Monday, July 17, 2017

Today I Became An Old Woman

Today I became an old woman.  Well, actually it was last Wednesday, but you get it.  Here's how it went down.  We are currently in Utah where the Davis Clan has gathered from the western half of the country for a family reunion.  Wednesday morning's schedule read: Hike to Waterfall.  Easy peasy.  I am a true child of the northwest, I was hiking before I could actually walk.  I guess we would call that being a Baby-Carrieree, rather than a hiker?  Who knows.  Anyway, people in the Pacific Northwest hike.  It's just what we do, and with good reason.  It's gorgeous there.  So, in summary, seeing "hike" on the activity agenda, knowing small children and non-hiking Texans would be involved, I was nothing but happy about our planned activity.  As my father-in-law had said the night before, "It's an easy two and a half miles, ok for kids."

We get to the trailhead.  I am wearing my hiking sandals.  They are super comfy, designed for outdoor activity, and it's already 80 degrees at 8 in the morning.  I think nothing about it.  A group of college kids who are obviously well-trained runners, set off before us, running the trail.  I think, well, if they're running it, it should at least be pretty level.  We finally get all the shoes tied and all the water bottles located.  We set off.

Everyone under thirty immediately zips ahead.  Honestly, it's like they're walking on one of those airport moving sidewalks.  Even my daughter, who is carrying her TWENTY-SEVEN POUND TODDLER on her back, just cruises along.  But she works out and is used to carting Little Miss around, so I feel nothing but joy in seeing my family enjoying the outdoors.  I notice, after the first thirty feet, that this trail seems to start off kinda steep, with a bunch of really large rocks in the way.  I think to myself, "They really oughta re-grade this trailhead and get rid of the rocks."  We hike on, but the steep part isn't ending.  And since it rains in Utah in the summer about as often as my boys remember to lift the seat, it's super dusty and I now have dusty dirt and tiny rocks filling my sandals.  I am annoyed but determined to let it go.  I am a PNW Girl, dang it.  A little dust does not bother me.

And the steep part STILL isn't ending.  And there are more big rocks in the trail.  Rocks you have to climb to get over.  And no shade.  And it's 5,000+ feet elevation on this trail.  I live at 54.  Not 54 hundred, 54 feet total.  My new hiking sandals really aren't doing it for me anymore, since they did not come with the Oxygen Tank accessory pack.  I do have water, which I am chugging.  Then I remember the college kids.  They must not be college kids, they must be, I don't know, Olympian Trail Runners in training.  They aren't fully human, I know that.

A quarter of a mile in, we pass a gate post and enter a wooded area.  SHADE.  I have never been so appreciative of shade.  Guess who else likes shade?  The bees.  And the horseflies.  But I AM A PNW GIRL, DANG IT!  I AM TOUGHER THAN THIS.  I DO NOT WHINE.  We hike on.  We cross a little stream with a lovely little bridge.  The moisture from the stream adds a greatly needed cooling effect to the nice little breeze running through the trees.  I can almost forget the half-pound of gritty dirt-sand between my toes.  And the trail is still going up.  It's got to level out soon, I keep telling myself.  A man and woman in their 60's or 70's pass us on their way back down.  He is hiking with walking stick.  They both have solidly gray hair and a lifetime of wrinkles.  They are sweaty, but making nice progress on their decent.  We make the appropriate pleasantries as they pass.  The trail MUST level out soon, if those two hiked all the way up.  As my FIL said, "easy, ok for kids." Maybe we are on the wrong trail?  But no, we pass a marker.  This is the right trail.  I'm wondering what kids he meant?  Then realize allllll the kids in our group are far, far ahead of me.  Ah.  Those kids.  And the old people we passed are . . . former stuntmen?  Gotta be.

We keep going up.  The rocks get bigger.  A few bona-fide rock slides are thrown, which require hands and feet scrambling.  And because I have hiked all my life and occasionally torture myself with exercise, I know distances.  I know we haven't even gone a mile, far short of the two and half miles each way on this trail of terror.  I am sweating like my skin is made of soaker-hose, I am gasping for air, I am feeling a bit dizzy.  And then, AND THEN, a friggin' bee stings me.

And I became an old woman.  I do not care anymore.  I don't care that I'm descended from women tough enough to pull their own wagons when the oxen dropped dead on the journey west.  I don't care I will draw down disgrace upon the name of Camp Woman if I turn around.  I don't care I might be in jeopardy of losing my PNW Girl Card if I turn around.  I genuinely DO. NOT. CARE. what anyone in the world will think of me if I quit. THIS HIKE IS DONE.

In this moment, I take my first step on to that trail of Old Womanhood I predict I will hike spectacularly well.  It is the trail of "NOPE."  Being polite in the face of a rude teen working fast food?  NOPE.  Wearing the less-comfortable pants because they look more stylish and young than the stretchy waist, "breathable-fabric" pair?  NOPE.  Skipping a second helping of dessert because it was bad enough that I had a first helping of dessert?  NOPE.  Powering on to the end of this hike because my pride requires me to hike till I'm dead?  N. O. P.  E.

With every particle of understanding and full assurance from me that I don't need help back, my husband smiles and hikes on with his brother.  I start down, with a great load off my back.  It is ok to turn around when you know you are truly out of your depth.  My legs are shaky and I actually do slip and fall on one vertical flat rock pretending to be part of the horizontal trail.  But I catch myself and I'm still very much at peace with my decision.  I don't even have to blame it on my footwear, which is now carrying between 2-4 pounds of dirt, depending on how often I stop to pry loose a rock.  I don't have to blame it on the elevation, even though that's definitely a factor.  I am simply out of shape.  Do I make motivated and determined plans and goals to work out and being running when I get home?  Nope.  Right now, I am ok with being out of shape.

My new found enlightenment gets a few checks as I walk back to the parking lot.   There's a bench in a small covered area near the start and I sit to rest.  Other hikers making their way back down begin to pass by as I wallow in my small pond of sweat, sucking in oxygen and really wishing there was a nice cool bed, or even a nice cool coffin, to lay down in.  I am OVER this hike.  But I take note as other hikers pass me by, people who made it to the top and back successfully, unlike the tub of goo I have become: a cub scout troop of approximately 117 eight year-old boys.  They are singing and laughing and waving their little troop flag. But that's ok, everyone knows kids run on atomic batteries.  Another group of Olympic trail runners.  Except they aren't Olympic trail runners.  They are freakin' high schoolers.  I know this because their coach keeps yelling out "Ogden High XC, this way!"  They basically spring through the entrance and out through the parking lot like they haven't just jauntily jogged up the Matterhorn.  But that's ok.  Again, teens are fueled by jet fuel and energy drinks.  A biker dude smoking a cigarette passes by with his floozy girlfriend.  He's hiking in biker boots and black leather, while she's wearing a bikini top, short shorts, and flip flops.  My new resolve not to care takes a serious hit here.  Dude is a bad version of the Marlboro man, the one who totally died from lung cancer.  But I let that pass on the grounds of "I'm choosing not to notice this."

And then a BLIND LADY passes me.  An abso-friggin-lutely BLIND LADY, with her service dog and pole, has made it up and back.  There is no possible way for me to overstate how truthful and serious I am being here.  A BLIND LADY.  And me with my two perfectly good eyes and unbroken legs didn't even make it half way.  I'm not sure I have ever felt so completely and literally laaaaaame.

The moment passes and I knew I truly had become an Old Woman because just like that, I didn't care.  Nope.  It's a lovely trail to be on, unlike the Trail of Death that apparently even blind people can scramble up.  The Old Woman Trail is flat, unpretentious, completely honest about bodily functions, and gives zero (bleeps).  It's whatever you need it to be.  I think I will greatly enjoy this hike.

And I also think I might have some oxygen deprivation happening.  I didn't need those brain cells anyway.

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