Sunday, October 24, 2010

Travel mugs, shoes-Part 1 and another hike

Husband No. 1 considers spending $20 for a travel coffee mug excessive given that his commute is down one flight of stairs, although I have tried to convince him a Contigo container would mean he, too, could have hot coffee still waiting in his car after a workout at the gym.

I love a mug that can keep coffee hot for four hours and cold items in that state for 12. And as we were driving 1.5 hours north today en route to another mountain to scale, I couldn't resist noting my coffee was still hot and his was not. "It's funny how the small things can make you happy, isn't it?" I asked. HN1 did not respond.

Looking back, that may have been the happiest moment connected to today's outing -- Take A Hike #3, purposely scheduled the same weekend as the infamous 5K race I planned to run (despite qualms related here earlier) until I discovered I REALLY hate running.

Good thing I never bought those expensive running shoes. Experience has taught me not to invest in footwear for a specific activity until I'm certain it will last more than a few weeks, which is why I was the only person hiking Mount Kearsarge in sneakers today. But I digress.

The attendant at the entrance to Winslow State Park informed us ice had been reported on our intended trail "so be careful because we don't want to call in the rescue people again." I exchanged glances with Husband No. 1 and gulped. "There's just a little mist and hopefully the rain will hold off until this afternoon," she added cheerily.

This caused HN1 to peer at the water-soaked windshield and then at me. "Didn't you tell me the forecast called for 50 degrees and sunny? That sounds like pretty loud mist," he said.

These should have been signs to go home: Ice, rain and the only restrooms were portable. "Why are we doing this again?" HN1 asked.
"To do something fun together," I replied.
HN1: "Couldn't we have fun together at a 5-star restaurant? There's no ice or rain, and it would have a real bathroom."
Me: "But we wouldn't get any of those exercise endorphins. Come on, this will be great."
HN1: (Insert grumbling here.)

Rather than bore you with a description of the grunting, tangled tree roots, slippery rocks, sweating, ice encountered (see photo to the right) or the mud, let me just say that when we came upon a pile of rocks (see photo below) I suggested that perhaps it was a monument to all who died on the mountain before us. "You mean this month?" HN1 said. Then we heard birds, really loud ones. "Do you think those are vultures?" I asked.

"They're probably just tearing off skin now," said my mystery-writing hiking partner in an attempt to comfort me.

"I bet it's someone with sneakers," I noted. "By the way, how many feet high does something have to be for it to be a mountain because I'm beginning to think we should have started at 1,000-footers or below, and worked up to 2,937 feet like this one."

"That's not a question you'd ask in a 5-star restaurant," he observed grimly.

When we encountered an athletic-looking couple in full hiking attire and accessories heading down the trail, it gave us an excuse to rest. "How far are we from the top?" I asked between wheezes. The man looked at my shoes. "About 20 minutes. The views are great, though."

Forty minutes later we reached the bald rock top of Mount Kearsarge. You may already know this, but when they say "bald rock" in a trail description, they're not describing someplace with handrails -- or guardrails.

"Boy, that's a big drop. If we fell, we'd have a long way to hike back up," I noted.
"I don't think you'd be thinking about hiking back up," HN1 replied.
"Because I'd be dead?"
"That would be just like you to die and leave me with the dog," my spouse observed. I was too busy trying to pull my way up the rocks to offer an appropriate response.

As you can see from the photo to the right, we eventually reached the summit and when we sat down to eat lunch, HN1 gazed across the cloudy vista and said, "Is this what 50 degrees and sunny looks like?"

"But isn't it peaceful up here, with the wind and all?" I asked, watching to make sure he didn't eat his second sandwich in case we needed to live off that one PB&J if we got lost.

"I thought that was the blood rushing through my head."

Climbing up a bald rock face means you have to climb back down it, too. I'd already had enough encounters with the trail to wonder if there might be a market for T-shirts that read, "My butt kissed Mount Kearsarge." I could feel a whine coming on. " This is too steep. I really don't like this," I said.
"OK, we'll only hike flat mountains from now on," HN1 offered.
"And where would those be?"

About an hour later I shouted, "Cue the theme from 'Rocky,' I think that's the parking lot. Wait a minute, I shouldn't jinx this -- I did fall just 15 feet from the parking lot on the last mountain and still have the bruise."

"It's a mountain mirage," HN1 said glumly. "It's just more rock."

It was beginning to look like we might need that PB&J to survive after all. Meanwhile, the mist was now a downpour, my sneakers were soaked from mud and ice, and all that butt-kissing with the mountain had taken its toll. And when we reached the car, my coffee was cold. Could things get any worse? Then I noticed the bumper sticker on a nearby vehicle that read: "Pain is weakness leaving the body."

With all that weakness gone, there was room for something else. "Where can we get some hot coffee and pie?" I asked. "We don't need a 5-star restaurant for that."

Note: Shoes Part 2 next week will discuss why the search for blood-red heels has become a feminist issue. Contigo travel mugs can be purchased online, at Target and sometimes at Costco.

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