Stuart Johnson, Deseret News archive
Milestones large or small help us see the progression we are making in our lives or encourage us to stretch ourselves. They measure how we’re doing meeting the daily challenges in our lives — a road map of where we’ve been or where we are going.
In June, our son Mike, who is turning 50 in October, challenged himself to run the Squaw Peak 50. Mike had, besides being an emergency room doc and raising seven kids, already proved his physical prowess by finishing 10 times in the grueling Leadville 100 mountain bike race.
When we heard that he was contemplating running for 50 miles, almost the equivalent of two marathons in the mountains, my husband and I were incredulous. I voiced my opinion more than once, that’s for sure.
It wasn’t that I doubted he could do it — more that his hectic life surrounding the event was not conducive to good preparation. We questioned if he was having a midlife crisis, but he countered that no one could be happier with his life. This was just a challenge he was interested in pursuing.
The day arrived, and after he had run for about 7½ hours, we met him at the next to last station. He was dehydrated and exhausted. Ever the voice of unreason, I said, “Don’t ever do this again!”
My granddaughter Taryn, however, had a different perspective. She wrote to our family, “Hey all! Just so you know — my dad rocks! Every race is hard and you have difficult moments. My dad showed me, as he has a few times before, how to push through hard things. He finished something he didn't think he could. It was also an amazing bonding time for my family. We all rallied around my dad and ran miles 47-50 with him. It was incredible being able to give my dad a little strength for once in return for all he has done for us. I wish you all could have been there.”
It made me recall a time when I was facing 60. I decided a physical challenge would be a good idea — something to prove the old body could still work. Knowing I would be in Utah for a chunk of the summer, I determined to climb Mount Timpanogos, a 12,000-foot mountain near Provo.
Growing up in the area, Grit had climbed it many times. He warned me I would need to prepare and do some hill climbing since it was nine miles up, and, of course, nine miles down — the harder being the down.
It was a challenging nine hours, but the view from the top was worth the hard work. On one side, the whole Salt Lake Valley could be seen, and from the other, the far-spreading Utah Valley.
Part of the descent entailed sliding down a glacier that was steep at the top. I burned a spot in my nylon shorts because the trick was to glissade on your shoes like skis, but when a rock presented itself it threw me off course and then I’d be sliding on my rear again. It was the most fun part of the hike, and I laughed and screamed all the way down.
At the bottom of the glacier lies a beautiful body of clear water called Emerald Lake with gently sloping shores surrounded by blossoming wild flowers. The scene was breathtaking.
Even now when I drive from Provo to Orem with Timp in front of me, I think, “I own that mountain.”
Growing older remains a challenge no matter what goals we set for ourselves. Even though our pace may slow, hopefully many more milestones will mark our lives. Perhaps with a sprinkle of imagination, a dash of adventure and a handful of vitamins, life can still be wonderful.
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