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Monday, May 26, 2014

Hiking...On Purpose

This weekend, I had the privilege to be invited to go hiking with a couple of friends to a very popular hiking spot in Wenatchee, WA.  This was something that I had been asked to join in on, on several occasions and we finally had the opportunity.

Here's the thing...I've only gone hiking twice in my life.  Once, when I was 17 and the other time was two days ago.  My first experience was horrific as I had been a teenager with other teenagers, all of us who were terribly equipped for the hike.  We had climbed (not hiked...climbed) incredibly steep hillsides, leaving clothing behind as we climbed because we were so hot, no water on any of us, and poor shoes.  At one point, we all had to scoot our backs up against the side of the mountain with only a very small area for our footing and then a treacherous cliff just beyond our toes.  When you're a teenager, you're invincible.  This was when reality sunk in.  One slip and we'd be dead.  It was incredibly frightening and thus began my fear of heights.  Thanks, friends.  When we reached the top, huffing and puffing, there was snow.  All of us punched our hands into the slightly thawed icy crystals and filled our mouths with as much as we could fit without giving ourselves brain-freezes.  And that's when I saw my ex-boyfriend and his best friend drinking from their water bottles.  Assholes.  To this day, I'm surprised they didn't "accidentally" find themselves at the bottom of that drop-off.  While the rest of us wanted to stay at the top and stay cool, the two that were refreshed from their water, were the only ones who knew the way back, so off we went.  And that meant it was time to go...down.  I believe the potent mixture of both fear and anger got me off the mountain that day.  I remember hearing a lot of, "It's okay, Kathy.  Jump!  We've got you.  We won't let you fall."  Since I'm here writing this, I'm happy to say my friends did indeed keep me alive that day to wait another 20 years to tackle the whole "hiking experience" again.

That brings me to Saturday, May 24th.  Saddlerock.  Past the horse arena and towards a dry rocky terrain, we parked the car, tied our shoes, stretched a bit, and made sure our water bottles were full.  Time to climb this beast!
Many times, I've been told how it's a great hike, great workout, beautiful views, not difficult, bring Farrah - she'll love it, and how much I'll enjoy myself.  Well, it was my opportunity to give hiking a second chance as I'd turned the idea down many times since I was a teen.  We brought a friend's dog along and my friends, Rebecca and Danny, and I began the journey.
In the beginning it wasn't terrible and Rebecca and I enjoyed each other's company talking about random things, drinking our water, walking the lab, and greeting other hikers who were on their way down.  As it progressed, the path became steeper and my breathing became heavier.  More water.  I could feel the workout I was getting and was happy that I had come along.  The sun was hot and I could feel I would get a nice tan in the process as well.  By the time we reached the halfway point, the dog was heading for a shaded tree and Rebecca's boyfriend, Danny, had caught up to us (he was running the whole way!).  And here's where the bad parts began...we weren't at the halfway point.  We weren't anywhere near it, as a matter of fact.  Alrighty!  I psyched myself up and started the trek with them again.  And again, the path got steeper...and steeper...and steeeeeeeeper.  Annnnd that's when I realized my footwear was so very, very wrong.  Pumas?  Really?  Am I retarded?  Apparently.
So, I hiked up higher and higher and every once in a while my foot would slip on some sandy gravel.  I hated it because I would think about how embarrassing it would be to fall on my ass.  That's when I looked down.  Nope.  It was no longer a fear of being embarrassed from falling on my ass, but falling off the cliff and breaking my ass, my face, my back, my arms, and legs.  That sounded like a shitty Saturday afternoon.  My fear of heights hit me hard when I was at a very steep spot and not in any position to head down and run away like the coward I was.  Shit.  So I climbed and whined and whined and climbed.  Rebecca and Danny talked me through to the best of their abilities...Danny's kind words were, "Don't be a pussy.  You can do this."  Rebecca on the other hand was a bit more delicate, "I know you're scared, but you'll be so happy when we reach the top."  When I asked where the top was and she pointed about 5 more miles away straight up, my words were, "MOTHER-FUCKER!"
I climbed and slipped and whined, but mostly I talked about how Rebecca was a big fat lying liar about Saddlerock.  Her 4 year old did this and she thought my 7 year old could?  That's just mean.  Her 4 year old was carried by Danny...so he didn't actually climb it.  I would've been pretty upset if I'd taken Farrah.  We would've lasted about 1/4 of a mile and turned around (and that would've been one hell of an excuse to get out of climbing anymore and we would've run off to Dairy Queen for a blizzard.).  You know what else sucks up there?  Bees.  Lots of bees.  So, while I was scared of slipping and falling to my death, I was also scared of an attack from the wasps surrounding the path.  Sigh.
When we reached a spot where others had stopped to catch their breath and take in the views, I found relief in knowing we were done.  Only we weren't.  "No, Kath, we still have to get to the top!" Danny pointed to the rocks we needed to reach which were straight up.  Kill me.  The path got steeper and narrower and even the dog was ready to throw in the towel.  We reached the very, very top about 10 minutes later and the view truly was incredible.  Except...I couldn't move off the rock I was on.  I could either fall forward or backward.  Either way, death awaited me.  Awesome.
After we took all our photos and realized we were killing the dog, we started to make our way down from a different way.  Had we gone down the way we came, I would've simply sat on my butt and scooted my way to the finish line.  As it was, there were a couple areas where I did, in fact, have to do that.  As we got closer to the end, I found my stride pick up to a perfect speed.  We had talked about what we were going to eat the entire way down...that was my motivation.  Food and a BIG bottle of water.

Needless to say, hiking is not on my list of things I can hardly wait to do again unless the path is paved and flat and slightly downhill...both ways...and I'm being pulled in a wagon.


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