Monday, July 05, 2010

Vacation Post Number 2: Ends And Beginnings. Mostly Ends.

Two miles into the 17-mile Redwood Creek/Tall Trees Grove loop in Redwood National Park, you cross a stream and the real fun begins. Two miles in is where you leave the hum-drum mountain meadows and start to see some actual redwoods, which is, after all, why you came in the first place. It's easy to think of your hike as actually starting about two miles in.

Which means, 13 miles later, when you cross that stream again on your way back, it can be easy to forget you have about an hours worth of hiking left to do. Which can make for a long hour when your legs have been churning since sunup. It was during this hour that the thought first occurred to me. Ever.

Maybe I should retire from this hiking stuff. Not never set foot on a trail ever again, but the first inkling that maybe the days of the 20-mile all day adventure may be numbered. I've had a personal trainer for awhile now, and the result of all her sadism over the course of the last year, the huffing and puffing and pressing and pulling and the unmentionable stuff she makes me do with those giant balls, is that my performance on the trail is about the same as it was last year. I'm 41 years old now, which means stagnation will soon become retreat, and you don't get back the ground you give up on this side of 40. Ever.

It was just the thoughts that come at the end of a tiring day I'm sure. I'll throw myself back onto the trails a few more times. But for the first time, I thought about stopping, which means there is a last time on the horizon. I wonder if I'll know when it is, or whether it will be like the last time I had Mom's scalloped potatoes. I don't know what it was that made me chow down on them so when I was a kid, but I never will again. Mom is old and frail now, and although I don't doubt she would make every effort to start peeling the spuds if I ever asked, of course I won't.

The last time I ate scalloped potatoes. The last time I heard Joe Nuxhall do the play by play for a Reds game. The last time I climbed the maple tree next to my bedroom window. The last time me and that insane crowd of ADD crazed lunatics I ran with as a teenager loaded into my friend's van and went into town looking for trouble. All occasions that surely would have been noted had I known, but as it is all occasions long forgotten.

I do remember the last time I saw my ex-wife. She came to California before the divorce paperwork was done because she wanted to see this place I had run to. "You picked well for yourself" she said, and the tone of her voice made it worse. The fact there was no yelling or screaming made watching that 737 take off, speed away, and gradually shrink into a tiny dot on the horizon that much harder. I'll never forget that feeling. That the burning down of my life, for better or worse, was now complete. That end was definitely noted.

It's been better for the most part, I'm certainly never going back to Ohioland, but,  these trips to the redwoods of mine, the way I almost obsess about seeing no one else, the manic desire to get away in order to get some peace in my head, they feel a lot like mini-burndowns. Except in the end I always end up driving back to that dot on the horizon. Maybe these trips are a good thing, a pressure valve. My legs are awful sore though. And my feet. And my knees. And this year, my hip. This was the first trip where I made sure the ibuprofen was with me at all times. What happens if/when my body can't keep up the pressure release routine?

I suppose the key is to replace the lasts with some firsts. Not sure what they'd be though. I don't think I'd be a very good quilter. Maybe stamp collecting. Of course I could stop running away. Stop fantasizing about destroying the world I built. Again. Or I could keep throwing myself into the woods until my legs fall off.

Being legless has more appeal to me than stamp collecting at this point. I'll ask myself again the next time I pass a 13 mile mark.  


Brett said... ... maybe you are a bit premature

Helen said...

41? Hah! Beginner. Have you tried glucosamine for your joints? I don't hold much with um, food supplements, but I have to admit it works for me. It takes about a month for it to kick in. I know what you mean about scalloped potatoes.

midwest woman said...

I did a ten mile loop in Seqouia Kings Canyon (most of it up hill) when I was 52 but then again I smoke.
And last year did a five mile all up hill in the Gran the snow.
Don't ever stop.

LaLa said...

You're in better shape now than I've ever been... but it's all relative, isn't it?

If it was me, I'd keep throwing myself at the trails until the bitter end. You enjoy it, it's an escape, a pressure valve, keeps you in shape (more so than most of the rest of us) and you're able to enjoy one of the most beautiful areas in the country. If that means doing 10 miles instead of 20 in another ten or twenty years? It would probably still be worth it.

Tonina said...

Keep going until your legs fall off and you wear out your hands dragging yourself back to a human settlement. It's worth it. I don't remember the last time I got into an outdoor pool just after dawn to swim laps or hiked 10 miles to watch birds. Barring a miracle cure from the stem cell research crowd, I'll never do either one again. I really wish I could remember those last experiences. Don't let what you love doing go until your body goes into permanent revolt.

On the plus side, I do remember the last time I rode a roller-coaster, so I can relive it when having a bad day or feeling sorry for myself. Ah, Cedar Point....

Stavros69 said...

At 66 I am still hiking.
This tree that I found in the Santa Cruz Mountains is about re incarnation. Some asshole CEO came back as a tree

Anonymous said...

Great pics,

roger said...

Great pics, i was just on the bohemian trail yesterday at muir

Hope said...

Shoes! It may be something as simple as needing new shoes. As in for work. Where you stand on concrete all day. As an ex runner, I found out A LOT about what your shoes can do to your back, legs, knees, etc. The hard way. Good, supportive work and hiking shoes will probably have you back on the trails comfortably in no time at all.