|Climbing two fourteeners in one day|
I had been cross country skiing with one of them, John, on a regular basis, and he felt I might enjoy spending the day with them. We all met at a parking lot and carpooled up to the road off Highway 70. One of the guys had climbed this route many times before and it is so well used that he refused to climb it any time except during the winter. The road wasn't open, so we skied to a place where we could stash our skis and continue on up to the peaks. To be considered separate peaks, the saddle between them must lose at least 3,000 feet of elevation; this one required us to drop down more than 500 feet before climbing up the other mountain. It was a long day, with plenty of exercise and I, being the lone female, was determined not to lag behind. Although I wasn't all that old (back then I was in my early thirties), the men ascended the mountain much more quickly, and John got this picture of me. I was tired and sore at the end of the day, but I kept up and was proud to have been "one of the guys."
When I first moved to Colorado I was a cigarette smoker, and I will never forget the day that I realized, even back then, that I could not climb a flight of stairs without having to stop and catch my breath. I was overweight (not terribly, but enough that carrying that extra weight at Boulder's elevation made a difference). I decided to take up jogging, and after several fits and starts, I became capable enough to run a 10K race, the Bolder Boulder. And it helped me to quit smoking.
It occurs to me that those years I spent in Colorado were when I first became interested in exercise. Not only climbing fourteeners, jogging and cross country skiing, but in 1975 my friend Donna and I decided to set out on a bicycle trip from Boulder to San Francisco. We had panniers filled with our gear and sleeping bag, but we traveled light and crossed the Continental Divide five times before it was all over. It took us six weeks, and we mostly stayed in KOA Campgrounds or found a nice city park to sleep in. Within a very short period, the few times we stayed indoors (for one reason or another), it seemed stuffy and uncomfortable. I was happiest in a quiet place with my trusty steed and water bottle nearby, snuggled in my warm down bag sleeping under the stars. We only met curious people or those who wanted to help us in some way. It was almost forty years ago now, and I cannot imagine doing something like that today.
I didn't stop being interested in outdoor activities and volunteered for the US Forest Service for more than a decade, showing newbies the correct ways to hike into the wilderness and becoming more and more experienced. Then I discovered skydiving in 1991, and I stopped going into the wilderness, because every single weekend, winter and summer, I was at the Drop Zone hoping to jump out of an airplane. I packed my own parachute and found that I stayed pretty fit from the activity. Plus, as hard as it may seem to believe, I was madly and completely in love with this new activity. I met Smart Guy through skydiving late in 1992, and by the time we got married in freefall in 1994, I had only spent a few times hiking into the wilderness.
My skydiving career was long and varied, and my obsession covered almost twenty years before it began to let up. When I moved away from Boulder and retired from my job, I decided not to keep my skydiving instructor ratings either, and now I have found a nice little group of people who like to play in the sky during the summer months, and I've taken up hiking and regular exercise again. As most of you who have read this blog for awhile are aware, I joined the Bellingham Senior Activities Center to go on hikes of varying lengths every Thursday. And I work out at the YMCA on the other weekdays. I've been challenged many times by these walks, but they are with like-minded people and we are aware of our limitations. For the first year after I joined these hikes, I didn't go on any that were rated "hard" but stuck to the easy and moderate ones (some of which were MUCH harder than I expected a "moderate" hike to be). And now I feel that my fitness level is pretty much as good as an active Senior could expect.
I didn't ever make a decision to become a fitness enthusiast, and I am a bit amazed when I think of how it all came about. But it's obvious that I am not a happy person when I'm not able to be outdoors playing in the wilderness, or the air, or taking pictures of beautiful mountains and flowers and people.