Today’s hike was astonishingly difficult.
I started hiking three summers ago. The very first hike I did was to Lake 22 with Lisa. The thing about Lake 22 is that, while not incredibly long, it’s a very steep hike. I was pretty out of shape at the time and it was a very warm July day. It really wasn’t very long before I was red and out of breath. Finally, having no concept of distance, we asked some ladies who were on their way down, “how much further?” Now… these ladies were old. Very old. And tiny. Walking with sticks. Giving me friendly but definitely pitying looks. And they said, “Oh, just a few more switchbacks and rocky stretch and then you’re there!”
Those old ladies lied.
Half a century later, Lisa was carrying my water to lighten my load. We were stopping at the top of every other switchback so I could catch my breath. She started casually saying things like, “You know, it’s been such a beautiful hike, I don’t even care if we make it to the top.” And, “I wouldn’t feel bad if we turned back now.”
At last, we reached the rocky space which the old ladies had told us about. We met a man coming the other direction and we asked him with mingled hope and fear in our voices, “How much further??” and he very kindly told us the very difficult truth that we were at least 45 minutes from the top. At that point, we sat down. I ate a snack and took inventory of my fortitude. Then I said, “We are making it to the top if it kills me. There are OLD LADIES who made it to the top, and I’m not being beaten by a bunch of old ladies.”
Five minutes later, we saw another pack of old ladies coming down the trail. I had the surreal sense that we’d somehow made it into a commercial for some kind of osteoporosis medication.
We did, at last, make it to the end. The trail scrambles up a little stream, and then opens up to a beautiful, still lake surrounded by mountain tops. There were two feet of snow covering the boardwalk in places (in July!) and wild strawberry plants growing at the water’s edge with pristine white flowers. We sat in the sun and ate our lunch and just soaked in the view. And I was hooked.
I like being out in the woods. No matter how many people are out there, the woods are peaceful in a way that few other places are. I love seeing all the different plant-life, and the occasional wildlife. I enjoy spending time with the people who hike with me and having good conversation. I like the anticipation of a new hike and I like the familiarity of trails I’ve already walked. I appreciate how friendly other hikers are. The best part is getting to see stuff you can’t see by just driving by. The scenery you appreciate along the way or at the end? You work for it, and that makes it more precious.
So, today, Kinnan and I hiked up to the Oyster Dome, which is out on Chuckanut Drive. We saw the tiniest house ever on the way. Her friend, who had recommended the trail, said it was of only moderate difficulty, which is why we were astonished when it turned out to be so challenging. It was a three mile climb,with 1900 feet of elevation gain, some of it over slippery rocks and roots and mud-holes and swift creeks. I fell once, and by the way, khaki hiking pants aren’t the best idea for winter hiking. Even if I hadn’t fallen, I had mud all up the backs of my legs just from walking. It rained a little, and snowed a little and the chill breeze at the top was not very inviting. BUT…
What’s the most difficult thing you’ve ever done that you would do again?