Sunday, March 26, 2006

Never do battle with a mountain

Never do battle with a mountain. Especially not one with a deceptively passive name like "Old Rag." Just when the mountain has lulled you into thinking you've won the immediate battle, it's likely that the mountain will win the war.

At least that's how my body is feeling after hiking up Old Rag today. As threatened, my roommate had me out of bed at an early hour (for me) to meet with her hiking posse in the DC suburbs just at about 9 am this morning. After a bit of a drive (and a stop for food) we landed at the base of the mountain.

Even though I was driving on the way into the parking lot at the bottom, my body was telling me it was too early to be fully cognicent of my surroundings. So I didn't ever think to look up towards the peak we aspired to. At least not until we were under the cover of the (still bare from winter) trees. That's why I didn't know the 7 mile hike would also involve a 2200 ft. elevation gain. All in all, though, it's probably better that I didn't know. Knowing would have made me far less likely to get out of bed.

The first scenic stopping point on the hike was sufficiently high up to have woken me up from my sleep-addled self, and I looked out on a great view of the Virginia countryside. The day was cold and windy, but that also meant fairly good visibility because there wasn't a lot of humidity to get in the way.

Three scenic way-points (and some slippery rock scrambling) later, we made it to the top. Which had a spectacular 360 degree view. And it was worth it. Even with a winter-landscape. Brown, rather dormant and barren looking, there were pockets of green. The rolling of the farmlands, the grey-green shadows of nearby mountains, all contributed to something quite worth it.

Then began the downward trek. The part where the euphoric moment of accomplishment, of fulfillment is over. The part where the legs that were tired at the top, but momentarily forgot, are reengaged for the exact opposite purpose than before. Instead of exerting themselves with every step to bring me higher, my legs fought with every step to modulate the speed of my descent. For me, this part has always been the more painful. Especially since, with the burning feeling in my legs increasing with every footfall, it gave me plenty of time to contemplate whether the view was really worth it.

Today my answer is yes. If I succumb to the frailties of the out-of-shape tomorrow, and hobble around the office because my body mutinies tomorrow for stresses I put on it today--then the mountain may truly have won the war.


Anonymous said...

And I thought you Minnesotans were a hardy bunch! I have to say, I'm a bit disappointed...

Anonymous said...

Living inside the beltway for the better part of a year must cause fitness to atrophy at a rapid rate. Although, if you believe Minnesota's well know son it's, "the women who are strong, the men good looking and the children above average."