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.

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