On a lark, a friend asked me if I wanted to take a hike to the top of the ridge on one side of the valley we live in. I used to hike all over these hills as a kid. That was back in the days when the only communication your mom had with you were the instructions to "Be back by dinnertime!"
We'd spend all day hiking trails, cutting new ones (literally--- with a machete), shooting critters with our BB guns, and even riding our 10-dollar Schwin stingrays down these trails at breakneck speeds. BMX???? Never heard of such a thing back then.
And back then, I recall we could start at the bottom of the hill, hike as fast as we could to the top, and RUN down the trails. There and back in an hour. Never thought of it as anything "tough", just a fun thing to do. Get us breathing hard a bit, work up a sweat, never felt sore or tired afterward. Not that far at all. I mean, we could see the top of the mountain from our house, how far could it be?
Little did we appreciate the strength and resiliency of our young 11-14 year old bodies.
So my buddy and I set off at 4 in the afternoon. Backpacks of water, a couple beers for the top, and sandwiches for dinner. I had my runner's GPS heart rate monitor on to see how far it was, since my memories were probably fuzzy of how long the hike was.
Elevation, 750 feet. Start heading up the trail. Resting heart rate, 63. Quickly it jumps to 109. No problem, we hadn't even left the park yet.
Out of the park, and up the hillside. Steep, but nothing you can't see on the streets of San Francisco. One quarter mile traveled, breathing pretty good, heart rate 128.
Now the real trail starts. Half a mile in. Holy crap, this is steep! Heart rate 148. Is this the same trail we used to climb????
One mile up. Heart rate 158. Why the hell did I wear long pants? And who's bright idea was it to lug beer up this hill?
I need a towel for all the sweat pouring off my forehead. Breath! Breath! I don't remember being out of breath like this.
A mile and a half, and we need a break. Gulp some water. Gulp some more. Are we there yet?
What do you mean, it's getting steeper?!?! Hmmm, my footsteps are more like a shuffle, these boots are heavy, my thighs are not liking life. Suck it up, you're not really THAT old. Take a break, shuffle onward, take a break, shuffle onward. My buddy gives me a drink from his bottle of ice water. Thanks! Wait a minute, you just wanted to lighten your load, didn't you? Why, you sneaky ^%%$#!!! Some friend you are!
Final hill. Wait, it dips down before heading up again. That's a dirty trick, hill! Now we have to regain some elevation just to make it back to where we were. *This* is the final hill, and the steepest yet. I'm gunna die, I can't breathe, my legs are jellow. At least my buddy is sucking wind too. I keep telling myself, remember your mantra from running : "How bad do you want it? You gunna stop now? How bad do you want it?"
We made it! Look at that view! How high it? 2748 feet. How far? 2.75 miles. Wow, we climbed 2000 feet in less than 3 miles.
Pick a spot, slide off the back packs, and crack a beer.
Eat a sandwich, enjoy the view, and spend a few quiet minutes with a good buddy while our senses absorb all of nature's beauty around us: birds in the trees and brush, the rustle of leaves, the smell of bay leaves, pine, and Manzanita, the feel of the breeze on our sweat-soaked clothing. Deer tracks on the trail, beer scat here and there. No snakes, though I thought we might see a couple. No city sounds up here. We can see mountain tops 40 miles away. Smoke from a distant fire hazes the sky, a few thunderheads come and go, and we watch the shadow of the mountain stretch across the valley. I see the 4x4 trails on the hills over on Cow Mountain (the other side of the valley), the local lake 5 or so miles north of town, the far mountains that are covered in snow in the winter. I REALLY wish my daughter could have made this trip with us, but she had to work. She'll be heading back to school in a few weeks, I would have loved for her to see her home town from up here. Still, this experience is special, so remember this day, and etch it into your brain. These ARE the Good Old Days of years to come.
Time to head down. By the time we are near the bottom, it's dusk. Open that last beer, find a park bench, and watch dusk turn to dark around us. Scare a few deer as we walk up on them, getting within ten feet of a couple. Listen to others crash though the brush as they run away from these tow-legged intruders.
Walk back to my jeep, and use a flashlight to find my keys in my backpack. I'm sore, tired, and happy as hell do still be able to do something like this at 54 years of age. I hope I can still do this in another 40 years from now.
Why wait that long. Anybody up for a hike next weekend? I'll bring the Advil.