“Rock and roll I gave you all the best years of my life…” “There were times,” she said, “I thought those words with some bitterness, substituting names of individuals to whom I had given my all only to be taken for granted or ignored. I did give some of my best years to my children,” she continued, “the younger two anyway, but these, these years are the best years of my life.”
She explained she is now stronger, physically, mentally, emotionally. She hikes farther, travels independently more, indulges in an adventure or two without fear of what other people think. These are good years.
Our conversation happened at the apex of a jeep ride 1,000 feet above timberline. A forty-nine-year-old woman watched the speaker hop agilely in and out of the jeep, heard her describe the rigors of local hiking trails and refused to believe she was sixty-one. “I thought you were my age,” the younger woman insisted.
No young woman. I wouldn’t want to be 49 again for the world. Age has its benefits. These are the best years of my life! Catch me if you can, Rock and Roll! I’ve changed my direction.
Give me this mountain! I posted. Many of my friends thought I was out hiking a 14er. Justly accused of being obscure on social media, I was actually quoting song lyrics and an ancient Israeli spy story. I offered the caveat, Many of us face challenges in life. What is your mountain today? Truth be known, the mountain I was contemplating that particular day had to do with career change.
Story of my life, whether work or relationships A few days later, still referring to the same professional challenge, I commented, I may despair at first, but I am the type of person who rallies and then hangs in there past the point where all hope is gone. Not sure if this is tenacity or stubbornness; loyalty or denial.
Want to go to Crested Butte? Lift your spirits. Climb a mountain?countered a friend.
Our first day of hiking was perfect and according to plan; familiar to the two others and new to me. Lots of sunshine, a little rain and wading, awesome beauty, followed by hors d’oeuvres, a bus ride and dinner out. My hiking partner was returning to an old favorite haunt and wanted to show our host – a longtime resident of the area – a new trail. Day two we would log unexplored territory, a stream crossing in a Subaru and numerous negotiated puddles, a number of footwear and layer changes and hopefully a view over a divide. The weather forecast sunshine and a minuscule chance of rain. It rained all night. The drizzle continued but patches of blue sky made us hopeful. We forded the stream, negotiated puddles, forged ahead into the gathering clouds and pelting rain. Socked in. So much for trust in the weatherman. On the other hand, I had confirmed my trust in someone else. My hiking partner was an impeccable leader, someone to be trusted. In the first place, she confidently powered through the ford. Secondly, she knew when to turn around and turn around we did – instead of stubbornly forcing our original plan.
Our leader unrolled plan “B”, or should I say, unfurled plan “B” for it was grand and we joyously followed. For me it turned out to be a rapturously rejuvenating hike. We caught the chairlift up and then summited Mount Crested Butte on our own legs. We saw pikas, deer, chipmunks, mushrooms, blue spruce and vistas that spanned the Continental Divide peeping into Maroon Bells and myriad Colorado counties. We got as high as possible. 12,162 feet high. Colorado Rocky Mountain High – without the aid of any legal or illegal green pharmacy.
I learn a lot about myself when I hike. This time I acknowledged the type of leadership and companionship I prefer. Oh the places you can go with a trusted leader. Too many times I have followed where leadership was either unsure, experimental and tentative, or stubborn and brash. I cherish those who are innovative enough to forge ahead, patient enough to think and explain, and likewise know when to retreat and regroup. It is important to have options. Sometimes plan “B” is the perfect plan all along.
I am single. She is single. We’ve both been around the block a few times. A couple of those trips ended at the alter and ultimately in divorce for both of us. Through it all, we have remained friends. We are occasional traveling or hiking buddies.
Ouray is always a good idea and it could not have been a finer morning on the Perimeter Trail. We found access easily enough. All streets lead to trails and I had camped, content and solo, there a few weeks before. Layers off in the sun. Layers on in the shade. It was an active day as we made our accent, then cut across a meadow dotted with wild flowers. Carefully, we chose our footing while descending slick dark rocks with deep claw marks of a glacier. Deep gorges and a footbridge across a waterfall took our breath away and left us weak-kneed to tunnel through caverns and surmount a mega-sized flume with the aid of a stile. Trekking between the flume and a magnificent rock wall, I was suddenly overcome by the majesty of it all. I cast myself on the rock, embracing it with all the expansive wingspan I could muster. My heartbeat pressed into the comfort of sun warmed Precambrian.
“Oh God,” she cried out spontaneously, “Give me a man like this rock!” But what I was thinking was more along the lines of Jane Austen’s perspective when she writes Elizabeth Bennet to say, “Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are men to rocks, and mountains?”
I hug trees. I pat rocks. I embrace nature. Nature embraces me. I am comforted.
Perception and Decisions We made decisions. We would go early. Three digit temperatures were expected later in the day. We would explore new terrain. We would not take our hiking poles. It would be added weight. We planned on two hours out and two back – a nice half-day hike. It was beautiful. The conversation was good. After a few miles and hours on the unmaintained, but easy to find trail, we realized we had been heading steeply up, on loose rock for some yards. Not for the first time, our goal seemed just around the next switchback. Time to consider the logistics and practicalities of our return. Up is often easier than down, particularly without hiking poles. We were well out of the shaded canyon by now and sweat gathered at the hairline. Time to go back, she said. Stay right here, said I. I will go just around the next bend and see if it opens up. More circuitous trail. We turned and slipped and grappled our way down the hillside, always cautious of loose rock and cactus. The agreed stopping point was a most beautiful section of riparian canyon where we paused for repast. Lunchtime! We found the shade and comfortable, flat rocks for each of us. I withdrew my lightening pad to use as seat. Hunger pangs had been gnawing for some time now. We unwrapped apples, peanut butter, Kind bars. She checked her watch. It was 9:00 a.m.
Putting One Foot in Front of the Other, Hiking for Life!