Ten years after the Chilkoot Trail

This year I celebrated my 10th anniversary since I climbed the Chilkoot Trail. Luckily, I was in the Yukon this past August for both personal and work reasons, and definitely on my ‘must do’ list was to go back to visit the Chilkoot Trailhead.

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After a lovely visit in Skagway with my sister Lucille, and my niece Sophie, we drove off the main highway and made our way to the trailhead to where it all started.

Once there, I was surprised to see how much the area had filled in with trees and vegetation. The little registration station is now gone most likely opting for an electronic sign-in. The beautiful Taiya river, however, was flowing ever so strongly and majestically, and I felt like I was being greeted by an old friend.

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My sister and I started talking about our experience on the Trail as well as what had changed in our lives since our hike. Certainly there had been a lot of changes in the past 10 years, most memorable being changes in our work life and career; the loss of so many loved ones including our parents; and health issues. But for the most part, despite heartache and losses, there was a lot of personal and professional growth as well. We both had had new wonderful and rich experiences to meet great new people and to try new things that provided us with purpose, fulfillment and happiness.

I enjoyed our little journey down memory lane and am very grateful for all of the lessons that I learned while on the Trail. I truly believe that the strength and courage that I had to find within me to complete the trek has helped me tremendously to weather life’s little storms and to come through the tough situations even stronger and more resilient.

If you’re interested in finding out the life and leadership lessons I learned while on the Chilkoot Trail, I invite you to visit my six part ‘What the Chilkoot Trail Taught Me about Leadership,’ blog series.

Here is Part 1 of the series.  Enjoy.

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Marielle Gauthier, owner and principal of Redworks Communications, is a certified Results coach, an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) with the International Coaching Federation; and soon a Certified Conversational Intelligence Coach.

To receive updates about Marielle’s coaching program, training and webinars or for more information on coaching services connect with Marielle at  marielle@redworkscoaching.com or visit www.redworkscoaching.com. She is based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

My personal coaching journey – Andrea Lauder

My client, Andrea Lauder talks about how personal coaching impacted her life. She worked hard and got amazing results! A special thanks goes out to Andrea for sitting down with me to discuss her experience!

 

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What the Chilkoot Trail Taught Me about Leadership – Pt. 6.

Trail signIn part 4 and 5 of my Chilkoot Trail blog series, I told my story of how it took us 14 hours to hike over the summit from Sheep Camp to Happy Camp. We endured miserable weather throughout the day – cold, rainy and very windy.

At times, especially hiking up to and down from the summit I was quite frightened as I was afraid we would either be blown off the mountain or slip careening down the mountain. Luckily, neither happened. We arrived into Happy Camp exhausted, cold, wet and hungry but at least we we’re safe.

In this blog, I am going to talk about the decision we had to make that would impact the rest of our trip.

Morning finally came after a fitful night with pelting rain and gale-force winds that beat the sides of our tent causing it to shake violently. Also keeping me awake was whether or not I could continue due to my physical injury. I was conflicted between wanting to finish the hike and not wanting to cause further and perhaps worse injury.

As we left our tent, we were very thankful that it was still in one piece. We made our way to the communal hall so for breakfast and discuss our plans for the day – who was going to continue and who was going to go home.

It would take us another three days to hike the remaining 13 miles / 20 km to Lake Bennet where we would catch a train back to Skagway and our vehicle. If we missed this train we would have to wait a couple of extra days for the next one. We had to make a decision at this point.

I was honest and said that I was in a lot of pain as my knee and now ankles were very swollen, decreasing my strength and stability. I did not want to slow them down nor put us in a dangerous position where I wouldn’t be physically able to continue.

My sister was also unfortunately feeling the pain of her injury and didn’t want to risk further injury.

So my sister and I talked and we both agreed that our hike ended here at Happy Camp.

Waiting for chopperWe strongly encouraged our hiking partner, Michelle, who was absolutely well enough to continue on, to join another party of women who we’re leaving in a few hours. Michelle flatly refused and said no, that we had made a pact at the beginning of the hike, that we we’re in this together, so she was coming home as well.

The only way off the Chilkoot Trail and out of Happy Camp was by calling an airlift – an expensive helicopter ride. The Parks Canada Warden chartered a helicopter to come and pick us up later that morning.

As much as I felt relieved that I was leaving I was also very disappointed that I wasn’t going to finish the hike. But I knew that was my ego talking and I knew that this was the best decision for me.

In my heart, I knew we had accomplished what we had set out to do – to climb the Chilkoot Pass. I am definitely proud of having been able to accomplish this. And we did get to see the Yukon’s beautiful, rugged and awe-inspiring pristine environment from a unexpected vantage point.

I found some footage of Happy Camp, Yukon and our helicopter ride. Have fun viewing the videos.

So what did I learn?

  • Be proud of what you accomplish even if you don’t quite complete what you set out to do.
  • Don’t let your ego dictate what is right for you – find your courage and voice what you need despite the feelings of failure that your ego is screaming at you.
  • Ask for help when you need it – let others in – you don’t need to do things alone. Human beings are hardwired to want to help out.
  • Don’t leave your friends behind – honour the covenant or agreement made.
  • Encourage others to meet their goals.
  • I am strong, resilient and determined

What the Chilkoot Trail Taught Me about Leadership – Pt. 5

In part 4 of my Chilkoot Trail blog series, I told my story of our climb from Sheep Camp to the Chilkoot Pass. This section was the most arduous of the hike and one of the most physical, emotional and mental challenges I have ever had to go through.

This blog post will focus on our hike from the summit to Happy Camp.

Having finally arrived at the top of the Chilkoot Pass at approximately 4 pm, we stopped at the Parks Canada warming cabin and warden station where we were finally able to eat a hot meal, change out of our drenched clothing, warm up and rest for a little while.

We had arrived very late as we still had another 8.4 kms (4.0 miles) before we could lay our very sore bodies down at our next camp. I would have opted to camp at the shelter for the night, but there were signs prohibiting camping. We had also spoken to a park ranger earlier in the afternoon and had informed him of our health conditions, but that our plan was to reach Happy Camp that night. We wanted to avoid any international search parties sent out if we didn’t arrive.

EPSON MFP imageSomewhat rested, we headed out (it was now snowing and still howling) and started descending. I was very surprised at the number of snowfields that remained this late in the summer season. We didn’t have the right equipment to hike on snow and ice, so consequently we slipped and slid down the snowfields, but we miraculously all stayed upright. I found hiking down the mountain very challenging because of the snow, ice, and a shift in body weight to negotiate the descent. All of these factors added a lot of pressure on our legs, knees and ankles.

We finally arrived at Happy Camp at 11:30 pm, completing a 14-hour hike (minus an hour or so) with a 25-pound pack. All we wanted to do was to get out of our wet clothes and eat a hot meal. Unfortunately the propane was out, so a hot meal or warming ourselves near a heater was out of the question.

After resting a little, then changing into whatever we could find that was less wet, we found the strength and courage to face the weather to set up our humble accommodations for the night. Due to the very strong winds, we decided it would be safer to stay in one tent. I am thankful we did, as the wind was so strong that it pushed the sides of our tent up rolling us into the centre.

Needless to say the hike over the summit from Sheep Camp to Happy Camp was quite frightening, but I was grateful that we were safe and had succeeded in climbing the Chilkoot Pass – a day I would always remember. As I tried to relax from the challenging day, I started thinking about the decision we would have to make tomorrow which would impact the rest of our trip.

To be continued…

 

So what did I learn?

  • Allow others to support you when you require it; then you support them in their time of need.
  • Dig deep within yourself and find the strength you need to put one foot in front of the other – others are counting on you.
  • When you can’t lead for whatever reason – that’s okay, others will step up to the challenge.
  • Allow others to shine and lead.
  • I am strong, resilient and determined.
  • I realized I did not know much about first aid or pain management. So as a leader if you’re lacking required knowledge or an important skill, commit to doing something about it.

 

What the Chilkoot Trail Taught Me about Leadership – Pt. 4

Day 2 on the Chilkoot Trail

EPSON MFP imageWaking up a little later than we should have (this would be very evident later on), we checked in with one another to see how we we’re feeling. Overall we all had a good night’s sleep despite injuries and stiff muscles. We prepared breakfast, broke camp and started what would be a very long day.

Today we were crossing the most demanding part of the five-day Chilkoot Trail – the scales and the summit. We had been told that it could take up to 12 hours to travel from Sheep Camp to Happy Camp (the next camp after the summit) a total of 12.7 km (7.9 miles) and almost 3,000 feet in height.

My biggest concern of course was my knee. How was it going to hold out to hike this very challenging day?

Within a few hours it started raining and the temperature dropped. We had to be very careful not to slip on slick rocks, roots or mud because the ground was getting quite slippery.

EPSON MFP imageAround lunch time we stopped for a few minutes to take our packs off and eat a snack consisting of granola bars and nuts as it was raining so much we we’re not able to cook a hot meal.

The pain I was feeling in my knee with every step I took was getting quite excruciating and very sharp. If was as if I was kneeling on shards of glass. The pain relievers I had with me were no longer having much effect. I was worried about taking too much and ending up other issues. I realized that I had no idea how to manage pain with medication.

Unfortunately for my sister, an old knee injury was coming back to haunt her which was now causing her significant pain as well.

EPSON MFP imageThe three of us forged ahead and hiked over boulders the likes of which I had never seen before. The boulders were literally walls in front of us that somehow we managed to climb over and then down the other side.

It was at this point that my sister and I took turns having small crying breakdowns due to the pain. At one point I was really doubting my ability to continue the hike. With encouraging words, we supported each other during these tough moments.

EPSON MFP imageIt was also at this point that our fellow hiker, Michelle, took the lead watching for sign posts and led us out of the boulder field. I am usually in a lead position, but at this point I was very grateful she had stepped up to the plate as I physically couldn’t do it.

Finally at the Scales, we stopped and looked up and saw the long difficult incline, the “Golden Stairs” to the pass. We had been told to expect two false summits before actually reaching the summit.

The weather was not cooperating with us today as the rain continued but now the wind became very strong. We found ourselves on very narrow ledges having to almost crawl up and hug the mountain rocks being careful not to slip or be blown off the mountain.

EPSON MFP imageSlowly but surely we made our way up and arrived at the top of Chilkoot pass at approximately 4 p.m. We stopped at the Parks Canada warming cabin and warden station where we were finally able to eat a hot meal, change out of our drenched clothing, warm up, and rest for a little while.

To be continued…

 

So what did I learn?

  • Allow others to support you when you require it; then you support them in their time of need.
  • Dig deep within yourself and find the strength you need to put one foot in front of the other – others are counting on you.
  • When you can’t lead for whatever reason – that’s okay, others will step up to the challenge.
  • Allow others to shine and lead.
  • I am strong, resilient and determined.
  • I need to learn how to properly manage pain with pain medications.

 

So What’s in Your Medicine Cabinet?

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One of the goals I had this summer was to de-clutter my home. I went through all of my kitchen cupboards, closets, and medicine cabinet and removed everything that I no longer needed, hadn’t used in years, or had expired.

Taking everything out of my medicine cabinet, I looked for the expiry date (on the box or container) and if it was expired I put it in a ‘dispose of’ pile. If I couldn’t find the expiry date or remember buying it in the last few years, its fate was sealed and I added it to the pile. There was also a prescription medication I had just bought that unfortunately I had had a severe reaction to, so off it went into the ‘dispose of pile’ as well.

I was surprised to find a lot of expired over-the-counter and prescription creams, drops, liquids, and tablets dating back almost 10 years! I could have sworn that I had just bought that anti-nausea mediation for my trip to Mexico! How time flies!

I brought all the pharmaceuticals to my local pharmacy and they we’re happy to take it off my hands as they have a program to collect and safely dispose of these types of products. My pharmacist informed me that it’s important to not use expired drugs because drugs degrade over time and can become less potent, more potent, or can even change to a different chemical which may become toxic. As well, pharmaceuticals should not be flushed down the sink or the toilet as they may leach into the water table and contaminate nearby water supplies.

Rule of thumb – if you have any prescription or over-the-counter drugs that have expired or you’re no longer using, bring it to your local pharmacist for safe disposal.

A Coaching Journey – Pt. 15

At my final life coaching session, Marielle turned life as I knew it on its head. I thought I had prepared for the session, done all my homework (well, most of it, anyway) and was ready to dive in one more time.

Certainly, I had written my “Completion Report” listing what I had learned over this journey, acknowledging myself for changes made, and celebrating those changes. I acknowledged Marielle’s contribution in getting me started in the first place, for showing me other perspectives to some of my challenges, and for her ongoing support. Oh, and for keeping me focused (I sometimes have a tendency to go down bunny trails – interesting things you can find there ;-). I even had at-the-ready, a few suggestions to make the coaching experience even better.

Instead of dwelling on that Completion Report (I guess that the exercise of doing it was more important than going over it point-by-point), Marielle did a “mirroring” exercise with me that took me back to the beginning and what she had observed were my highs and lows (more highs than lows – quite a surprise!) during the entire process.

Hearing my insights and my challenges mirrored back to me in that way was an inspiration. From frustration over what I discovered was out of my control anyway to the huge procrastination roadblock, I had found ways of moving forward that excited and encouraged me. From the realization that I had overcome challenges in the past, so I could do it again came a re-commitment to succeed in my goals. I found I can have my cake and eat it too. I can increase my freedom by using the tools that conquer those barriers and help me attain my vision of the real me.

Goal by goal, we looked back at that vision. I had discovered my “financial” goals were less about making money (although I have to do that as well), and more about making an investment in myself. I had found that lack of organization was the underbelly of procrastination and that I just needed to schedule it in and DO IT! It is, indeed, all doable. I just need to continue to work on changing my habits for the better and remember to breathe.

In the end, I realized that I had made huge strides over the twelve sessions and that the momentum was with me. I will continue to refine my approach and to keep it real as I reveal more and more of this better version of me.

And, for that, I thank Marielle and I celebrate!

(Stay tuned for future updates.)

 

 

 

 

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About the Author:

The above entry is part of a guest blog series titled “A Coaching Journey” written by my friend, client, and talented writer, Linda Epstein. She has graciously agreed to write on her experience with the coaching process as she navigates it, to give a first-hand view of what the journey is like. Visit weekly to find out more!

 

Read the rest of “A Coaching Journey” by clicking below:

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4 – Part 5 – Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10Part 11Part 12Part 13Part 14

A Coaching Journey – Pt. 14

My last blog dealt with self-sabotage, overwhelm and backtracking. In my enthusiasm for moving forward, I had overloaded myself with unrealistic goals that caused me to temporarily derail and fall back on old habits.

Do I consider these missteps as failures? Absolutely not! To fail would mean I gave in. To fail would mean I gave up. To fail would mean that I didn’t learn from my misdirection.

Although I am still finding my way back from my temporary detour, I have learned a lot about myself and what works best for me. I have learned that there are going to be bumps in the road and uphill battles when you are seeking a different direction in your life. And I have become more determined than ever to find the route that will lead me to accomplish and sustain my goals.

When I met with Marielle to discuss the recent challenges on my journey, I discovered that I had actually accomplished much more than I had realized. I had worked toward every single action that I had set out for myself, even if I hadn’t completed the entire action (are we ever really finished?).

Of course, that led to two revelations: Firstly, I was over-reaching my boundaries by confusing ongoing process with singular measures. Rather than breaking down what should become consistent practice into workable steps, I was attempting to do everything at once. Also, as a writer, I knew that the words I was using were important to me, and yet my to do list used words like “begin” and “attempt”. I needed to find verbs that led me toward my goals – quite literally, my actions require action words.

Further, I discovered that my weekly scheduling, while an improvement, was still not enough. I needed to become even more specific than I had been previously. This non-scheduler had to write a timed schedule that would lay out my daily plan. Even if I didn’t accomplish everything on this plan, I was moving toward those all-important goals.

And so, as I get back on track, you might ask, “Are we there yet?” And I would answer, “Not yet, but soon.” And where there is hope and commitment, there will be success.

 

 

 

 

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About the Author:

The above entry is part of a guest blog series titled “A Coaching Journey” written by my friend, client, and talented writer, Linda Epstein. She has graciously agreed to write on her experience with the coaching process as she navigates it, to give a first-hand view of what the journey is like. Visit weekly to find out more!

 

Read the rest of “A Coaching Journey” by clicking below:

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4 – Part 5 – Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10Part 11Part 12Part 13

 

A Coaching Journey – Pt. 13

I was ready. I knew that the timing was right. So did Marielle. So we spent our session setting up the hard work of moving forward, setting target dates as we went. After all, timing is everything – right!

Unfortunately, as I set those dates, I front-loaded everything, not taking into account the other projects that I had on my plate. I had been so excited that my work was going to bear fruit, that I didn’t pay enough care and attention to the timing. And timing is everything – right?

The result when I realized my mistake? I folded into myself, fell back on my procrastination bad habits, and got nothing done. Well, not exactly nothing. My goal remained ever-present in my mind and so I continued researching the writing opportunities out there, made contacts and let it be known that I was available (true, it was a more passive “Hey, I’m here” than a door-knocking “Let me in,” but it was something). I even attended an on-line web design class to get some of the basics. At least it wasn’t my full-blown procrastination of a few months ago. After all, I was ready, wasn’t I?

Thinking about it as I write this blog, I realize that the fear of the rubber hitting the road had taken over and that it was important for me to shift my thinking. Yes, indeed, timing is paramount. And, yes, you need to be ready. But you also need to truly envision what you want from your future and to be open to accepting that it takes a fundamental shift and some hard effort to get there.

So, I’m pulling up my socks, giving myself a shake, shifting my head space and getting back onto my path. After all, both the journey and the destination are worth it. And the road ahead looks a touch bumpy, but clear.

 

 

 

 

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About the Author:

The above entry is part of a guest blog series titled “A Coaching Journey” written by my friend, client, and talented writer, Linda Epstein. She has graciously agreed to write on her experience with the coaching process as she navigates it, to give a first-hand view of what the journey is like. Visit weekly to find out more!

 

Read the rest of “A Coaching Journey” by clicking below:

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4 – Part 5 – Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10Part 11Part 12

 

 

 

A Coaching Journey – Pt. 12

One of my assignments following my most recent coaching session with Marielle was to review the “Personal Checklist” that I filled out prior to beginning this coaching journey. I discovered that, in many of the areas, I was improving, a work in progress (aren’t we all?).

It would be easy to take the idea of a checklist lightly but, as with many things that are meant to give us a wake-up call, information about the importance of checklists have been bombarding me from all sides recently.

Now, I tend to be someone who works things out in my head. I visualize articles almost fully blown before writing a word. I work out next steps in all (or most) areas of my life in my brain, rarely writing these down (unless pushed to do so by something like this process that Marielle has me going through, or when I am so overwhelmed that I need to look at what is coming down the pipe). Even budgeting is done by looking at the bottom line in my chequing account and working out what I can pay from that (most of my regular bills are on automatic payment).

So, when Marielle asked me to review my checklist, it was a “yeah, sure” reaction, done mostly because I am committed to the process.

Then I was listening to a TED Talk about the benefits of checklists in the operating room. Did you know that, according surgeon and public health journalist, Atul Gawanda, deaths during surgery can be reduced by up to 47% just by using check lists? That checklists help catch a problem before it happens or highlight some item that is easily missed? Checklists reinforce teamwork and create a different set of values and discipline, says Dr. Gawanda.

That same day, my exercise coach suggested that I write down my commitment to getting to bed early, and to be specific. I laughed and said that I know I am supposed to getting to bed earlier. Why would I write it down? He insisted that something changes in your brain when you write it down. It becomes more concrete.

On top of all this, I have had two recent events that required checklists for them to succeed.

So, here I am, a person who doesn’t normally write things down, rethinking my approach. With messages from Marielle, Matt and other sources suggesting that it is important to write it down, I am “working on it”. Not only am I improving in other areas of my life, I am also “a work in progress” with writing my best dreams, my goals and my vision down. Using the simple technique of checklists, I expect that I will move forward another step or so.

 

 

 

 

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About the Author:

The above entry is part of a guest blog series titled “A Coaching Journey” written by my friend, client, and talented writer, Linda Epstein. She has graciously agreed to write on her experience with the coaching process as she navigates it, to give a first-hand view of what the journey is like. Visit weekly to find out more!

 

Read the rest of “A Coaching Journey” by clicking below:

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4 – Part 5 – Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10Part 11