I started this post wanting to share my trip to Zion (the national park, not the Jewish Holyland), and as has been happening to me so often lately, I ended up in a completely different place. I began thinking about my trip. Then I remembered that I needed to post a hike announcement for my MeetUp.com group. So I opened another window and began researching hikes. I chose Crystal Peak and wanted to compare its elevation gain to my first ever hike which in turn got me thinking about how I started hiking, which lead me back to this post, which has nothing at all to do with a national park in Utah.
If you’ve been peeking in on me from time to time, you might know that I’ve developed into rather a hiking enthusiast over the past few years. I acquired this hobby with a girlfriend while living in Seattle. Together, she and I spent a summer bouncing around the Olympics and Cascades. Getting up at ungodly hours, we’d pile into her Mini with water and peanut butter sandwiches and hit the trails while they were still fresh with dew. I needed a reason to stop hating Washington and she wanted to get out of the house, so we bombed over trails as if shooting cans off a line of fence posts.
Before that, I’d never been much of a hiker, which finally, today, struck me as odd, considering a number of different things:
1. Nature 0; Nurture; 1—-I grew up in Upstate NY, just minutes south of the Adirondack Park and its famed 46 high peaks. There was a wealth of hiking to be done both north of me in the park, and south of me in the Catskills. My parents though, were never the outdoors-y kind of people. We didn’t have a “camp” to go to in the summer and it would have been
hard impossible to imagine my mother in the woods, Diet Pepsi can in hand, fighting mosquitos and other wildlife. While both parents were products of the 60s and my Dad definitely a left-wing liberal, dirty hippies they were not. We were an intellectual family; readers, thinkers, NERDS. Physical activity in terms of interaction with nature was limited to lawn-mowing and walking to the mailbox.
2. You Can Lead A Horse—My first real boyfriend was from a family of hikers/fishers/campers/backpackers. His mom (to this day one of the nicest and most spritely people I’ve ever met) bought me my first fishing pole on the day that I graduated from high school. She was well into her 50s at our first meeting, and had decided not too many years before that she wanted to be an ADK 46-R. By the time he and I broke up a year and half later, She was only about 8 peaks away from completion. I never went on a hike with her, although she must invited me any number of times. I couldn’t say why. Perhaps I was too busy discovering nasty ways to have sex with her son, or was carrying, unknown, my own mother’s idea of ‘roughing it’ (room service at the Ritz). Either way, somehow, the experience escaped me then too. Another near miss.
3. Blame It On The Fever—A few years later, in college, I’d actually GO hiking. And not in a small way either. Along with another boyfriend and his uber low-key roommate, I would climb Algonquin, the second highest peak in New York State. I had a backpack full of black and white film and bronchitis. Between my hacking, productive coughs and the fact that EVERYTHING on that hike was picture-worthy, we probably stopped 150 times. But, we made the top. I remember specifically the feeling of summiting. Of looking at the brass bench mark at the peak, and quietly congratulating myself on my accomplishment. It amazes me now, to remember that feeling, to know that I had it, and to realize that contrary to every descriptive of my personality, I didn’t continue to seek it out actively.
There are any number of things that I love about hiking. I love that it’s done on a Saturday, and any calories burned are bonuses. I love the feeling of getting somewhere, working hard to meet a goal; each moment on a strenuous trail–legs burning, breath heavy–builds to the payoff of making it to a place that many people will never see because it’s too far from their couch. I love the idea that my body CAN, that it is more capable than other bodies. I love the smell in the fall and discovering an easy trail that allows for some running. There’s no TV and there’s no time limit. A day spent hiking is never a waste. It begins with an early start and ends with sound sleep. It’s natural and quiet and it connects me to the world as the bottom of my Merrell’s connect with the pine-needly path.
I’m a late bloomer, but no less committed for that. Happy, for once, to have an obsession for something that’s not bad for me.