July 03, 2009
In the mountains
My husband and I spent several days of our vacation hiking in national parks – or natural areas just outside national parks. He had looked up hiking trails ahead of time, choosing obscure trails that wouldn’t be crowded. They certainly weren’t crowded. Usually, we’d be the only car at the trailhead, and I wasn’t always sure the path we'd found was a trailhead. I’m used to the mountains in my state, where the trailheads have brown signs and places to register before you start on the hike.
I kept leaving notes on the dashboard of our car, noting the time we’d left, the number in our party (2), and our destination. My husband thought that was a little paranoid. On the other hand, he was a bit paranoid about the wildlife.
Him: Ew. What’s that?
Me: Bear scat.
Him: But it looks … new.
Him: What if we run into a bear? Shouldn’t we know what to do?
Me: Some bears, you’re supposed to stay quiet, some you make noise.
Him: WHICH KIND OF BEARS ARE THEY?
Me: I don’t know.
Him: We should have a plan. In case this bear comes back.
Me: Well, you could drop the backpack. It’s got food in it.
Him: What? I’m like … walking bear bait?
Me: I think for rattlesnakes, you stay still.
Me: They can only strike as far as half the length of their bodies.
Him: Great. I’ll just measure the coils.
Me: It’s humbling, isn’t it? Nice not be the top predator in the woods.
Him: I’m going to write that on your tombstone.
We disagreed about what constitutes a hike. I call pretty much any walk in the woods a hike, especially if we are moving up the side of a mountain. My husband doesn’t think a walk qualifies as a hike unless you’re drenched in sweat, about to drop from heat exhaustion, and ready to kill yourself if you see yet another set of switchbacks.
Of course, no matter how strenuous the hike was, it was always great to make it to the summit, to sit on a rock and just gaze out at the view. Sometimes we’d hang out long enough to see a few other hikers straggle onto the rocks. These other hikers were always more prepared then us. Here we’d be, in the middle of nowhere, hours from the nearest road, and they’d pull out sandwiches and drinks and potato chips that somehow had remained uncrushed on the hike. My husband and I would watch enviously, as we sat on our rock with water and trail mix, and vow next time that we’d be more prepared. Then we’d start down the trail so that the other hikers wouldn’t notice us salivating.
Posted by jo(e)