Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Giant Mountain

Perhaps it was a bad idea, but I can’t say no to an adventure. Sometimes they can be so hard to come by. For three days I walked like an elderly cripple, dragging myself up the stairs by the railing, complaining loudly on behalf of my speechless, withered quadriceps. Having never hiked a single high peak before, I ascended two in one day. My meaty ex-gymnast thighs were caught completely unawares.

But why would I accept such a seemingly impossible task? I don’t even own the appropriate footwear. Perhaps it was the tremendously encouraging song in my head, repeating, “Do it! Just do it! Don’t think about it! Do it!” So I didn’t think about it. I did it.

Surely I must be manic.

My friends and I began climbing at eleven in the morning. Chipper from wholesome breakfasts, we ascended Giant Mountain and enjoyed excellent views of mountains. I won’t put you to sleep with the dozens of pictures of mountains that I took. One, I think, will suffice.

Someone once told me that when you are hiking you unknowingly walk under bears all the time, quietly hugging the tree trunks like Velcro monkeys. You don’t see them because they don’t want you to see them. Now that I know this, my eyes scan the canopy looking for a badly camouflaged bear. Someday one of them may lose its grip and crush an unfortunate hiker and that hiker will not be me.

It seems to be a tradition for hikers to leave symbolic piles of rocks on the paths and the summits. There is a name for them, but googling “symbolic piles of rocks” only brought up Jewish burial traditions. I, too, leave my mark on the summit, but not a pile of rocks. Mine is the result of drinking a liter of water in two hours. After bolstering my ego with some narcissistic photographs, I strayed from the path to find a quiet place to christen the Giant.

Here lies Carl, crushed by bears.
As I stood in the hidden overgrowth of ferns and wondered if I would later discover them to be poisonous, I noticed there was a middle-aged woman peering down through the trees above me, watching. So much for privacy.

We descended down the other side of Giant Mountain, a slippery mudslide of Death. Passing hikers in suspiciously pristine sneakers consistently lied about the difficulty of the descent and the amount of time it would take. In a moment of mental absence, I tumbled down a rock face and bashed open my leg. Sliding down vertical slopes on the seat of one’s pants was often necessary to prevent fatal injuries. I clung to tree branches like railings and plunged into the nearby bushes despite my efforts. I used up two of the four communal Band-Aids.

The path to Rocky Peak Ridge was tamer and riddled with enormous sheepdogs and mastiffs. Hikers were teased with unripe blueberries reaching into the paths and imposter blueberries that probably should not be ingested. From the summit we could see Lake Champlain and more symbolic piles of rocks marking the journeys of other hikers. I also marked my territory on Rocky Peak Ridge under the cover of an idyllic patch of Christmas trees.

It was four o’clock in the afternoon and we still had to climb down Rocky Peak Ridge, clamber up the dreaded mudslide, and down Giant again before sundown. It is hard to race a celestial body like the sun; it has so many unfair advantages. The mountain was growing darker by the second and we were still stumbling and butt-sliding down the path. It was eight at night. A glimmer of hope came in the form of a man in a miner hat climbing the mountain with his daughter. “I know, we’re crazy,” my friend said, and he replied, “You’re not crazy. In an hour, you’d be crazy.”

Shortly after, we emerged at the highway. I’ve never been so thrilled to see a dark stretch of pavement and a slew of headlights in my life. Ice cream was in order. My legs will probably never be the same.

No comments:

Post a Comment