Monday, February 17, 2014

A Good Valentine's Day Gift

Twenty-seven years ago, Mike sent me a dozen roses. I was in love. That Valentine's Day, he cooked me a meal, sat with me on the kitchen counter of a friend's house where he was house sitting, and told me he'd make a great husband.

He was right.

I've gotten lots of roses over the years. Back in the nineties, I told him to spend the $80 on something besides roses. I figured he could bring me roses for $20 any other day. He got me an Ansel Adams print of Half Dome. I loved it. It still hangs in our living room, a testament of some kind. Mike is as solid as that rock.

So, this year, I told him things I thought I needed, more notebooks, pens. I've forgotten all the junk I told him. In the past few years, I told him I only wanted him to make cherry pie. Dammit, I can't eat cherry pie any more. It's a bummer, but it's the truth, so I try to ask for other stuff, stuff I might buy for myself anyway if I were out shopping.

So, I wasn't sure what to expect on the actual Valentine's Day. Mike and I value our relationship. We do. I want him to take note of Valentine's Day, but I don't want him to spend $120 on a dozen roses that will surely be wilted and black in a week. I don't want diamonds either. Not my idea of a good time. Mike had a wedding ring designed for me and that has meaning. He's bought me some cool necklaces and earrings over the years, and I wear my grandma's wedding ring on another finger, but I am not overly interested in diamonds.

So last weekend, Mike and Nick went swimming with the Boy Scout Troop, but I needed to take Teddy out on a long walk. Teddy hadn't walked in a couple of days. He was jittery with excess energy. After procrastinating a couple of hours, I went off to my new favorite place - the trail head I'd seen on Sunset way in Issaquah. The first part of the trail is 0.26 miles of up. It's up enough that I've been getting some elevation training, but not so much up that I feel defeated. It connects to the Lake Tradition trails and I can head up to Poo Poo Point, an elevation test, if I feel ambitious. Otherwise, I can hike Brinks Trail along a ridge, Round Lake trail, yes, around Round Lake, or take the Bus trail to the Issaquah High School parking lot.

That day, I wandered around Round Lake, which was encrusted with ice. I got cold just looking at it. I had gotten too warm and a little sweaty from that first rise. The problem with getting sweaty when you hike in the winter is that when you slow your exertion, you can actually chill because your clothing gets soaked, especially if you wore cotton like I did that day. By the time I got to Round Lake, I was chilled.

My first mistake was that I let myself get cold. I hadn't brought any more layers because I don't like my pack. It's built for someone wider than I am and it keeps slipping off my left shoulder. Being more of a book bag, it doesn't have a chest clip. I love that backpack in most ways. Remember that it was the one I retrieved from the time people broke into my car? I had washed it, cleaned out the broken glass, and gone back to using it like a great big purse. It had everything in it. It was nearly ready for a three day trip wherever I went, just needing a change of clothes and a couple more books to complete its contents. The only thing I didn't like about my backpack was backpacking with it. So I had gotten into the habit of hiking without it, jamming my pockets with my iPhone, gloves, a hat, a packet of peanut butter, my keys, and my wallet. I didn't care that I looked ridiculous. I was comfortable.

Then, the pockets of my favorite jacket got stretched out and stuff has been falling out of them. I learned to fold my gloves and tuck them in. I lost at least three pair of earbuds and a Chapstick. My wallet slid out once, thankfully slapping the floor when I bent over so that I didn't actually lose it. My hip started to hurt when I tried carrying that fat little wallet in my back pocket. My tiny purse was too small for extra stuff and, having a single long strap, made my back ache when I walked very far wearing it, so I got into the habit of shoving it under the front seat of my car and shoving my wallet into my pocket. I just kept checking my stretched out pockets and hiked that way anyway. It was the easiest way.

Being the Scoutmaster's wife, I figured, if I included the packet of peanut butter, I had six of the ten essentials. Nick had quizzed me one day. Four of those ten were apps on my iPhone, a map, a compass, a light, and an emergency contact. Did I ever tell you how much I love my iPhone? I did? Oh, right. Well.

So, there I was, wearing all my layers and realizing that hat and gloves weren't quite a whole layer, one of the ten essentials, seeing that I was still cold. Plus, it had begun to rain. I'd left my big red rain jacket in my car. Brilliant. I could see why that was one of the ten essentials, especially in the Pacific Northwest.

Then, I realized that, by using the Runkeeper app on my iPhone to check my distance, I was running down my battery. I'd walked nearly three miles and it was getting dark. I started to realize that my flippant answer to Nick's question about packing my ten essentials, that I had four of them on my iPhone, might actually become a problem. If I depended upon my iPhone for my map, my compass, my flashlight, and emergency contact, I could run into trouble if I ran the battery down using Runkeeper to check my distance.

I had a great walk, yet, at 3.56 miles and 5:27 pm, my iPhone battery was nearly dead. I found the intersection to the trail and began to walk back down that 0.26 miles in near darkness, without using the LED light app on my iPhone.

I was thirsty too, really thirsty. I hadn't carried water either because it didn't fit easily into my pockets. There I was, a quarter of a mile from my car on a trail I didn't know very well. I was cold, wet, thirsty, and walking in the dark. Great. I'm married to the Scoutmaster and, if I got turned around on this network of trails or tripped over one of those roots, I was going down looking like a total idiot.

It might have been worse. I'd been wetter. I'd been colder. I'd walked in the dark, but usually on easier stretches of trail. And I'd been hungrier. That packet of peanut butter hadn't gone very far either.

I started to shiver as I walked very carefully down the steep trail, across roots, steps, and rocks. I didn't fall. Thankfully. When I finally got to my car, I breathed out a sigh of relief I hadn't realized I'd been holding. My car was the only one left in the parking lot. I got a bottle of water and an apple sauce pouch out of my backpack. I pulled a vest out of the compartment on the bottom that was so well hidden that I hadn't known it was there the first three years I had the pack. I put my rain jacket on too, useless against the wet of my cotton jacket, but still useful against the cold. Then, I got into my car and headed home.

Taking a walk around this area can be tricky. It all looks so nice, pretty trees, graveled trails at least at first, parking lots at the edge of a town I knew very well. But a lot of these trails connect to a real wilderness. The trails at High Point can easily lead to getting lost. I thought about a time I'd hiked around Lake Tradition for an extra hour when I'd gotten turned around on a power line trail. That time, I'd brought water and my lunch yet I was very thirsty when I was done. Yes, there's a difference between taking a walk and taking a hike, but those differences blurred because I could have walked eight or ten miles from where I started and I wasn't entirely sure whether some of the trails connected to longer ones.

I got home well after Mike and Nick did. Mike pretended not to have been worrying, but I told him how I'd come down that slope in the dark. I told him how I'd begun to shiver in my wet cotton jacket. I told him about how thirsty I'd gotten. I promised him then that I'd bring my old backpack with me when I took a walk with Teddy even though the strap drove me nuts when it repeatedly slipped off my left shoulder. He nodded and didn't say much.

For Valentine's Day, Mike got me a new day pack. It fits like a glove. For the last couple of days, I've worn it on my walks. I'm carrying food, water, my trusty red rain jacket that you can practically see from space, my vest and even my headlamp in case I come down that hill in the dark again.

Now see, that is way better than a lumpy old diamond any day. That snug little pack really tells me that Mike loves me and wants me to hang around a bit longer. What a nice Valentine's Day, don't you think?

Thank you for listening, jb

No comments:

Post a Comment