On This Hike, the Summit’s Just the Start


A hike by any other name is still a hike.

Fellow Coloradan Amy of Run Write Hike chronicled a hike through a place called 40-mile gulch. I got nostalgic for trails. It’s been years. I think my inner Coloradan yearns for it. Like a shepherd dog does for sheep. Or a sparrow does for McDonald’s French fries.

Amy told with pictures and words what her hike entailed. I’ll do the same today, about our hike, to Davidson, for the second round of the state 1A girls soccer playoffs.

hike1# # #

Davidson is a hike, off the interstate, onto country roads that wind and dip. Past farm-equipment crossing signs. We didn’t get any pictures of those. Or of the motorcycles. Or of the banners that tempt you to spend a Saturday night watching bull-riding.

You’ll reach a small college town, with lots of money and big houses to prove it.

You’ll reach a place of fit running mamas on every sidewalk. A few guys, too. Lawns and American flags and historic homes. And behind them, a hidden field where a No. 1 seed awaits. That’s daunting.

hike3Even if you’re not a No. 9 seed with just enough players to field a starting lineup.

Your hike, then, seems to take you to the edge of the volcano as a sacrifice.

But it doesn’t feel like that. Not when you’re wearing your school colors and the score is still nil-nil. Not when you have nothing to lose. Not when you’ve hung with other top teams, just a break or two away from an upset. There’s a comfort in the underdog. Because the underdog will become the dark horse.

Sometimes, the goals come against you early. It’s tough to keep the underdog running when that happens.

Written on Elise’s wall

1-0. 2-0. 3-0. Tough goals become shots you don’t see until it’s too late. Chances to counter fizzle on the loose turf. The opposing fans on the sideline start to look more like a cocktail party than a rabid soccer following. A 4-0 lead will do that.

There’s a difference between the schools. If you told our school’s parents they would become middle class tomorrow, many would celebrate. If you told their school’s parents they would become middle class tomorrow, many would weep.

That doesn’t matter, though. Because even when it’s 5-0, and they don’t even applaud a score, the team still goes for the jugular. Again and again. Only they find a tougher go of it. If you’re not going to topple the top seed, you’ll hope they feel it that they’ve played you.

6-0 and 7-0 are much tougher to reach – but they get there.

Written on Elise’s wall

You think less about the bracket at that point and more about next season. Or lunch on the way home. But you don’t want to stop in Davidson. You can’t get out of there soon enough. In 90 minutes, you develop so much dislike for the other team.

There will be tears.

How could there not be? Because even when you’re the underdog, you expect to win. And the hate you develop isn’t bad sportsmanship. It’s competitiveness. Just wait until next year. Hope we get you again. You’ll see. Even if we didn’t get the chance to become the dark horse this time.

hike18You’ll root against whoever plays them next. Because, of course.

The postgame hug from dad will be a little tighter, linger a little longer. The tears? Don’t hide them. Don’t choke them back. Let’s get out of here. Past the running mamas and college campus and motorcycles and lush lawns.

Past the bull riding and the tractor crossing. Those tears and that hurt can feel unexpected.

But queso before your entrée is also unexpected. I don’t know if it’s cause-and-effect, but that hatred loses its edge. Just a bit. The talk moves from frustration to recollection.

To finding praise for a new teammate who might be about to eat real Mexican food with you, too.


And talk will turn to next year, or to summer, or to when that entrée gets to your table.

This hike doesn’t end here. It goes on, through an offseason. First, on a ride home, when you don’t forget, but root for whoever that team plays next. Because it’s in your blood, and there’ll be another day to play.

Today even.

hike15With sisters, in a backyard.

No referees, no coaches to micromanage your every move.

Just play.

Kick, dive, pass, laugh.

With your sisters.

A reminder of why you play the game, of what made you want to put the cleats and shin guards on in the first place.

When you were little.

Because that’s where the hike began.

hike19Where does it end?

Not here.

Not today.



  1. I totally know the back story to this and love how you shared it here today. The sisters part really got me, especially being the mom to my two girls. I can so put myself in your shoes in a few short years with mine, since this is there starting point fairly recent here. But still have to remember then that Mexican food really does heal all wounds 🙂

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks Janine! The girls do take it hard when they lose, but they also seem to bounce back quicker than boys. I hope your girls will take care of each other, too, and lean on their sister when times are tough.

      I’m pretty sure enchiladas aren’t the key to world peace – but they sure couldn’t hurt.

  2. laurie27wsmith says:

    The COACH comes to the fore again. There’s nothing like being the underdog at times, it sharpens you, makes you hungry (unless the opposition kick the absolute shite out of you) determined. Mexican food? I had a BBQ thrown in my honour at a bar in San Antonio. Real Mexican food. My bum cried for days.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      He always lurks, mate. I’d rather come in as the underdog. Because my girls are half Mexican, they have the intestinal fortitude to handle any pepper or spice.

      You really had your own Alamo in San Antonio, didn’t you, Laur?

      1. laurie27wsmith says:

        I reckon you’d be like a bulldog Mate, hanging on for grim death. I’ll always remember The Alamo, at least my bum will.

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        Aren’t there plenty of Mexican cantinas down there, mate?

      3. laurie27wsmith says:

        Not that many at all. Back in the 60’s and 70’s you might have seen a few.

      4. Eli Pacheco says:

        That’s why you guys can’t handle it. you need regular exposure, mate.

      5. laurie27wsmith says:

        This is so true Mate. If I want to burn my fundamental orifice again I can drop into a curry house.

      6. Eli Pacheco says:

        That’s a rite of passage in some cultures.

      7. laurie27wsmith says:

        I’ll stick to my favourite, steak, eggs, baked beans and chips. (fries) Home cooked of course.

      8. Eli Pacheco says:

        Make that for two, mate.

  3. ksbeth says:

    coach, dad,daughter love, underdog supporter, caring man, all comes through in this wonderful post, eli. )

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      wow, thanks beth. and i thought the queso was the key.

      1. ksbeth says:

        and i’m not saying that the queso is not key….

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        queso is just cheese without a little daddyin’.

  4. Kim says:

    I love that you compared this “hike” to Amy’s!!! Such a fun way to tell the story! Next year that team will be going down!!!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      When I woke up this morning, I thought to myself, “was that too much of a stretch?” Her adventure was something else, wasn’t it?

      And yes, this is how rivalries are born, Kim, for sure.

  5. Awww, sorry for the harsh loss. I love like their resilience – plus your hug and the yummy food – let them bounce back! Elise has some wise friends posting on her wall!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      They fought like hell, though. And it’s all gravy (or enchilada sauce) in the end. Elise is the one who actually physically wrote those quotes with a sharpie on her wall.

  6. tamaralikecamera says:

    I love your version of “Pour Your Heart Out.”
    You lost me for a split second. My mind took a detour at the talk of real Mexican food, and how I’d feel if I could be middle class tomorrow (I’d cheer – notice the “could” instead of “have to be.”)
    Then I came back to, and followed along on this “hike.”
    This hike isn’t over.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Is that what this was? And trust me, when I took that photo, I spent as much time looking at it on the phone as I did on the table. Then I realized I could do something even better – eat it.

      Hoorah for the middle class! Someday, T-Bow, we’ll get there. That hike isn’t over, either.

      Look out Davidson. We’ll get you next time.

  7. Cheryl says:

    Dads and sisters (and Mexican food!!) can heal a lot of hurts! They’re lucky they have each other and a great dad to get them through the disappointments.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Well, we can nullify a playoff loss, at least! i just hope they always stay close and take care of each other when I can’t be there. Thanks, Cheryl.

  8. Sorry for the tough loss! It’s a learning experience for sure. I never had quite the same experiences as I was an individual sport girl, but I’ve watched my kids. I remember this year’s conference championships for the high school…2 teams reaching the finals beating teams they weren’t supposed to beat, at least according to previous years ranking. My daughter playing one of her best friends and former club teammate. Both teams not giving an inch. One overtime, then two. Minutes left in the game. My daughter yelling at her teammates “don’t let her turn, don’t let her turn,” about her friend. She turned. The ball was passed down the line…and then in. A tough loss, 1-0. My daughter in tears, but texted her friend to congratulate her. There’s always next year, right? Thank goodness for Mexican food. No sisters here, unfortunately.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks Michelle! They say you learn more from the losses than the wins. Maybe they’re right. In that case, I learned a LOT as a child athlete.

      I think it’s tough to go against a friend, especially on such a grand stage. Elise and her friend Kayla would fight tooth and nail for 90 minutes, then hug afterward. Now they’re on the same team.

      One huge thing I do (or don’t do) is not bring up the game in the car unless the girls do. Then we’ll talk about all aspects, not just what I would have done. I think this is important.

      When the server brought not only chips and salsa, but free queso? We knew we’d arrived.

  9. This is wonderful. I love the correlations. Sometimes when I come here I wish I was more athletic and outdoorsy. I’d like to experience that type of beauty one day. I’d like for my hike not to end.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks Carla. This day felt like such a hike for us. When you come here, you *are* more athletic and outdoorsy. And I think your hike has been pretty beautiful, too.

      Here’s to long trails ahead.

    2. Eli Pacheco says:

      I like the new look on the blog!

  10. Amy says:

    Awe. Thanks so much for the shout-out! We went on different journeys, but they were certainly journeys for sure! This made me miss my old soccer games from when I was that age!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks for the inspiration, Amy. I had to give credit where credit was due. You helped me to see the day as a hike of our own.

      You should probably tell your tales of the soccer pitch on Coach Daddy someday.

  11. Amber says:

    Okay, I swear I read all of this, but the Mexican food plate made me drool. I LOVE Mexican food! And now I want some.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I admit I spent a lot of time looking at that picture for days afterward.

  12. Katie @ Pick Any Two says:

    Let there never come a day when the underdog doesn’t expect to win. Let that hope never die!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      That’s the beauty of the underdog, right? I love the role.

  13. Davidson College… Dell Curry was a star basketball player for Virginia Tech, and when VT overlooked his son Stephen, Stephen played for Davidson. They went to the elite-eight in 2008 with him leading the way, and VT didn’t do squat. That was probably VT’s biggest recruiting blunder of all times!

    Sorry for the girls’ loss, but good Mexican food for lunch had to be a good start in the healing process!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Yep, that’s the school we passed getting to this high school. Dell Curry was the last Hokies superstar in basketball, wasn’t he? They’re also a rival to my alma mater, UNC Charlotte, who lost out on a recruit, Michael Beasley, who backed out of a commitment because an assistant coach left for Kansas State – and took him with him.

      Now I feel like having a couple of enchiladas because of having to think of Michael Beasley. And Steph Curry. Because if he’d gone to Blacksburg, he wouldn’t have been around to terrorize the 49ers.

  14. Nina says:

    So sorry for the loss, Eli. It’s all about resilience, right? And okay, you just made me crave Mexican right now.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Well, we *were* the underdogs. And resilience is definitely the key.

      I’m craving enchiladas, and it’s 9 a.m. And I’ve had a stomach bug for three days.

  15. Sandy Ramsey says:

    I’ve have been on this hike. Several times. I’m sorry about the loss but they didn’t give up. That says something right there and makes them winners in my book….scored victory or not.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      This hike goes on many trails, doesn’t it? I’m not sure we ever get off. I was so proud – they fought like hell. When you’re two people down and not giving up goals to a top team?

      That’s pretty bad-ass.

  16. Hubby said he wants to take us on a hike one day. I would love to, but the bugs and wild life depending on where we go…I’m nervous a little! I will just have to learn a few more things before we go maybe. I love how you tied that into THE GAME. Your girls are so sweet. Playing in the backyard like that is so much fun. So many memories to be made!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      You should take him up on it. You can stay on a relatively docile trail that doesn’t have all the wildlife experience if you want. Local parks have good wooded trails that aren’t too far from civilization.

      I know my hike wasn’t exactly the same as Amy’s, but I saw immediate parallels. Glad you liked it, Brittnei!

      When it comes down to it, those girls are always there for each other. They love the game because of times like that they spend together.

  17. Your writing in this piece is AMAZING. And that your girls are in it together is great for them. I wonder at the relief they might feel at a backyard game, rather than one with slightly more pressure. I am not a sports person, but I felt for them–strongly–as I read this piece.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks Rox. When it comes down to it, these girls always have each other’s back. There’s pressure in their games, for sure, but never from their parents – we love to watch them compete, but have never wanted to make it a job for them.

      The bond they have goes way beyond sports, too. It’s a beautiful thing.

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