Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Late Afternoon Ascent

I don't think I can get a decent story told tonight. It's late and I'm beat from a good hike at Rattlesnake Lake.

Aren't you supposed to sleep better when you get good exercise? I think it works, but I'm not sure. At this point, I've downed a bottle of water, a glass of milk, and another full glass of water. When I got back to the car after the hike, the bottled water that had been sitting in my car all week was still warm from the heat, like tepid tea with no flavor. I know I'm not supposed to keep bottled water in my car during the summer because the plastic leeches into the water, but summer is when I need it most.

How prepared was I tonight?

I had my wallet, my keys, my iPhone with an apps for a flashlight and a map. That was it! I know it was only a four and a half mile trip up to Rattlesnake Ledge, but I realized too late that there are places where you should have decent provisions regardless of how short the hike. See, it's what happens when you 'walk the dog' every day. You get bored with your usual places. I go to places where there's espresso and a dog wash in the parking lot. I don't need to be so prepared for that. Then, I go places where the elevation gain has me gasping for breath and a misstep might result in a broken limb. There are trails twenty minutes from home that head out and don't necessarily come back. Being prepared for them is good. I've just gotten out of the habit of wearing my backpack which has most of what I need for a night or maybe two outside.

Oh, my friends offered me some water, but I figured once I got to the top, the profuse sweating would abate. It did. I won't tell you about how my friends did. They were fine, bopping along at a brisk pace. I'm glad they were patient with me, that they chatted when I couldn't hold up my end of the conversation for the heaving and the sound of my heart pounding in my ears. It turns out that the elevation gain at Rattlesnake Ledge is 1160 ft. Phew!

I don't care if it's sad that I once hiked sixteen miles on the Bright Angel trail down into the Grand Canyon, which is a mile deep, 5280 feet, and back, ... yet now 1160 feet seems like a lot. I'm proud of my 1160 ft! The thing was that we headed up the trail late this evening and we kept walking up hill until we were there. It was a random 'dog walk' on a random night and I couldn't have walked that a couple of years ago.

By comparison, the hike up Mt. Rainier is 9000 feet up over a distance of only eight or nine miles. Yeah, I'm never going to do that. I promised my ice axe to a young friend tonight. I knew within months of buying it back in 1992, that I wasn't going to try the ascent. It was the Mountaineers guide that Mike had bought at the same time that got me. I had begun to read about how to stay safe, about how to perform a self-arrest, about crossing a crevasse using a ladder while wearing crampons on my boots. I just didn't see myself going for it after that. Can you picture your own reaction to sliding down a mountainside with no easy way to stop yourself? You're supposed to be able to unbuckle your ice axe, hold it across your chest with two hands, then twist around and jam the pick into the snow to stop. I can say that I may have had some adrenaline junkie characteristics when I was young. I've paddled, laughing and screaming, through Class VI rapids in West Virginia, but I don't see myself living through a slide on the snow down a mountainside. At first, I was disappointed in myself, but now, I'm glad I didn't push myself to do something like that if I didn't really want to do it. It may be good to press your limits, but it's also good to respect your limits. Throw me into a wild river instead of onto a mountain any day.

These days, I spend more time simply walking the dog. And on days like today, that's okay with me.

Thank you for listening, jb


No comments:

Post a Comment