Saturday, August 22, 2020

SWEET VICTORY/BITTER DEFEAT

Before surrendering to prison, I did a fair amount of hiking in the Hudson Valley. At least twice a month between March and November, I'd take a day trip north and climb a mountain. Then came a year of inactivity in prison followed by a Covid winter/spring and a fully employed spring/summer. The bottom line is I've mountain-climbed twice in the past two years. I also don't ride my bicycle near as much as I used to. 

So yesterday - with a three day vacation from work - I took the train north to Cold Spring. This was only my second opportunity all summer to hike during the week when the trails aren't overfilled with hikers. (I hate doing activities during peak times. And the one time I did this summer, I got about what I expected. A disappointing overcrowded experience.)

Anyway...the easier trail looked crowded even though it was a weekday. On a whim, I decided to continue on to the much tougher Breakneck Ridge for the day. This really isn't a trail for the faint of heart. And before you even get to the trailhead, carless city dwellers like me have a 2.4 mile walk on a beautiful road!

That I negotiated without a hitch. Upon arriving at the trailhead I discovered (to my chagrin) that Breakneck was even more crowded than Bull Hill (the trail I passed on because there were too many hikers). The initial ascent would hardly be an alone-in-the-woods experience. 

Now here comes the bitter defeat part of the title. Only a few hundred yards into the hike, four women came out of nowhere to vector with me after they'd lost the trail and wandered off. 

"How'd you manage that?" I asked as they approached my personal space. "We took what looked like the easiest trail," was their answer. "That's not what Breakneck is about," I chided them and continued up the mountain with the four girls trailing behind. 

After briefly guiding them adeptly, I found myself winded and pulled to the side to let them continue. "I'm too old for this shit," I lamented as I attempted to let them pass. But they responded "no, you're not. You're our guide. We follow you." 

One asked my name - and another (who was older than her other three companions) commented "my husband thinks I'm crazy to do this." Suddenly, I realized I happened into a dream situation. Four girls had elected me their tour guide for the day. And two of them were pretty hot! 

But there was a problem. I couldn't keep up with them. In fact, I was feeling somewhat ill and thought I might just die right there on the trail. The girls continued on - but not without calling back "Billy!" twice, hoping I'd come to and rejoin the party. 

I really was not feeling well and missed the significance of the situation at that moment. I can't tell y'all for sure whether it's my layoff, three cups of coffee earlier that morning, or advancing age (I'm 70) which did me in. Probably a combination of all three. Whatever...I missed a magnificent social opportunity. Meeting cute/meaningful women (which I could tell they were immediately) and spending the day getting to know them is a rare opportunity. And I had to pass in favor of living another day.

Ever so slowly (I had 10 hours of daylight and plenty of time), I ascended Breakneck with multiple rest stops to find that the farther along I got on the trail, the fewer people I ran up on. And it wasn't long before I was spending hourlong periods without encountering one other person. And that was exactly what I was looking for.

On many previous occasions during my over 5 year "process" with the Feds and State, I'd perched on top of the world and contemplated the prospect of being incarcerated for a significant period of time. But not this time! I've come out the other side at long last and in just a few months will be able to travel anywhere in the world save Canada and the UK (they don't allow US felons entrance). I can go hike Everest if I want to. 

As the day wore on, my stamina and feeling of well-being improved. And by the time I'd cleared the final steep vertical, I was actually in good shape. Except for a ding here and there, which everybody gets from climbing up a mountain on all fours, I'm fine today and ready to volunteer at a soup kitchen. 

So there's your victory. All in all, I had a great day yesterday. But missing out on guiding the four girls up the mountain turned the experience bittersweet. Maybe 20 years ago (or even two years ago), I could have kept up. Hard to know. Oh well!

Here's two shots of Breakneck from the bottom and a selfie of me at the top.









1 comment: