Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Great Outdoors!

It may be hard to believe nowadays, but I grew up as a major-league tomboy.*  My family kept horses (and I have a very fuzzy memory of riding in a wagon pulled by a mule) and it was made clear early on that yes, ponies are just about the neatest thing ever, but they come with chores.  If you're as tall as the pitchfork, you can use it.  We had a huge garden and I was known to duck out of the chore of picking beans by running for the magnolia tree.  (There were cornstalks to hide in when I was quite small, but people always look for you there.)  My mother grew up surrounded by the gentle mountains of southwestern Virginia and she instilled a love of hiking in me.  (Note that reads "hiking," as in the day variety.  I'm not such a fan of hard-core camping.  As much as I like the idea of through hiking the Appalachian Trail, it's not going to happen.)  I was nine when I first hiked the Alum Cave Trail at Mt. LeConte which is the third-highest peak in the Smokies and one day I plan to go back.

Yesterday was the first day in well more than a year that I've felt up to a real hike.  Since I hurt my ankle a year ago, there's been very little of that.  Even on the rare occasion when I went to a state park (and yes, there's now an app for that!), I stayed on the flat.  FryDaddy had an appointment in Charlotte yesterday, so I had some free time and, with my recent forays into exercise of both the cardio and weight-bearing varieties, I thought I could handle a "moderate" trail.

Well, success is rarely ever total in science.  Or hiking.

As the picture at the top of the post indicates, I made it a mile and a half in (which means a mile and a half out, for a total of three miles) before I turned around.  Still, it was glorious.  Hot as blazes, with very little breeze, so I was soaked through.  There was no "glistening" or "glowing" which are the Southern euphemisms for female perspiration - I was a sweaty, happy mess.  But a few lessons are here to be learned - I got one and two right, but the rest - well, not so much:

  • Know your limits.  While I hated "giving up," I wasn't physically ready to handle the full length of that trail.  It's better to turn around than to be the focus of a search and rescue mission.
  • Take plenty of water and a few snacks.  You get hungry quickly and you sure don't want to drink from a trail stream in these days.
  • Don't hike alone.  Take a buddy - things happen out there.  Not often, but when they do being alone is a short cut to trouble.
  • If you're too stubborn to listen to Point Three, at least check in at the ranger station and tell them where you're going and how long you'll be out.  Then check back in when you return.
I'm back off to the gym today, but there's something about a gritty, uneven, roots-grabbing-at-your-shoes, Carolina-red-mud-covered trail that can't be duplicated in a shiny gym.  I'll be back!

*I still insist that I'm a low-maintenance woman.  It's perfectly okay in my book to own (and use!) both hiking boots and a decent moisturizer.  Hopefully, you'll never catch me hiking in flip-flops (yes, I saw it yesterday) and false eyelashes (which I've never worn and am pretty sure would make me look like a hungover lemur).

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