How Many “Somedays” Do You Have Left?

Mike Branch with Britta Arends and Laura Branch

My youngest daughter, Sarah, participates in a figure skating clinic at the Sun Valley Lodge, which has one of the largest, year-round outdoor ice skating rinks in the world. For a week she gets coached by world class coaches, many of them former national champion figure skaters and international competitors.

While Sarah skates, the rest of us enjoy fishing, biking, hiking and all that the Sun Valley area has to offer.

One of the more challenging and popular hikes is to hike 5-miles up Bald Mountain and enjoy a free gondola ride back down.

With an elevation of 9,010 feet, the summit of Bald Mountain offers a panorama of three different mountain ranges and bird’s eye view of Sun Valley below.

I have always thought that hiking up Bald Mountain would be fun to do – someday.

My parents joined us last summer when we visited Sun Valley for the second time.

My dad’s a very active guy for any age. He didn’t hesitate when we said we wanted to hike up Bald Mountain, but surprisingly he turned back part way, saying it was too much.

Maybe it was the heat and elevation.

My oldest daughter, Laura, and I kept going. The fine print that they don’t tell you when you hike Bald Mountain is that you must get to the gondola buy 3:30. That’s when the gondola closes.

Miss it and you will be walking back down the mountain.

We missed it.

Well, not exactly. It became apparent not long into the hike that we would miss the gondola ride down from the summit.  Fortunately, however, the gondola has two stops, one at the tippy top of the mountain and one about halfway up.

We wouldn’t make it to the top of the mountain, but the halfway mark seemed within reach. Even that required us to hurry, but we made it.

Again, I said to myself, “Someday if we ever get back here I would really like to hike to all the way to the top of the mountain and take the gondola back down”.

It had become my mini-Everest.

Maybe this time

We never really know from one year to the next what we might do for our summer trip. Or when we will take it. It depends on kids’ schedules, family commitments and a host of other things that have to line up just right.

We love Sun Valley, however, and when the chance to go this summer came up, we took it.

On the day we had planned to hike Bald Mountain I learned of the death of a client of mine. At age 63, she died far too soon.

When you are a financial planner you help clients plan for their ideal future, which usually includes a long retirement spent checking things off the “someday” bucket list.

But it doesn’t always work out this way. In fact, none of us really knows how much time we have, how many “somedays” are left in our future.

Unfortunately, this was my third client to die within as many months. Whenever people close to me pass away, it reminds me that our time on Earth is limited. I wondered what was left undone on the “someday” lists of these people and what was on my list that I still wanted to do.

On this trip my oldest daughter invited her friend, Britta, to join us. We all looked forward to hiking Bald Mountain. Britta even went out and bought hiking shoes and a little backpack with a tube to carry her water.

The hike to the summit covers 5 miles and climbs over 3,000 feet. Most of the guidebooks recommend setting aside 4 hours to complete the hike.

Half way up we made it to the proverbial fork in the trail where we had to decide: do we continue or do we take the gondola at the mid-way point? Were we going to do this now, or would this be another thing that gets put off for a future “someday”?

Laura and Britta are 16-years old and they do competitive sports year round. They made this hike look like a walk in the park – literally.

Britta Arends and Laura Branch

My experience was different.

I have run marathons, done triathlons and consider myself to be at least reasonably fit. Walking a 5-mile trail up the side of a big hill seems doable when you are down at the trailhead. But when you have walked straight uphill for two hours and realize you’re barely halfway there, you start to have second thoughts.

Parts of the trail were still covered in snow and ice. Almost every step of this hike was higher than the last. I had to stop frequently to catch my breath and I began to worry that we wouldn’t make it to the summit by 3:30.

When we started the hike it was cold and windy. The clouds shielded us from the sun. An hour later, we were sweltering.

I wondered if I should turn around and catch the gondola at the halfway point.

Maybe it was the heat and elevation.

Life is way too short and everyday is a gift.

I decided that this day was going to be one of my “somedays” and pushed through, not knowing when or if I would have this chance again. We made it to the top of the mountain just in time to catch the gondola back down.

The view was magnificent.

My financial advice for anyone holding off for “someday” is to balance the need to save and plan for the future with the equally important need to live in the moment and make each day count.

A good financial plan will help you do that. Once you know how you are positioned for retirement and other goals, you are in a better position to make decisions on what you can afford to do now, what changes you may need to make to your financial plan today, and what goals or bucket list items may need to wait for someday.

So take the trip. Climb the mountain. Enjoy the ride. We only have so many “somedays” ahead of us.

This blog post is dedicated to Kevin, Gretchen, Dwight and all the others who lit a light in the hearts of others while theirs was dimmed too soon.