Saturday, June 21, 2008

Hike to Gray Knob

We met in the parking lot, I saw Laura our professor when I rolled in, in shorts. I immediately looked down at my legs. Pants - under armor long underware. I looked at laura and saw she was wearing a tank top. I looked down at my chest. Bra, underlayer and long sleeves. I was wrong about everything. I got out and unpacked and repacked my pack about three times. Food in the bottom? Top? Where should I keep my rain gear? But I tried to smile, tried to look in "the know." We compared pack weights. I had about the same weight as all the guys. I have no idea what it weighed, but I put it on and hunkered forward. UGH. I could walk on flat ground fine. We crossed the street to the trail head.

I was happy with my balance at first. I was expecting to be unimaginably off balance. The "hikers" of the group immediately took the lead like gazelles and I was instantly out of breath. We entered the forest and I started drifting farther back, stifled by my long-sleeved shirt. I tweaked my pack straps at a stop for water and put the weight onto my hips. Ahh, temporary relief.

We walked under forest cover, through mud, over rocks and roots. The weather stayed breezy. About twenty five minutes in, I ditched the shirt. It felt awesome to get the sweat off my body. The hills we climbed were moderate and I was going slowly but doing okay. Then, about halfway up, the squishy mud path turned into the rocky steep path. I couldn't do anything but look at my feet, putting one foot down after another. We'd stop every twenty minutes or so for water, which I got conservative with once I felt it sloshing around in my belly. Don't get sick, I thought, just don't get sick. Every turn we came to got steeper. The trail is really that straight-up-damn-the-torpedos kind of shit. I looked up and saw rocks, rocks, rocks....

As we walked further up it began to sprinkle, which initially felt really good on my face and arms, and took the edge off my overheating a bit. It rained harder as we stopped to take our rain covers out of our packs. It rained very heavily for about 5-10 minutes - no thunder though. A passing hiker later told us that we missed the hail that was going on further up the mountain. Laura told a story about coming up with two people who were slow and couldn't get out of a thurnderstom. I really felt like she was directing it at me, I knew she wasn't, but I was lagging father and farther behind the group.

I really couldn't go much faster without getting helplessly out of breath. We eventually got to the part that was "stupidly steep" and I started to feel my left hip joint protesting. I didn't feel like I had the strength to push myself up each step, it was like climbing a never-ending sideways wet, rough, staircase. But I kept my complaints to a minimum and kept going, albiet slower and slower. It got really tough and I began to wonder what the hell I thought I was doing.

But then we reached the krumholtz where the trees start to get stunted and wind blown, and I could see a tiny glimpse of blue mountains ahead. A few minutes later, more steep. I counted my steps as I went, resetting once I got to 42. It gave me a small goal to reach. Suddenly I glanced up to see where i was and I was blown away. Infinity in each direction... MOUNTAINS... nothing but green, blue, clouds, haze...

I wish I could say I ran the last bit, that I triumphantly scampered to the cabin. But I pressed on at the same pace, really unable to go at any other speed or pace. I did manage to take some pictures and photos to prove that I had done it. It may have been one of the hardest things I've ever done, but I didn't bail, quit, cry, break a bone or have to turn back like I had feared for so many nights before.

After settling into the RMC hut (Grey Knob) which had Tibetan prayer flags hanging inside of it, we took a short hike to check out the areas where we'd do our plot work. I paired up with Annie probably because we seem to have similar paces and demeanor, and she was kind to me as I slowly grappled with the trail.

We grabbed our day packs and got our equipment, proceeded to go up the mountain further. How light, how easy this was compared to only hours before. This I could handle! My feet still bugged me a little but not to the magnitude that it mattered.

We hiked above the treeline and all I could do was grin. The view was fantastic, and the alpine flowers were easy to pick out, so tiny and so beautiful. We selected a plot that was closest to camp, and I was exceptionally thrilled by this (less hiking 2x per day to get plot measurements.). It was surveyed in 2000 by another group so we also got the historical context too.

After finishing our plot work, Annie and I took photos of each other on Grey Knob (the rock) itself. It felt SO good to be in the sun, in nature, in the mountains.

Dinner was awesome but now I am nervous that my dinner will suck in comparison. Tonight's was tortellini, spinach and red sauce. MMN! I ate heartily though I am still nervous about my stomach I am okay now. I'll try not to worry about that, which can help also.

After dinner we watched the sun set from a scenic vista. IT was unimaginably beautiful. I have never seen infinite mountains before. Peaks everywehre. So gorgeous, so pristene, so perfect. A perfect end to a triumphiant and important day.

No comments: