Knowing Your Limits

Dearest Rachel –

So the better part of today was spent hiking one of the trails up here in the Rocky Mountains. We started in Glacier Gorge, with the intent of going to Sky Pond. Sounds like a plan. The only thing is, that plan involves hiking 4 1/2 miles in either direction, and to do it while ascending at least a thousand feet over rocky terrain.

This is not like walking from home to the office.

And as we make our climb towards Sky Pond, I realize I am not cut out for this, anymore than I was cut out for running a marathon. I know what I can and cannot do, and this is more than I can do, at least in the time that we’re allotted.

What’s worse, is that as we proceed up this trail, I’m slowly becoming more and more aware of the fact then I’m paying attention to the trail, and only the trail. I’m missing out on most of the scenery that surrounds me.

Not all, to be sure, as these pictures show, but most of the trek through these mountains are more of a trudge. And that’s not how it’s supposed to be.

It doesn’t help that the vast majority of the group, younger and more energetic than myself (and that’s another story unto itself, to be honest) is going on ahead of me. I mean, it’s only fair – I shouldn’t be holding them up or weighing them down inasmuch as they want to get to where they’re going in the amount of time we’ve been given (and I should explain that we have dinner reservations at a fairly nice place on the opposite side of Estes Park that we need to be at; hence the particular time crunch). But for the most part, it means that I’m walking the path pretty nearly on my own. Oh, JR and PD have also fallen behind, and I do try to keep pace with them – in fact, I try to walk past them whenever they rest. But the reason is that, no matter how far I get ahead of them, once they start up walking, they ultimately manage to overtake me. So I’m kind of slowing them down, as well.

And I can’t have that.

So, as the three of us arrive at an earlier landmark – Loch Vale, a fairly deep lake along the path, situated some 10,200 feet above sea level – I decide to turn back. Everybody is scheduled to turn back at 2:30, and it’s a quarter till two now; I’m not going to make it to Sky Pond. There’s no real point in pressing on.

So, after a few minutes of sitting by the lake, resting my bones as best I can (although it doesn’t really seem to help; all it does is we can my resolve to continue in either direction), I get up, and begin to make my way back the way we came from.

And again, it’s not that long before JR and PD catch up to me, as they came to the same conclusion I had. It’s a slightly easier hike back, as now we are generally trending down word, but three miles is still a long way to go in order to return to the shuttle terminal that will (more or less; it will require at least one transfer and an additional hike once we’re back on YMCA grounds) bring us back to the lodge.

Still, with no ability to simply give up in the middle of the trail, we make our way to the trail head, in order to wait for the others. And we don’t really have to wait long; the younger boys arrive back at the stop within fifteen minutes of ourselves. They’d made it all the way there and back – a distance of nearly nine miles – in only a few minutes more than it took us to trudge a mere six.

Once everybody is assembled, we take the first shuttle to a transfer point, and then wait for nearly half an hour for the second shuttle. By the time we get back to the YMCA, we have barely thirty minutes to prepare ourselves to go. As we make our way back to the lodge, I have a few quiet words with Luke to the effect that, since tomorrow’s hike will be even more strenuous, I will test whether the planned events are truly optional by opting out entirely from it. After all, it’s not like I have anything to prove to anyone about how far I can hike or not. Fact is, I’ve already proven to myself just how far I can (and more importantly, cannot) hike.

Luke suggests we take showers, but I know my limits, And that there is no way I’m going to be able to do that in the limited amount of time we’ve been given – especially with everybody else lining up to take one. I settle for what we learned a few years ago was referred to by Viz magazine as a ‘Glasgow shower:’ Just slap on some fresh deodorant and a fresh shirt, and call it good. For what it’s worth, the climate around here is such that all the perspiration is dried anyway, so it doesn’t have a pervasive odor. Besides, now that I’ve been granted permission to opt out of tomorrow’s hike, I might be able to take a more leisurely shower tomorrow instead.

The ‘Glasgow shower’ seems to do the trick, as nobody makes any comments; I almost imagine everybody’s more concerned about their own cleanliness to concern themselves with any lack on my part.

We head out to this place, and have an absolutely lovely supper – mine is elk bolognese, although I confess I can barely tell if the meat is elk, with all the tomato sauce, vegetables and pasta. And once again, I have to acknowledge my limits when the waitress comes around asking about dessert. There are a few things that do look quite tempting, but (as we’ve no place for leftovers) having cleaned my plate, there is no room for more at this point. It’s time to head home (if we can get UP after a meal such as this), and take in tonight’s lesson.

And with that being said, I will talk to you later, honey. I love you.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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