Yukon – Part 3

He is a wise man who does not grieve for the thing which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has. Epictetus    

I had survived the trek through the Chilkoot. I now sat on the historical White Pass train that would take me, along with other hikers back to Skagway, Alaska and mercifully to a hot shower and a real bed. I was already thinking ahead to that shower, that soft mattress that wouldn’t grind my hips to shreds, the Laundromat where I could get my hiking clothes clean.

Hikers were separated from other tourists on the train for obvious reasons. We had been backpacking for five days. They hadn’t. We were in muddy boots and sweat-soaked gear. They were dressed in street shoes and in their finest. It wasn’t fair to these tourists to subject them to the odours that resulted from days of hiking and nights of sleeping in damp tents.

As I sat on the train waiting our departure, I saw a woman resting on a bench in the sunshine. She leaned on her cane. I initially thought she was older than I was, but when I took a closer look, I saw that she was likely much younger. Her mobility was hampered severely by a disability. She didn’t join the other tourists walking the short distance to the many historical signs about the Chilkoot trail and the Gold Rush erected by Parks Canada in Bennett, B.C. Instead, she sat alone, waiting. At that moment, we were exactly the same. We were both waiting for the train to take us away from all this.  

I wondered about the woman’s life, how her disability had impacted her. I was reminded of all the complaining I’d done to myself walking the muddy, rain-drenched days of the Chilkoot Trail. I’d often muttered about the stupidity of taking on these types of hikes that challenge, and if truth were known, exceed my limits. I cover my insecurities and fears well most of the time, but no one would mistake me for being intrepid. At least not when it comes to challenging my physical capabilities.

Yet seeing that woman I felt nothing of the earlier fear I experienced on the trail or the pride I felt when I got over the pass. At that moment, all I felt was gratitude. I take my ability to walk, move, and stretch my limits for granted. This hit me in the face when I saw someone who couldn’t do these simple things. I was also reminded to be grateful. And I was and continue to be.

Will I complain again when I push myself beyond my limits? Most likely. But I hope I never forget that woman sitting alone on a bench in Bennett or the lesson she reminded me to heed.

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