciate the kind words!


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