The Reward at the Top
In partnership with High Brew
Words by Laura Hughes, with images by Gale Straub
I have to admit: most times I need a reward to get to the top of a hike.
I wish I could say that I’m motivated enough by the way the fresh air fills my lungs or the view I’ll get to enjoy once I’m up there—the way my body recovers and admires and knowing the sense of accomplishment I’ll feel once I’m up there. But the truth is that I never quite grew out of the stage many children find themselves in on the trail: dragging one heavy leg after the other all for some kind of treat they’ll get to enjoy at the summit.
Sometimes there’s a voice in my head that carries judgment for saying things like that. I mean, isn’t the promise of the peak motivation enough? Shouldn’t I be thankful and inspired by the way my body can carry me up a mountainside to begin with? Perhaps in some ways.
But if hiking is an analogy for other accomplishments we achieve in life—and I like to think that it can be—then it’s the small, sweet moments along the way that help us tackle every challenge and pain point on the way to reaching our biggest goals.
I bet if we’re all being honest, you have your own reward mechanisms, too.
Maybe you’re looking forward to a cool beverage at the top. Maybe it’s getting your stretch time in every mile or two. Maybe it’s capturing the views along the way on your camera. Maybe you know you’ll be plein air painting the summit view. Maybe you’re counting miles, or training for a bigger challenge, or getting outside to heal from an injury.
There are so many ways to find motivation and see progress, and if they all help you to move in the outdoors, they’re not something to hide away or diminish. They don’t expose us as weak or less capable. They’re what make us human, and define the ways we self-motivate in the face of something daunting.
They’re also the mechanisms we use to celebrate, savor, and continually fuel ourselves inside and out.
So whatever gets you out there and whatever motivates you to make it to your own summit—enjoy every moment of it. Because going the distance is a gift in itself, but the reward at the top will always hold reminders of why you took yourself outdoors in the first place.
The reward at the top of this hike was High Brew Coffee. They make cold brew for those who do.
What’s your favorite summit reward?
Laura Hughes is a traveler, photographer, writer, and host/producer of the Women On The Road podcast. She loves the human condition and the magic that happens when we choose to be vulnerable with each other, which often translates into her creative work. See more from her on Instagram @howsheviewsit and at howsheviewsit.com.