Near my home, there is a beautiful beach park tucked away behind the forest and train tracks. My version of Mt Everest in reverse, it dips into mountain-steep decline at first, then a grueling return climb. Sometimes I’m not altogether sure why I tackle it since there are flatter options.
Maybe I do it for all the good reasons people hike. Endorphins, conquering, renewing nature time.
Maybe it’s the adventure. Upon entering the dense enchanted forest, a huge canopy of evergreen trees and supersized ferns nearly block out the sun. It is birdsong, babbling brooks, and woody outdoor scents that make me breathe deeper and often, I have an urge to sing a jubilant remix of The Hills Are Alive.
After a winding forty minutes down, I pop out near the ocean.
For reasons unknown, there’s no easy way to the beach, so it’s either climbing through a hole in the fence and scurrying over the train tracks or wading through a tunnel if it’s not flooded. Although it’s usually a choice; it’s always funny.
There aren’t a lot of people on the trail early morning. Mostly muscular mountaineers and buzzed adrenaline junkies running with loaded backpacks training for something more serious.
If going down clears my head, relaxes me, inspires me, coming back up is all about tenacity and burn. If I’ve been workout lazy, it’s about an hour of torture. A few days ago, I seriously considered calling for a helicopter – the only other way out short of propelling myself back up the intimidating hill. My whiny head-talk went something like this: What was I trying to prove? Why didn’t I just loop the lake twice? It’s too hot. I forgot my snack in the car. Where am I supposed to get the energy? I need an IV. I’ve never been rescued. Am I not owed one?
Woman Rescued From Forest hike, I imagined the news headline reading, probably with an unflattering picture too.
I don’t really want to admit the thought of mounting a gruesome slope was messing with my mind, but embarrassment did spur me into action. I took a swig of electrolyte water, clicked the DANCE playlist on my IPOD and turned to the thing I usually turn to until motivation kicks in. Distraction. I thought about 1) the way my phone jostles around inside my backpack and sometimes calls people, takes pictures, or tries to log into Twitter 2) writing this blog 3) where I’d put the fossil-like rock I’d found on the beach.
I even counted shirtless men.
After a bit, my tank top was sticking to me, but my gluts and quads were still in the game and I wasn’t even breathing hard. I overtook a pregnant woman and some meandering birdwatchers. Two teenagers gained on me, along with one of the mountaineers running with a full backpack (a real backpack, not the lightweight leather one I got from Nordstrom) and I foolishly tried to stay ahead of them.
Aside from my initial whining, I wasn’t really tired, it was just harder than I wanted it to be and that’s just life. When I rounded the last bend, I started obsessing about the trail mix bar I’d accidentally left in the front seat and how the coconut was going to be melted and the almonds hot, and how I was going to wolf it down anyway and then I sprinted the last minute.