The Steepest Hike: How Struggle Can Bring Us Together

The Steepest Hike


A few days ago I went on the steepest hike with my family.

Was it really the steepest hike?

Of course not. It may not have even been the steepest hike I’ve ever been on.

It just felt like it.


We really hadn’t planned on doing this hike. It was getting late in the afternoon. It was warm. I desperately needed a clip to hold my thick hair out of my face. And my bag was way too heavy to carry comfortably. So, needless to say, I wasn’t enthusiastic about starting this very steep hike. But my husband promised there would be an amazing view at the top.


Struggle can bring us together.

My youngest was extremely sweet. He soon sensed I was struggling. Our conversation went something like this:
Son: “You take a turn with the walking stick.”

Me: “It’s OK.”

Son: “No, you take it. You need it more.”


Everyone gave encouragement as the hike got steeper and we got sweatier.

Me: “We’re almost there.”
Husband: “It’ll just be 5 more minutes.”
Son: “I can see the top.”

Towards the end, I couldn’t think about how far we’d come or how far we had left. I was so tired. I literally had to put my head down and focus on the few feet I could see in front of me. One step at a time. One foot in front of the other. And at last we all made it to the top!

And guess what we found?

Life isn’t about the destination.

ugly brown building

The ugly brown building at the top of what felt like the steepest hike


And guess what we found at the top of the steepest hike?

Just the full heat of the sun, this ugly brown building, and burned shrubs that my kids said looked like the elephant graveyard in The Lion King.

elephant graveyard

The “elephant graveyard” at the top of what felt like the steepest hike


There was no breath-taking view. We were hot, tired and disappointed. What exactly was the point of this hike?


On the hike back down, I had a greater appreciation for the cool shade of the trees and our family time together. And today’s events quickly took their place as a classic Martin family story (remember the time Dad made us hike to the elephant graveyard!). Perhaps that was the real reward. Or perhaps it was the hot tub when we eventually got to our hotel!


Life doesn’t always go as planned. Somethings are harder than we expect. Sometimes there isn’t a beautiful view at the end of the trek. But remember, struggle can bring us together!


If you’d like help building connection, please contact me about counseling in my San Jose therapy office.

Sharon Martin, a licensed counselor and psychotherapist in Northern California, specializes in helping adult children of alcoholics and others who struggle with anxiety, perfectionism, and self-criticism. She has a private psychotherapy practice in CA where she is available for online counseling. Sharon is also the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism and write the blog Conquering Codependency for Psychology Today.


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