Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Better Than Most?

After a day in the car, we went back to hiking on foot.  I had picked two hikes, just in case.  We were very ambitious.  The first hike, called "Chimney Tops" was considered moderate in difficulty for most of the hike, but ends with 800 feet of elevation change in the last mile.  The last hundred feet or so are actually a "scramble" meaning hands and feet are needed to get up, but it is easy to do without true climbing gear.  It sounded fun, and the hike was relatively short - the one we did on Monday (that would have been July 25th) was 7.0 miles round trip, but this one (which we did on July 27th) was only 4.0.  I figured we could do this in about 2 hours, despite the signs at the trail head noting that most people take 3 to 4 hours.  It also said most people don't make it to the top.

"Pfft!" I thought, "MOST people is not me and Adam!"

Well, that may be true, but this hike took us about 3 hours, maybe a bit more.

We had stopped at a gas station deli and brought a few sandwiches to eat in the woods.  We missed the turn for the picnic area, so we just went to the river and ate on some large rocks.  The stupid people who only yesterday were walking in front of cars while eating ice cream cones were playing in the rapids without shoes.  One little boy in particular was clearly unaware of the potential dangers of this, and his father was equally clueless.  As a former lifeguard, I assessed the surroundings and imagined how I would rescue this boy.  Despite the drama of Baywatch, it is actually a last resort to go into the water for a rescue, and I eyed up a good stick which I would reach out to the kid.

Meanwhile, he came closer and closer to this rapid in front of us, and I wrestled with whether I should say something, because his father was right there watching him.  Just like that, the kid, who was about 10 and weighed all of 70 pounds, started to get caught.

He gets this panicked look on his face, and his dad tells him to "Stand up" which is not only hard for him to do, but like, the worst advice ever.  You see, when you stand up in water that is strongly pulling you in one direction, you will stand on rocks spaced closely together.  The water will still pull, and more than likely, you will get a foot stuck between rocks and either drown, or break a bone.  Or both.  Luckily, the kid was not able to follow this advice, and tried swimming.

I made a move for that stick as he struggled, and then thankfully, he got his hands around a rock and was able to pull himself out.  He ran, stricken, to his stupid father who told him he should be more careful and actually kind of made fun of hm for being so skinny.  Luckily, I think the kid is smarter than the dad, and he looked like he may have learned a lesson about swimming near rapids.


Meanwhile, we finished our meals and began our hike.  It was totally as advertised, and we reached the "scramble" section as a family with two teenagers was coming down.  Both boy and girl teen paused to tell us how cool the summit is, and wished us luck.

I started out just fine, and Adam quickly rushed ahead of me.  We have both done lots of indoor climbing, and this was easier than most of those.  However, it was much more of a sheer rock than I had initially imagined.  I guess I pictured a hike much like the one we did a few years back at Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire.  It required the use of hands, but the trail was through a narrow passageway.  It had higher rocks around us for most of the time.

This was just bare rock face, and I was climbing it.  On Monday, the body strongly opposed the brain.  This day, the brain was strongly opposing the body.  Believe me, this was decidedly NOT HARD.  My body was like, "Dude, I got this.  Piece of cake."

But my brain kept pointing out key differences between this, and indoor climbing.  Little things, like how I have always had a harness while climbing before, how I didn't bring my climbing shoes, how I might slip and fall to my death, and the most troubling point, how I normally do not climb back down.  In indoor climbing, you reach the top, and you let go, while your partner lowers you safely to the ground on a rope.  I highly doubted there would be one of those skyline rides on the other side of the summit.

Somewhere about mid-way, I froze.  Actually, no, I could not go up or down, true, but I was shaking like a leaf.  Arms, legs, hands, all of me.  Meanwhile, Adam nearly walked up the thing like stairs.  He marveled at the view, and told me to get up there.  I did make the choice to continue up, despite extreme concerns about getting back down.  If for no other reason, than to not be lumped in with "most people" who were currently shouting from swimming holes to add more lighter fluid to the campfire (or so I surmised).

A view of Adam about half way up.

 
Me, as close to the top as I could get.  It counts!


The view from the peak - Adam had to take this blind because I broke the fluid in the camera screen while clinging to a rock for dear life with the camera in my pocket...



By the way, we did not get to do the second hike because it was about 5pm when we finished this one.  I did manage to get down, thanks to my Hero (aka Adam) who told me exactly where to put my hands and feet on the descent.  Getting down was not as hard as I expected!

We instead went to the Newfound Gap by car, and hiked about a mile of the Appalachian Trail, just for kicks.

1 comment:

kt said...

I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU DID ALL OF THIS.

I am soooooooooooooo impressed. In fact more impressed than that so add about ten more Os.

The pictures were great. I wonder if I could take a helicopter to the top. Nope, don't have that much money so I have to make do with living vicariously through you (which is probably safer given my penchant for accidents and the like. kt

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