June 29, 2009

Take That Mt. Greylock, Take It Good

Over the weekend Mike, my friends PJ, Karen and I all went out to Western Massachusetts for a hike, dinner and a concert. I was super excited! Rarely do I get to spend so much quality time with any of those three folks- doing fun stuff and being all fun. I've been meaning to get more hikes in this summer and the concert was one I'd been looking forward to for months. Saturday was just the kind of day that makes my heart full and my life feel satiated.

Mike and I tried to hike Mt. Greylock a few years back but the trail was poorly marked and we got disoriented. By the time we found the trail we lost daylight and had to turn around when it turned into an advanced, super-duper trail. It was somewhat unsatisfying. All I wanted out of Saturday's hike was that it would be a different trail. Sort of a redemptive attempt. Luckily it was a different trail. Redemtion would be ours!

PJ and Karen are super-duper hikers whereas Mike and I are casual hikers so I was a little worried about the moderate six mile hike we were going to take to get to the top of Mount Greylock, the highest point in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Mike seemed pretty okay with it so I took my cue from him. If he felt we could handle it then we could. We packed some rain coats, bananas and plenty of water for our endeavor.

Oy, was that hike tough. I was trailing everyone else and I wasn't carrying a pack. Karen was walking with her hands on her waist, sweatless and fit while I was sweating and breathing like a pack mule. I never felt so out of shape like I did on that day. In between heaving breaths I said that to Mike and he patted my soaked back and said it's a totally different type of activity- one that I'm not used to and that I am in fact, in shape. I bought it and kept enjoying nature. (Did you ever notice how the more intense the hike the less you actually get to enjoy your surroundings? You're constantly looking at where your feet are going so you don't fall and twist your ankle, or get your non-waterproof shoes soaking wet, or break your face on a rock. It's a shame really.)

I was too busy not breaking my face when Karen mentioned that the vegetation was changing and that the summit must be close. (Did you know that the higher up you go the pinier the vegetation? I do now!) Right about then we hear a car in the near distance. I assumed we were approaching an access road because many radio and television stations broadcast from the top of Mt. Greylock. Then I see the trees start to break up into a clearing. I'm imagining the awesome I-conquered-the-crap-out-of-this-mountain pose I was going to strike for a picture when I see a parked Subaru and some non-sweaty people standing on the edge of a perfectly paved road. Okay. Uh. I guess people live up here and this is just another residential road? We shrug it off and cross the street to continue the conquering of the mountain. Not ten minutes later we find the transmitter complete with public port-a-potties. And more people. People paying money to park at the top of Mt. Greylock and poke about.

I was a little taken aback at the total shift in context. I had no idea that the summit was a tourist attraction. Here we were- sweaty, no longer triumphant and surrounded by fanny packs. My sense of accomplishment was kind of a little muted. I did not take my I-conquered-the-crap-out-of-this-mountain pose. Instead I plunked my sticky, tired ass on the ground and cooled off in the breeze trying to remind myself that I climbed 1900 feet to achieve something almost everyone else there needed a car to achieve. And I did it while enjoying great conversation (well PJ, Karen and Mike had the conversation. I just listened.) and great company. I eventually reclaimed my sense of triumph. And then wished I could just get in a car and drive back down the mountain to a shower and some ice cream.


Tina Winston said...

And well you should reclaim your triumph! I think hiking instead of driving up to the top gives you a better appreciation of nature, and yourself, anyway. I also like that you took the unorthodox approach; I recently read an article by a journalist who decided to hike the entire coastline of New Hampshire (all of 18 miles). His philosophy -- people hike the Appalachian Trail all the time, why can't I hike the beach? And remember the words of George Mallory on why he wanted to climb Mt. Everest "because it is there." Brava, my friend.

Carrie said...

I often feel that way when Padric drags me hiking. I REALLY want to love it and be good at it! And sometimes, when the trail is easy, I do and I am. I often feel bad that I keep Padric from hiking tougher trails because I end up being a stone around his neck. :)

Emily said...

I need to join you on these hikes!

Point A, I would keep you company at the back of the pack, sweaty and non talkative due to the lack of air I would have to communicate with you. Out of shape? Yes, thats me.

Point B, I used to hike all the time and I rarely do it anymore. And it makes me sad. I used to get such satisfaction from getting to the top as well - doing a little dance a photo montage - and I would wanna smack those massive truck driving sit in their AC pumped cars while they look over the top kind of people.

dad said...

I totally appreciate your experience here. Mike is right, you can be in very good shape for some tasks, and at the same time, not others. So keep that triathlon regimen going and don't despair!