Thursday, August 30, 2007
15th Anniversary, Day One: The Hike
The pre-first day was driving to our destination: Driggs, Idaho. Once we traveled past Idaho Falls (beautiful!) the trip was uneventful, so I won't bore you with the details. (Night trips are always a little more exciting for people like me who think every reflection of light to the side of the road is most likely the glare of a deer's eyes, ready to bolt in front of the car. What are they trying to accomplish with that, anyway? Haven't they seen their friends and family cross these roads, walk toward the light, and never return? It's nighttime! Go to bed already, where it's safe! The grass is NOT greener on the other side...)
Once we arrived in Driggs and located our hotel, we could not sleep. We are both night owls, and knowing we needed to rise bright and early at 4:30 a.m. did not matter. Plus, we don't watch T.V. at home, and - MAN ALIVE - there are all kinds of things in that box these days! Plenty of smut, but also home decorating, remodeling, real-life mysteries, some E.R. true-stories show where they're trying to figure out what the heck is wrong with someone before the paralysis spreads to his head and he stops breathing...could YOU turn this stuff off? Oh, yeah - and 24/7 sports. One of us was thrilled with that, the other was not.
Oh, yeah - the trip.
Before we know it, 4:30 a.m. rolls around, and we did what we do best: hit the snooze button (just once!) and then prepare for hike day. The plan was this: Hike Table Mountain after breakfast. And that we did.
We were told that Table Mountain is about a 14-mile hike, round-trip. I had planned to do some walking ahead of time, but it never happened.
"I'm young," I told myself. "I can totally do this."
My body laughed just now, as I typed that.
My problem is this: when I am challenged with a task that seems difficult or unattainable, I face it head on. I like to prove to myself that I can do things. So, Table Mountain? 14 miles? Bring it on.
The hike was beautiful. Scattered wildflowers, a variety of trees, even some wildlife. We enjoyed the conversation with our fellow hikers as we made our merry way along the trail and over streams. After we had gone at least 5 or 6 miles, my sweetheart (who has been on this hike twice previously with Scouts) happily announced, "We're probably about 1/4 of the way there now." Quick math...14 miles, 7 miles each way...one-fourth of that...
But we continued on, enjoying the scenery and stopping for occasional breaks and photo opportunities. Allen continued to point out where Table Mountain was along the way.
"See that teeny tiny speck, WAY off in the distance below Grand Teton? That's where we're going."
Up we continued, up numerous switchbacks and eventually to a kind of plateau. At this point we could see Table Mountain off in the distance well enough to get a picture. (It's the little nub in the far right corner) I think we were more than halfway there at this point. I hate to admit this, but I was getting a little tired. And a little sore. But, nothing I couldn't handle. I was ready to CONQUER Table Mountain!
This is where the hike got really uphill. Up, up, up we went. I decided it was best to keep pushing on and not stop. I sang songs in my head with a steady tempo and kept pace with them, trying to keep up with Allen.
I think he was running by now. The man can hike.
After navigating over a large field of rocks (there is some really cool word for this but I can't remember it and can't find it anywhere - I think it starts with a "g") the real climb began. The last uphill pitch of the hike was deceptively steep. I did lots of singing here, keeping pace with 'American Pie' and 'The Sound of Music'. I wanted to walk to more upbeat songs, but my legs mocked me when I tried.
Did I mention that I have a fear of heights? It doesn't make sense, does it? I told you, I like a good challenge. As long as I didn't look back to where I came from, I was fine. The last 100 feet or so was up through some rock. I held on to the mountain with one hand and the ground with the other. Here's the last bit of the trail, almost to the top!As I stepped onto the mountain and looked over at the Tetons, I decided it was all worth it. What a breathtaking view! It was like being on the top of the world.
As we watched the rest of our group, as well as other hikers, making their way to the summit, clouds began to roll in. I have an aversion to being struck by lightening, so I started to make my way down... Oh. my.
It was steep. Did I really climb up this trail?? What was I thinking?
"Our sentiments exactly," said my knees.
We made our way down, back across the big field of rocks (Gravant? Is that the word? No, that's a river...but it's got some fancy French spelling...Gross Ventre or something...I talked to Allen - he's the one who kept using the word - it's called talus. Or, even better sounding, scree. Don't you love learning new words?!) and back to the switchbacks.
The evil switchbacks.
This is where the piggybacks began.
Piggyback is not a fancy word for part of the trail. It is a word used to describe the way a sturdy man can carry his wife down a mountain when her knees refuse to move. If it was up to Allen, he would have given me a piggyback ride the whole way down. He's that kind of guy. But, remember, I must CONQUER the trail! Here is where I got to know Gary.
Gary is an EMT. Ken and Vickie invited Gary and his wife Kathy on our little excursion, too. Gary had drugs. Ken had ace wraps and knee braces. Between the two of them, I had everything I needed on the way down the mountain. Well, the three of them. We can't forget my pack hubby. On the occasion that my knees would lock up, Allen would insist that I hop aboard.
Ken, his son Korey, and Gary stayed with Allen and I the whole way down. I told them they could go on ahead if they wanted. Their wives were further down the trail. They stayed with me.
I know I slowed them down.
I know they were looking out for me.
I love those guys.
On my last piggyback ride, fairly near the end of the trail, Gary pointed out something across the stream...
We would have missed the moose if it were not for Gary's noticing it. I think we were all watching for rocks on the trail at this point, no one was enjoying the beauty that completely surrounded us because we were all looking forward to the padded seats in our air conditioned rides back to the hotel. Again, beautiful.
By the time we arrived at the hotel, I could not even stand on my own. Allen threw me over his shoulder and carried me in.
By the next day, I could walk again. I looked a bit odd, but I could walk.
My advice to all: Don't run on pavement. I did that all through high school while on the cross-country team, and my knees have hated me ever since. Be nice to your knees, and they'll be nice to you as the years creep up on you.
Just out of curiosity, I looked up Table Mountain after we got home. Here is what I found: "This 11-mile roundtrip hike seems much longer than it really is because of the 4,000-foot elevation gain."
11 miles? No way. I'm sticking with 14. Or 20.
Stay tuned for Day 2: The River!