A friend of mine spent the weekend backpacking with his dog in the most beautiful spot. The pictures he posted made me want to be fit enough to do it. He said there were nice spots you could drive to, but I like the idea...the romance...of this backpacking thing.
Of course that doesn't mean I'll ever do it. I've been camping before, but with a blow up mattress and a huge cooler and plenty of clothes. When you have to carry everything you need on your back and sleep on the ground, it's different. Even if I were fit enough to do it, I'm not sure I'd manage very well out in the wilderness alone, even with my three dogs with me. In fact, I'd have to be brave enough for four. Still, my friend's hike is only ranked intermediate, so it's doable.
Many, many years ago I set out on a difficult-ranked hike on my own. It was March, so some of the rocks were a little icy in the shade. It was grueling, even though I was very fit at the time. The first three miles down the mountain and past all the waterfalls was easy, but it was the part on the way back that was straight up that was hard. There was a boy scout group doing the same hike and we'd pass each other, then rest. Then pass each other, then rest. It was nice knowing they were there in case I hurt myself. It was also nice to see a bunch of boys struggling as much as me. When I was climbing up, I was in shorts, even though it was very cold out. Then when I'd rest, I'd have to cover up or freeze. It was probably the biggest "adventure" of my life.
I've gone back to that trail since then, but have never done the hard part of the hike...just the mile or so in and back out again. I'll never be 30 again. And I doubt I'll ever do that hike in quite that way again. But I mourn the loss of my fitness, most of which came at the hands of too much food, too little exercise and a lot of depression.
Sometimes it seems so easy for me to make bad choices. But it isn't really easy. It's hard because bad choices weigh on you. And they're much harder to fix than they are to make. Over the years I've made bad choices with my work, with men and, of course, with my weight. All of them were much harder to fix than make.
Truth is I've been very complacent about my weight and fitness for a long time now. I'm doing more and more about it, but my progress is slow. I was surprised at how my friend's pictures made me all wistful for hiking again. Usually when I get wistful for physical activity, it's yoga. But I have a tendency to get vertigo these days, which makes yoga classes hard. I seem to find teachers that, even though you tell them you get vertigo, bark at you if you remain on the floor while everyone else has gotten up. I guess they don't understand how vertigo can feel like there's extra gravity on you while your head is spinning. You simply can't get up.
Anyway, it's nice to have a muse that can help you make better choices. Hiking may be that muse for me. When I was younger I would drive to a different place in my Hiking in Virginia guidebook every couple of weeks and explore something new. I may never have the balls to backpack in and do what my friend did over an entire weekend, but I know there are plenty of hikes around here that I could do starting maybe later this fall or next spring. Frankly, there are some easy ones I could do right now, for that matter. But I'm thinking of hikes in maybe the intermediate range...the ones with altitude changes that open up into into striking vistas that make the exertion worthwhile...the ones that aren't so crowded...the ones that go five or six miles, up and down hills or mountains.
I think I haven't quite realized the price I've paid in terms of my relationship with nature because of my bad choices. Seeing those pictures this weekend really struck me for some reason. For one thing, the terrain is unusual for this part of the country, so I want to see it. But it was as if I was standing in his pics, feeling strong, feeling the breeze on me, having energy, giving my body a nice workout and feeling like an extension of the terrain...that's what I miss.
I may not be able to get back to my 30 year old body and strength. But I can get back to the trail. And I can reclaim some of the parts of myself I set aside so long ago through my bad choices.