Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Walking is Hard Work

As an endurance athlete, I’ve been taught “don’t stand if you can sit and don’t sit if you can lay down” when I’m off the bike. This may sound extraordinarily lazy to some, and it may sound like heaven to some of you. Well, it’s usually a motto I live by except in the off-season. The fall is often the time for us to play around, have fun off the bike, and try doing other activities. One activity that’s easily accessible here is hiking.

All hiking is, is walking in nature. In theory it’s simple- you put on some shoes and just start walking. Well, that’s about where the simplicity ends and the mountains begin. Walking is hard work! Really, it’s tough. Here in the Rockies, chances are you’re either going up or going down. After hiking for nearly five hours in the mountains one day last week, I have a new found respect for people that hike seriously, and the pioneers when they came through here.

Our hike started at 8000 feet, and our destination was at 10000 feet. Armed with plenty of water and a camera, we set of up the mountain. Let me tell you, it was gorgeous! There were so many little plants that I’d never seen before, the leaves were changing colors, we identified different types of pine trees, crossed streams, saw bear scratches on trees, and heard stories from one man about how he’d chased a bear through some of the same trails. Why you would chase a bear is beyond me, but it was cool to hear him tell the story. Now, for those of you from sea level, you may have noticed this thing called “altitude” here in Colorado. Even as a trained athlete, it’s hard to breathe at 10000 feet.

After a few hours of climbing we reached the top. Oh my chicken, it was gorgeous! The aspen were beginning to change color and the brilliant gold against the bright blue sky is something I’ll remember for a long time. I took a bunch of photos at the top primarily of a dead, uprooted tree with a rock in its roots. I like dead trees, uprooted trees, and quirky things like rocks that get stuck in trees. When the three came together, I took it as a sign and went crazy with the photos (see album on right). We found pieces of quartz, amazonite, and lots of cool pieces of dead wood.

Unlike on the bike, walking uphill is much easier than walking downhill. There was not a single moment on the descent when I thought it was easier than the ascent. It is very clear how easy it is to get hurt on the descent when you’re tired to begin with coupled with harder work than the first half of the trip. Each time we stopped, my legs were shaking from walking down such steep sections of trail and working to maintain footing on loose soil. After getting back to the OTC, I was exhausted! It felt like I’d ridden for 5 hours, not walked! I was so happy with the day though that it didn’t matter how tired I was. A new activity was conquered, stories were shared, photos were taken, and now I have a tiny crystal too.

If you’re looking for a fun, challenging activity, consider hiking. It’s a great opportunity to see the area from a different perspective and take in some of the beauty of nature. Seriously, if you don’t believe how hard walking can be, try it in nature.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Quirky Hobby

If you haven’t picked up by now that I’m quirky (“odd” and "weird" have a negative connotations), this should settle it for you. I love going to cemeteries. Wait, don’t leave, just give me a minute and hear me out. I don’t go with pouches of fish scales, eyes of newts or crystals I go with reverence and curiosity.

Death, and what happens after death, is interesting to me. Is there a heaven and hell? I don’t know. Are people reincarnated? I don’t think so. I struggle to believe in god- although it would be kind of nice sometimes. Where does a soul go, if it goes anywhere at all? What I do know is that everyone makes a difference in someone else’s life. The saying “To the world you are one person, but to one person you are the world” is a bit too lovey-dovey for me, but there is something to take away from that. Everyone is loved at one point or another in their lives, hopefully for all of it, and hopefully it continues on after they die too.

I joke about not liking people, ok about hating people, but it’s because I don’t understand why they do the things they do sometimes. I really do like people, I like learning their story and what makes them who they are. Listening is important to me, and I think it’s something I’m able to do fairly well. Too few people really listen to anyone anymore- it’s almost like a lost art.

When I go to a cemetery, I want to learn about the people there. Since they don’t do much talking, I have to take the reins. I ask questions and do a lot of speculating. How did they die? How old were they? What were their hobbies? If they’re buried with a family, I wonder about the family too- parents, children, siblings. Did they have pets? What was their favorite book? What did they do, or want to be when they grew up? These and hundreds of other thoughts all run through my head when I’m there. I wish I could listen to them, and hear their stories.  When I leave, it’s with a sense of wonder and respect for the person regardless of if they died a hundred years ago, or three months ago.

A friend told me that people die three deaths- one when they actually die, one when they’re buried, and finally the last time anyone thinks of them. So, in a way, going to the headstones of people I’ve never met and have no connection to is keeping them alive. I love life, and I want everyone to enjoy theirs as much as I do.

Another element of cemeteries that I love is the serenity. There are no children running around you screaming, very few cars, and hardly any distractions. It’s quiet. It’s amazing how a cemetery can be right on or near a busy road, and once you’re inside the gates it’s quiet. There’s an invisible sound barrier surrounding the grounds that lets you be with your thoughts.

Despite death, more often than not, there’s a sense of new life. Fresh flowers are placed on headstones, trees are growing, and people are visiting their loved ones. It’s hopeful in a way. When you see death, you appreciate life more. You can understand how fragile and precious it really is. Visiting other people in the cemetery makes me think about their lives and how great of people they probably were.

Each time I go to a cemetery, I leave with mixed feelings. I feel big knowing that my life can impact people, yet small knowing how short life can be and how delicate it is. Life is exquisite! Enjoy it while you have it, and respect those who have lived their lives by remembering- or theorizing- the life they lived.