Mike Hikes

One year of self challenges and counting

Six and a half years. One hundred and twenty thousand feet. Four hundred and sixty miles. Twenty eight pounds. And even now, as you're reading this, these numbers tick upward. But numbers are just numbers without a story behind them.

Michael Tucker is a Montana boy. He grew up in Havre, is a University of Montana alumnus, and he stayed in Missoula to raise his family and do good work, but this story isn't really about Mike. 

One year ago, we were all just getting by, whether it was in sanity, dollars, or literal survival. So Mike hiked. He took his losses, grief, battles, his backpack, four rocks, and some water, and he hiked. The four rocks are his family: father, mother, brother, and sister. All of whom passed away within a few years. The trickier part of bearing the gigantic hole in your chest that is loss, is carrying the weight of sobriety, too. When life gets hard the brain tries to call on an old friend dressed as a drink, but Mike wouldn't let that happen. He didn't need to report to anyone, save for one particular individual—himself. 

Mike took accountability to a new level, proving to himself that there are other highs out there, quite literally in the form of high elevation mountain peaks. Age or experience had nothing to do with it. He wanted to summit as many mountains as he could without breaking for long periods of time in between. Sometimes those hikes are endurance related, maybe a test of physical strength. And other times they're to get closer to heaven, closer to those he's lost, and building his mental and emotional strength on the climb. 

"There's always going to be a mountain that looks too high, a problem that looks too hard to overcome," said Mike. "All we need to remember is to take small steps and breathe, and you can conquer anything."

There is no guidebook for life, no chapter that explicitly tells us how to move onward and where to gently place our feet so as to not get hurt along the way. But there are books for hiking—where to go, how to get there, what kind of climb it is, how many feet in elevation, what the ground might be like. There are equipment recommendations and tried-and-true ways of hydrating and fueling ourselves so we can conquer our goals. Hiking is where the mapless route of our lives intersects with physical trails to unmatched vistas. 

"My 'why' in life is just living it to the fullest. Since the loss of my parents, my brother, and my sister. Since I had a stroke, since I drank too much. I learned that life is as long as the next moment," said Mike. Since his first "self challenge" hike last year, Mike has summited dozens of mountains including but not limited to Lone Mountain, Crow Creek Canyon, Babcock Mountain, Trapper Peak, Saint Mary, Mount Baker, Mount Saint Helens, Manitou Incline, and the indescribable and utterly insane, Mount Rainier. And his stamina and determination has followed him on vacation and business trips to Arizona, Hawaii, Colorado, Washington and of course, to right here at home in Montana.

So if you do anything for yourself this year, find that thing that beats you up a bit, but in a good way. Find something that makes you yearn to be better the next day, and then the next month, and the next year until you look back and surprise yourself because you can't always count on things to go the way you think they should. But counting on ourselves? That's a bet worth making. 

Follow Mike's hikes at MandMTuck.PicFair.com or on Instagram @OutdoorsInspiring

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