“So, how was your break?”
“Oh, man, awesome. Let me tell you about the hike . . . ” (insert monologue of parts 1-5 here) “. . . and I’m only just losing the limp!”
“Why would you do that to yourself?”
I am accustomed to odd looks, especially from my in-laws. We live in a football crazy state and overall in a society of spectators for whom sport and entertainment is a passive, distant relationship. I hate sports, or more accurately, I can’t understand why folks like to watch other people play them. But their question is a valid one. I’m not young, nor am I particularly athletically svelte. Only to a small, and arguably mad percentage of our species, does this activity sound in any way fun.
I never have been able to let a rhetorical question float around unanswered, smartass that I am, so I have been thinking about that a lot. The only people who smile when I tell the saga of our last hike are the ones who backpack themselves. (Well, and marathon runners, but then they feel a competitive compulsion to tell me how many miles they run in a given day. I just smile and pretend to be as interested as they were pretending to be in my story.)
Mid-way into the hike, I was polluting the air with discussion of my own exercise regimen, if anything a working parent of two spastic boys does can be called a regimen. I jog, some. I work out in a small clubhouse, some. I walk often. I’ve been working to build endurance by running full-tilt boogie up the brutal hills in my neighborhood. Over the last few years, I have become more toned than I was in my 20’s (which was spent as an overeating, smoking fool). But I hate exercise and, truthfully, the only reason I do it is to extend my range and endurance for backpacking.
So, what is it about backpacking? I think it is the pain. (There’s a smile when the pain comes. Pain gonna make everything alright.) And it is addictive, isn’t it? Sure, the endorphins are nice. That’s their job. But to get to that point where you are flooded with them, day-tripping down the side of a mountain and knowing that you are red-lining all over your body – but still going forward. Still taking another step. There is no quitting because there is only one way out and that is to move one more step, and then one more after that.
Kat, who also hates exercise for the sake of exercising, shared a quote by Hunter S. Thompson with me on the last hike. “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”
Amazing to me that the best parallels to why I do this involve references or traces back to addictive substances. No wonder they can’t understand. No surprise I can’t explain.
I’m only just now able to walk without a limp. The abuse to my knee has eased down to just a bit of tightness when I first wake up in the morning. I knew, on that last mile, that it would be a good month before I was ready to even think about being on the trail again.
Was just 7 days, and to be fair, I spent those 7 days thinking and talking and grinning like an idiot about this last hike.