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Megan Liljedahl is a Vermont native, outdoor enthusiast, and working mother of two boys. Her blog, Lil' Vermont Adventures, is full of (you guessed it) outdoor adventures, as well as fun lessons in work/life balance, self-care, organization, and being a boy mom. In mid-April, Megan attempted a Skin up Mansfield, and gives us all the details below.

 

At the start of this year, I set a goal for myself to hike on skis (a.k.a. “Skin”) to the tippy-top of Mt. Mansfield. At an elevation of 4,393 feet, climbing to the top of this mountain is a challenge for anyone. For me it would be extra challenging because I was still re-building the strength in my right quadricep following my knee surgery. I had been faithfully rehabbing for months, doing my PT at the gym, and I mentally wanted a finish line to work toward. That finish line would be my first Skin to the top of Mansfield.

Photo Credit: Sarah Peet Photography for Megan Liljedahl 

Skinning is an amazing spring activity here in Vermont. At Stowe, once the lifts shutdown, there is a whole subculture of people who get their exercise hiking up the mountain and then skiing their run down. It is a full body workout unlike any other.


I knew this challenge would be just as much physical as it would be mental. There will always be a before and after my injury. I am cautious now where I used to be confident; I get nervous the first time I try any activity again, unsure if my body will fail me like it did last spring. It doesn't matter what the activity is - a lunge, spinning, skiing, running on a treadmill (forget running a road race - I am scared just to try running outside again) - you get the point. I am cautious and worried about injuring myself again. It also doesn't matter how many times I have done an activity before, I now have this feeling my body can't do it.

I should note for clarity's sake that this was not my first attempt to skin post-surgery. This was my first attempt to skin…ever.

The night before my Skin I was anxious. I prepped my gear: proper layers, AT Skis + Boots, headlamp, Turtle Fur Headband, backpack, skins, and water for the ascent. A down jacket, neck warmer, fresh base layer, gloves, and helmet for the descent. While preparing, I mapped out the spots I could safely turn back along the journey to the top. Ideally you need a flat(ish) spot with minimal wind to strip the skins from the skis and adjust your layers before skiing back down.

I was convinced I wouldn’t make it the whole way to the top on my first attempt, and that was A-OK with me. I have learned to give myself both the permission and the grace to only do things that I enjoy and am comfortable with. If I am not grinning from ear-to-ear, I will stop without a moment of hesitation or guilt. In the past I carried too much pride to stop or change course, but that all changed after my injury.

 

Day of my Skin

We set off at 6am, hoping to catch the sunrise somewhere along our ascent. There were six ladies including myself, and I prepped everyone that I would need to take it at my own pace, did not plan to reach the summit on this first try, and that they should not wait up for me. I think the ladies sensed my trepidation and set a moderate pace so I wouldn’t fall behind. As they each made stops throughout our journey to get water, change a layer, or stretch, I carried on. I feared that if I stopped I would lose steam, and I wanted to stay the course, slow and steady.

Skinning up Mansfield

Photo Credit: Sarah Peet Photography for Megan Liljedahl 

At some point I realized that I had made it past all my planned turn around spots, and maybe, just maybe, I could make it to the top on my first try. I was feeling remarkably good, loving the feeling of strength powered by my legs plodding their way up the mountain. One step after another, higher and higher we climbed.

Post-surgery, whenever I start to feel like I am on an emotional or physical high, I worry that something is going to sideswipe me and knock me down again. Last May when I blew out my knee I was on a serious high - I had the new creative outlet of blogging, I had just done my first branding shoot, I was meeting new people. Life was good and I felt invincible. While I wish I could have been knocked back down to earth differently, there was something very grounding about this humbling experience.

I climbed the final stretch of the mountain with tears pouring down my cheeks. I had accomplished my goal. I intentionally climbed a little slower soaking in the moment, the scenery, the support I felt from my friends who had been there the whole way silently cheering me on. I thought about the journey of the past hour and a half, and then of the past year leading up to this moment; all the hours of physical therapy, the support of my husband, family, and friends. Recovering from this injury was my mountain, my mountain to climb. No one could complete this journey but me, and there is no way I could have done it alone.

Top of Mount Mansfield

Photo Credit: Sarah Peet Photography for Megan Liljedahl