Wednesday, December 3, 2008

TAKING A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE

Grab this related post Widget!

I’m so sore today I can barely move. Why? Because I decided to take a hike on Mt. Charleston yesterday, but didn’t really know what to expect until I got there since I’d never hiked there before.

Now in a lot of ways a hike is a hike—you’re basically walking around in nature somewhere. What varies is the weather, the scenery---and the degree of difficulty. The sign at the beginning of the trailhead labeled my excursion “strenuous.”
“OK, I’m good with that,” I thought. “This will be some great exercise.”

Well------------------

But first let me tell you that the drive to get there is amazing. Once you get off the freeway (the entire trip is only 30 minutes from the house) the elevation increases about 5000’ over the next 15 minutes. None of that exhausting hairpin turn, constantly-slamming-on-the-brakes stuff here—you pretty much just gun it straight up the side of the mountain.

Because of the surreal swiftness of the journey you experience a different ecosystem every 5 minutes. First you’re in the blah-looking Vegas desert; soon the vegetation seems greater than the bare ground; then—what’s that ahead? Trees?—you round a curve and are surrounded by forests of fir and pine. Remarkable.

Back to the hike. I immediately noticed patches of snow here and there in the woods. Then came a snow-covered section of the path. Very cool, I thought. I even stopped to take a photo of it. Five minutes later the “path” is completely covered with frozen precipitation. Both snow and ice.

H-m-m-m----what to do? I’m there; I’m walking on it OK—what the hell, keep going.

Let me tell you, “strenuous” + snow & ice = “treacherous.” Don’t get me wrong, I was having a blast, but this hike involved an elevation gain of 3000’. Taking on that angle of ascent plus having to focus on every single step along the way added an unanticipated element of “being in the now.”

Plus I was totally alone out there. I heard a bird now and then but never saw one. If there was no breeze the only sound anywhere was the crunching of my steps and the heaviness of my breathing (it took a while to adjust to the thin air). There’s something about the realization “if something happens to me, I’m screwed” that ratchets up the old concentration.

But what probably sounds like a lot of negatives actually made the hike so special. After deciding to proceed, after I got my breathing under control, after my body quit complaining, my mind quieted and I just----hiked.

The sound of the wind in the fir trees; the total quiet and stillness as I sat looking at the perfection of a vast canyon and the untold miles beyond; changes in elevation and lighting that made what I’d seen only minutes before look completely different; above all the peace, the peace.

On the way back down I broke my concentration once to congratulate myself on a job well done. At that exact moment I slipped and busted my ass—what a great lesson that my ego had no business on this hike. Reinforcement came a little later when I thought for a moment about that incident and almost fell again!

I’m paying a price today but the pain is definitely worth the gain. Perhaps the best way to find yourself is to first lose yourself.

2 comments:

Cynthia said...

Sorry I couldn't join you on this one, but think just being with yourself made the experience special. Next time.... Cynthia

Hunter said...

I know what you mean. I went on two great walks recently, one through Seattle, through the streets, down to Puget Sound, up to the market, in the fog and calm of an early Sunday morning, only saw a couple people. The second was on a new greenway by the condo, one of the rare un-developed greenway trails, a good 3 or 4 mile walk through the trees, in the mist of a cool fall day.

Something very peaceful about both walks.....