Do you ever look back and think wow, I can’t believe I did that?! That’s exactly how I feel about having recently completed Tasmania’s stunning Three Capes Trek. Here is the story of four adventurous business women in their late 40s – early 50s, who donned heavy backpacks and fluked state borders, to spend four days and nights hiking through Tasmania’s beautiful wilderness… In chilly July no less!!
Listen to Our Adventures of Tackling the Three Capes Trek
Displayed on the wall facing my desk in the office, I have a few treasures…
Trinkets from travel, a painting that makes me smile, and four photographs. Two photographs are family snaps – Randall and our children, my nieces, and nephews. And two photographs show two little circles of girlfriends I hold dear.
Each group finds its own way to connect through the pulls of work, family and distance.
One has been running a group text now for several years. At the end of each month, we share our High of the month, our Low of the month and what we are most grateful for as we reflect on the month that has been.
It is honest and loving. No judgement operates here, just us – growing older together.
The other group is shown in our hiking gear and the grins on our faces are broad. These are my Sunday Sisters … the women I hike with each weekend as we head to our own version of church, time on the trails in the Brisbane surrounds.
No judgement operates here either, just us – yes, growing older together.
Hiking has become a constant in my life.
It has made my life all the richer for the time on the trails with these women.
At the end of July, three of us headed to Tasmania to complete our first hike carrying a pack to cover our needs for multiple days without a guide for company.
The Three Capes Track beckoned!
Whilst we hike regularly, there is a difference between ‘day hike pack ready’ and being ‘multi-day hike pack ready’!
Throwing in a little sprinkling of COVID border lock downs and weather angst, we sat down together for our one group planning session a few days before heading out.
As usual, I headed into over-research mode. Amanda dived into the “ignorance is bliss” mantra whenever it all seemed a little too real, and Michelle sat somewhere in between. In the days leading up to our hike, she spontaneously took three months long service leave and had a whole lot of clear space ahead.
It is fair to say none of us had really put in the prep work for carrying our packs but we did have all the right gear – and far too much of it, as it turns out!
The day arrived for us to check in at the Port Arthur office and head off on our adventure together.
From start to finish, forty-eight kilometres of trails took us to the South-eastern point of Australia and the most extraordinary of views.
It is not the hardest of hikes by a long way physically, but what it lacks in challenges to the body, it makes up for in challenging our minds and lifting our spirits.
It is truly a special hike.
And though we are all considered middle-aged now (to the great amusement of our children), hiking has a knack for wrapping up Life’s Lessons in an appropriately rugged outdoor knot.
We are never too old to learn something new, are we?
1. Go All In & Grin
One thing I have learned through my years of over-researching and planning is that some aspects cannot be planned for …. You just have to jump in and plough through with the best grin you can muster.
So, when the Host Rangers told us that we were going to be dropped in Denmans Cove to wade into the beach and start our hike, we looked at each other, looked up and down at our layers of clothing from thermals to fleeces to puffer jackets – and reached down to begin quietly taking off our boots and socks, and rolling up our pants as high as they could reach.
That water, frankly, was enough to freeze that grin to our faces. Okay, the grin may well have looked like a gasp and some four letter words may have been muttered. But the grins came!
Yes, life throws us in the freezing water at times, and frankly, we don’t always want to head in – but there’s not a lot of choice.
We may feel a bit numb. We may wonder why this was not mentioned in the brochure. We may question how did we end up here? And yet, when it comes down to it, we do it anyway. All in, with a grimace and then a grin.
2. Pack Light
When we first arrived to meet the rest of the group of hikers, I found my eyes immediately looking for the size of their packs. Never having carried my own food and gear for a multi-day hike, I had some reservations about whether I had got it right.
My pack felt awkward and heavy.
As it turns out, we were the only novices on the trail and it showed in one important way: our packs were much heavier. We had packed too much gear and we had no choice but to carry it the whole way to the end – and it was going to hurt.
We all vowed never to carry what didn’t serve us well again.
One set of day clothes, one clean set for night – one set of each for the entire trip. Waterproof gear, a fleece, jacket, beanie & gloves. First aid kit, food & hydration. Sleeping gear. Done.
I estimate I carried about 7 kilograms too much. Hauling myself and that overloaded pack for an hour up a mountain with 900 stairs, I felt every kilogram.
It’s not the first time I’ve carried too much in life and it has weighed me down.
Physically, it was an extra 60 kilograms for about a decade.
Mentally, I’ve carried worries about things that never eventuated, hurts that I should have let go, work projects that I should have asked for help on, resentments that reflected honest conversations I avoided having and fears for how I was going to manage life.
Over the last few years, I have worked hard on ditching from life’s pack the things I don’t need to carry.
For example, when it comes to Churchill, I am much better at staying in my lane. Where I can add value, rather than involving myself in work projects that others are much better at completing. I am kinder to myself and to others in acknowledging that we all make mistakes along the way.
They are in the past now. No point carrying them forward.
3. The Best Views Are Always Found After the Hard Slog
Three Capes Trek has been a $40 million dollar project. It was 20 years in the planning and 5 years in the building and has now been operating for 5 years. It has been designed with deliberate intent to make you pause along the way, see things you may have sailed by if you were only heading for the peaks.
There are plenty of wonderful views to be found along the way at the bottom of the trails, even under your feet.
But the best views, they are only ever to be found at the top.
The trail snakes along the edge of cliffs – giving you peaks at the climbs you have ahead.
Now, when you see those trails ahead, you have two choices…
You can put one foot in front of the other and remember you have done this before and you are about to do it again.
You may get out of breath, your legs may ache but you will get to the top. You are capable.
So, you walk the path you are on, one step at a time putting your legs in charge. You look forward to the top, when this is all over, but you don’t let the process of getting there break you down. You see the small positives along the way.
That is a lesson I learned riding 800 kilometres in the back trails of Thailand with Hands Across the Water: only ever ride the hill you are on right now. Never the one you fear in the distance.
It is a lesson that has served me well.
The other choice is that you look at the steep rise coming and you put your head in charge.
You know that part? The part of your head that tells you this is going to hurt. And that you are going to be slow. That you are holding people back. That you should never have done this to start with. That you are not cut out for this.
Your head gets mouthy and all you can hear is about the hard ahead before you’ve even set foot on it.
It makes for a long, slow, heavy journey. Trust me, I’ve done it that way too.
Funny thing, though, is regardless of how you choose to tackle the climb, you are going to have to do it.
There’s no going back, only onwards.
And when you make it to the top: well, the first option leaves you free to just enjoy the view and soak up the magic of the heights. Your reward is in front of you.
The second option has a knack for leaving you deflated and still focused on the challenge of the path there but rarely leaves you in a position to celebrate the reward of what you have achieved.
I see it in people’s careers all the time.
Those who have navigated the hard slog that they didn’t wish for but put their head down and pushed through anyway; who can see back to where they came from. Who can feel appreciative for anyone who gave them a helping hand along the way and also have reached the point they can look to enjoy the possibility of what is ahead.
And then there are those who can only see how hard it was to take each step, how crushed their spirits are, how they never deserved this and how people let them down along the way.
They make their way through, defeated. Their head is hanging low and when it stays looking down, you can never see what you have achieved to get there.
On the Three Capes Trail, there are carefully curated pieces of art embedded along the trail.
There are pieces of art that are chairs to sit on, always at a point along the way where you can see where you have come from, and you can still see what is to come, but you are on the way. It is a little encouragement when your head has dropped.
Never are these pieces of art at the end of the hardest of climbs. I think that is because the view there can never be bettered. You just need to stop and soak it up now.
4. Life’s going to throw us hard climbs. It always has. It always will.
Over time, we learn we can make it through – even if we would rather there was an option to pass it by.
Every mountain I have climbed physically and in life has taught me the same lesson: I am strong enough to take just the next step. And the next step is always going to be enough.
Taken at the top of The Blade
5. The Company We Keep
A few people have reached out to me to ask, how was the Three Capes Trek?
And the short answer is it was magic. I would highly recommend it.
And the longer answer is that sharing the experience made it all the sweeter.
We laughed together. We pointed out treasures that the others may otherwise have missed.
We encouraged each other up the steep parts and at other times, we gave each other space to tackle our own climbs, in our own way, at our own pace.
We forgave each other the night snoring and helped each other pull on our packs. We shared willingly of our stories and from our stash of treats in our packs.
We started as we ended – as great friends, with laughter and excitement to share this experience.
The company we keep makes all the difference through life.
When you choose someone to work with you, whether on your team in your job or on your team in delivering you a service, choose the people who will make the experience all the better.
It is something we talk about frequently as a team here at Churchill: we want to be the people you choose wisely and be worthy of that choice.
We’re ready to help you along the way.
The Next Adventure?
Well, that’s still under discussion.
But I can tell you one thing … our packs will be lighter and our feet eager!
Stay safe out there,
P.S. Annie, this next one is for and with you!