My writing friend, Lisa, emailed me yesterday and asked, “Would you like to go on a hike?” It evokes the same kind of response as if she asked, would you like to bike in strong winds?
(Sound of tea cup hitting a saucer.) Somebody pass me a Victorian parasol, the sun feels a little strong.
It’s something about the imagery of the word hike that immediately sets forth a grueling image of endurance. It overpowers my idea of a nice view pay-off or anything pleasant for that matter. I picture un-scalable vertical face mountains, my Polish white skin bubbling in sun blisters and muttering profanity to myself while being dusted by groups of people who appear as if their heart rate is barely above normal.
It’s not that I don’t like the outdoors. I do. I do. I lived in Maine for 10 years. I have been on hikes, even in Alaska. Heck I’ve even been on a 3 day trek in Thailand. I love enjoying the outdoors I just don’t like approaching it as if I have to reckon with it.
The moment it gets serious with galactic power juice, walking staffs, camel paks that hold 3 liters of water and use of the word wicking when it comes to shirt and socks, as we say in Lowell, “I’m outta here.”
In the land of Colorado, where Denver ranks high as one of the healthiest cities and professional athletes come to work out at high altitude, people take the outdoors very seriously.
Even on the city’s walking/bike path I’ve come across cyclists who zip by at Tour De France speed while I pump the pedals of my blue cruiser, at a handle bar shaking 5 miles per hour. There are also fitness buffs that run up and down the 192 steps of Red Rocks Amphitheater (alt. 6,400 feet above sea level) for fun. I’ve never done this but you can pay an exercise group to force you.
I wrote back to my friend Lisa admitting that I was a somewhat wimpy hiker and besides, I had a blog to write. Surely, that was enough to have her leave me behind.
She called a few minutes later.
“It’s not going to be that kind of hike.”
“Will we see mountain goats? Is oxygen necessary?”
“No, no. We’re not hiking a 14er.” (This I should have automatically known given our 2:45pm start time.)
“It’s Chautauqua in Boulder. We’re just getting together to go out and be physical. Get a work out. Pretty easy trail, but you know, with some uphill. There will be places for us to rest. I’m just going to wear shorts and bring a granola bar in my pocket.”
“Oh!” I breathed in relief, “sure, that sounds great! You said all the right words. One last thing, I’m not a gear head or anything. I don’t own $500 gortex jackets. I’m going to look like I dressed at a Goodwill sale.”
“No problem. I bought my shorts at Goodwill.”
This is the kind of hiking I can handle!
The gear. The clothing. It’s all too much for my urban regulation black closet. I once did some light hiking in Aspen in a pair of Ann Taylor office capris.
I’m not sure why I didn’t pack my yoga pants. I do own those. I think it’s because I never know what to wear the yoga pants with… I can’t wear tanks (too much white skin to protect for extended outdoor time) and I don’t own that many t-shirts as I loathe crew necks. I have closet full of clothes but nothing quite matches up right in the mountain activity department.
I get all worked up that I don’t have the right thing to wear. I’m always realizing too late that I don’t have something. I need long sleeves and only have short. I have a hoodie but not a wind breaker. I have yoga pants but not the perfect shirt.
It’s like when I go to the grocery store and buy spaghetti sauce but forget the pasta. The items in the grocery bag don’t always add up to the meal I was planning. It’s the same for my hiking outfits. I try to remedy this but when the season changes, the hiking invitations stop and I forget. Until I’m asked again and find myself throwing clothes behind my shoulder as I dig through every drawer.
When I first moved to Colorado, I showed up for a hike at a friend’s house wearing black yoga pants and a black t-shirt.
“Is this what you’re wearing?” my friend asked in a quiet up-beat voice, as he assessed that I would attract every UV ray in the sky and incinerate in the field.
“Let’s trade out your shirt for this white one.”
“Oh Thanks. Boston Red Sox shirt! I would have worn white if I owned anything like that.”
I realized that I either own clothes for late night dancing in Buenos Aires, office casual, or clothes for coal mining. Missing from my wardrobe is fashion active wear.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried to shop for it but when I flip up the Patagonia price tag I say to myself, I’d rather save the money and go to Patagonia.
Coal mining outfits, you are here to stay.
I managed to pull together a decent outdoor outfit: Sneakers, black shorts, white jog bra and a light terra cotta t-shirt topped off with a Wild Horse Vineyard baseball cap and my Jackie O sunglasses. To my regret, no photo available.
We hiked for about 2 hours. I was surprised at times to find myself slightly ahead of my friends and was disappointed when the ominous clouds urged that we start heading back.
The views were great. The trees were lovely and I didn’t need NASA inspired fabric to live through my hike. I also noticed different berries and upon my friend’s prompting, asked the Park Ranger about them.
I actually like to hike when I think of it as ‘a walk through the woods’ or an adventure of seeing something new even if it was all up hill and my heart was pounding. I quite enjoyed myself. I would do it again.
Can we just not call it hiking?