Monday, July 11, 2011

Sweet Life

I came out of the stinky, mountain outhouse just in time to hear the elated shouts of a fellow hiker. 

We had arrived at the trailhead minutes before rested and ready (or so we thought) to take on this steep wilderness.  Honestly, I judged her; this noisy NorthFace-outfitted female.  I thought that she should have been quieter, less enthusiastic. More reverant towards the mountain that was watching over us; less disturbing of other mountain travelers.  I was wrong.  If I had known what I would know 6 hours later in the day,  I would have embraced her squeals, encouraged her boisterous whooping!   I would have popped the bubbly and hoisted her up on proud shoulders, slapping her on the back for enduring moments of exhaustion and exhilirition..  I didn't know then, as I tsked tsked at her, that I would be COMPLETELY empathetic to her celebration a mere 1/4 day later. I didn't know that I too would be celebrating a physical victory in finishing, an emotional achievment in not giving up; looking for someone to slap ME on the back with pride in my accomplishment.  If I'd only known... and soon I would.

"Let's go stay in Aspen for our anniversary, honey!" Mrs. Henricks said.
"Sounds like a plan, but I'm going to make you work for it."Mr Henricks answered.
"Okedoke" Mrs. Henricks naively answered.

I was not fully prepared for what the "work for it" really entailed.  Even when we approached the trailhead to the mountains of Grays and Torreys I was still green as to what it really meant to climb a 14er (that is what a mountain that is very tall is called; the 14 standing for 3 1/5 miles straight up into the sky.) I began the hike in a tank top and thrice rolled up shorts, and returned in my winter hat, gloves,  rain coat and shorts pulled down as near to my ankles as they would go.  Between wardrobe changes, I sloshed through water, fell through snow, tromped over mud, felt my lungs and calves burn, and basically reached the edge of my physical capabilities to keep moving in a forward manner.  I haven't ever done anything harder than what I did on this mountain.

The elevation alone was enough to cause tears and make turning around seem pleasing.  Add to that my inexperience with mountain climbing and my desire for more comfort than the outdoors could provide and there I was,  a girl that had to reach to the very bottom of her bootstraps in order to keep walking.  Slowly, I was beginning to understand the exuberance of the shouting girl 4 miles down the trail.  Along the way up to the top, we saw beautiful wildflowers, bedraggled mountain goats, marmits (what the heck is THAT?), pikas (again?? WHAT?) and truly magnificent scenery around us. 

About half way up, I felt the urge to give up and sit down.  I told Patrick that he could keep going and I would catch him on the way back - nice of me, huh!  At that moment, he started counting steps and suggested that we just go 50 more steps and take a break.  "Okay - did that feel alright? Keep going? Sure... let's do 50 more.  Okay - how are you now??  Can you keep going? 50 more and we will take a break."  If my man hadn't helped me with his landmarks, his breaks, his announcements of what was coming up, I wouldn't have made it to the top of either of these mountains. 

Because we didn't hike at the normal, suggested times, we truly were the only the ones on the mountain.  We felt lucky to have the storm clouds hold out as long as they did before dumping their little, tiny ice pellets on us, late in the afternoon. These ice pellets were small yet quite painful as they smacked against the bare backs of our legs.  The wind waited on us until we summited the top of the first peak, then it blew us over to the other peak and hurried us along towards our ascent.  By this time, we had consumed all edible treasures that we had brought with us.  It was shocking to me how delicious our dried-out raisins and ordinary pretzels were.  When you are as hungry as we were, even a regular granola bar takes on gourmet characteristics.  After celebrating the conquering of both peaks, we began to make our way down the mountain.  At one point, my darling husband questioned whether I was okay with where I was walking. 

I answered "Sure, why?" And he said "Oh, just wondering if that 100 foot drop off of snow was bothering you at all".  It wasnt until then...  I wouldn't have made it across that terrifying spot if it hadn't been for the reason that there was just no other choice but to keep walking. 

That was the only way down - Patrick had refused my request for a piggy back ride.  As we got further and further away from the tops of the 14,000 foot peaks we kept turning around glancing at the summit, exclaiming to each other "I can't believe we were just up there!!"  I was feeling even more like a kindred spirit to the woman whom I had earlier dismissed as crazy.  We were going to make it!  I could feel it in every painful downward step.  With about 1/2 mile to go, Patrick announced "I can see the truck" and I have never been more in love with that man... or the truck.  The finish line was close.  Although we were not as loud as our fellow hiker, we were as happy when we finally reached the end of our hike.  We had accomplished more together that afternoon than we had in a very long time, and we had definitely worked for the luxury of the rest of our anniversary weekend.  With sore muscles and satisfied hearts, we celebrated the 8 years that we have been married.  We toasted our future and embraced with thanksgiving all that we have been given.   We laughed and played and enjoyed "just the two of us".  

Ours is a Sweet Life.  It is not a perfect life.  It is not a trial free life.  It mimics the mountain that we climbed together - steep ups and crazy downs, drastic climate changes, challenges that we approach hand in hand, beauty and fear side by side.  Our life is colorful and wonderful, and we live it from the top to the bottom. We do it together which is the sweetest part of all.

1 comment:

  1. Had to tell you when I see your little profile pic in the comments, it makes me smile. You are adorable and you rock that pixie cut and that blonde and those glasses like nobody's business. And of course this post slayed me with the mountains and "the sweet life" sign. Ha.
    Happy day.