Monday, October 17, 2005

While I'm on camping stories... I've told various people this story, and can't remember if I've told you.

Jon and I went to Hot Springs, North Carolina earlier this year to hike to Max Patch bald, a summit that is a little shy of 5000 feet, where you can look to the South and see the end of the Smokies, rising darkly against the sky, and to the North where the Appalachians rear their shaggy heads.

We were dropped off at the very bottom of the trail and began climbing. And climbing. And climbing. At five miles, we had climbed almost 3,000 feet. At eight miles I was weary. At ten miles I was breathless as well. At 12 miles, I was lagging on a constant basis. At 15 miles, my body gave up. My legs literally would not move. I stood there staring at Jon, ready to cry out of exhaustion. He came back down the trail, took my backpack, slung it over his shoulder, and headed back up the trail without any change in his pace, my pack banging against his. Mind you, we were each carrying backpacks weighing between 15-20 pounds. Later, he told me: "It never gets easier. It only gets less hard."

Feeling weightless without the backpack, I could go on, albeit shakily. It is a strange thing to literally toe the limit of the body's endurance, and still push on. The next day was easier. We had reached the top of the mountain, the climbs would be much more subtle, and we could see the sky between the trees (one thing that lets you know you are near the top is when the sky starts to peek through the trees on either side of you, rather than just from above).

That weekend, we hiked 32 miles in two days. When I was walking to class Monday morning, a stroll of 3/4 a mile, I quite honestly felt like I could go on. I could walk past the President's house, get onto Nicholasville Rd, walk out of Lexington and on to Jon's parents' house in Stanford 43 miles away. That frame of mind was so natural to me at the time, and my legs so warmed up to the notion of walking, that I wonder at it now.


dwain said...

You know, 32 miles is further than anyone should walk in 2 days unless you're desperately trying to reach help of some kind. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy hiking, but geez!

When did walking for long distances switch from being the primary means of travel to something we do for fun?

Laura said...

When cars and suburbia came..
And now the majority of americans are obese, and an alarming number of kids are fat. I won't shy from being un-p.c.

Don't get me wrong. Those last few miles of hiking, when all you want is to reach the destination, are never fun. But there's something to be said about discovering the things your body is capable of. It's like Jon said: "It never gets easier. It just gets less hard." I'll let you twist your mind around that. :)