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108 braids... the devotional representation of a sacred Tibetan number. Photo by Rebecca Thom, China Semester.


The last couple of days of travel were truly an adventure. With our hiking boots on our feet and all of our belongings for the next couple of days strapped onto our backs, we walked out of our comfortable hostel in the small town of Liming and began our trek into the mountains of Lao Jun Shan National Park. Looking up from the base of our journey, I saw some clouds lingering above, struggling to hide the vastness and steepness of the mountains ahead of us. We took a right turn and reached the base of an endless line of stairs. From there, we climbed.

Our legs, well at least mine, burned. The sun beamed and sweat beads dripped down our faces. The stairs never seemed to end. Being so caught up in just trying to finish each flight, I forgot to live in the moment. We reached a small plateau and decided to take a water and snack break. Finally, my gaze shifted from looking down at my feet and the stone stairs below me to look up at my surroundings. My eyes were greeted with towering rock formations glowing with natural red, black, and tan designs that sat comfortably atop a lush, green landscape. The vibrant colors and never ending line of hills and mountains had me taken aback.

I looked down at what we had accomplished together and remembered the struggle of each step we had to take to make it to where we were. The positive attitude and encouragement from each of my bridge year group-mates motivated me to conquer each step of the climb. We all glanced at each other and with a simultaneous nod, zipped up our shared group snacks back into our packs and decided it was time to keep going.

Throughout our 4 day trek, there was no lack of both struggles and times when each of us thought about giving up. Through some minor twisted ankles, unfortunate gastrointestinal issues, and a fair amount of huffing and puffing, our group approached every set of stairs, every precarious looking uphill path, and every moment of fatigue with positivity and a light-hearted sense of humor. We had created an atmosphere of support that allowed us to conquer the mountains in front of us until we had reached the very, very top.