Posts Tagged With: Harney Peak

If Miss A. Could See Me Now

Lately I’ve been reminded of the reasons I hated gym class in high school:
• The challenge of learning games that everyone else seemed to already know
• The awkwardness of being physically awkward
• Comparing my uncoordinated self to girls who were athletic enough to do things like serve a volleyball over the net rather than into it
• Most of all, being intimidated by Miss A., whose teaching style was impatient and who indelibly taught us to associate running laps with punishment.

What’s bringing back those unhappy memories is the fact that I’ve recently joined a gym. It’s not because I’m dreadfully out of shape or unfamiliar with working out. I’ve been exercising quite comfortably at a women’s fitness center for several years, and I even have real muscles to show for it. But that place moved to a less convenient location, and instead of moving with it I switched to a different center much closer to my house.

This one is—gulp—a real gym. It has unfamiliar and intimidating machines with enough settings to make me wish for instruction manuals. It has racks of weights, some of which are heavier than I am. It has guys working out there, some of whom have more than enough muscle to lift those weights.

The first few times, just walking into the place felt almost as uncomfortable as trotting reluctantly into the high school gym in my ugly uniform. The difference is that now I appreciate the challenge—well, sort of. I know I can learn the routine and the machines, because I’m choosing to. I’m sure it won’t be long till I feel right at home.

Especially because the gym manager is a middle-aged woman who, while she is fit and toned and looks great in Spandex, is also friendly, supportive, and more than willing to answer questions. The young muscle builders are casually friendly and so focused on their own workouts that they don’t really care what anyone else is doing. And there are plenty of members, both men and women, who are long past comparing their physical prowess to anyone else’s and just want to stay in some sort of reasonable shape. Pretty much like me, in fact.

But the other day, as I finished my workout, I did start to wonder what Miss A. would think if she saw me now. Back then, I had the impression that she didn’t like me—which, given my level of non-enthusiasm for her field, was hardly surprising. My sole experience of detention was from her, a punishment for saying I lost track of how many sit-ups I had done because I was too embarrassed to admit how few I had managed to do. Possibly, had she been a bit more encouraging and a bit less sarcastic toward those of us who were athletically challenged, I might have felt safe enough to tell her the truth.

Sorry, Miss A., but in some ways I am still a physical education failure. After all, I never have learned the rules of softball or basketball, and I’m still pretty vague about volleyball. All through adulthood, I’ve never played the first two and very rarely participated in the third. Nor have I ever tried to do gymnastic moves on a balance beam or attempted a flip on a trampoline. I’ve never run laps, either—they are as unappealing to me now as they were in high school.

On the other hand, I do walk two to four miles almost every day and work out four times a week. I only weigh five or seven (okay, okay, maybe ten) pounds more than I did in high school. I can jitterbug, waltz, and foxtrot for an entire evening, with the occasional polka thrown in for a little extra cardio workout. I can easily hike up and down small mountains. (Harney Peak, anyone? The view from the top is wonderful.) And perhaps most important, I am able to comfortably lift toddler grandchildren and carry them for moderate distances. I do, however, draw the line at combining grandkid-toting and mountains.

I don’t know what you’d think of all that, Miss A. Even better, I don’t care.

Categories: Remembering When | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Overdoing the 60’s

It's a good thing that old peace medallion necklace is still in the bottom of my jewelry box somewhere. I might want it any day now.

This past week I had one of "those" birthdays. As one of my sisters delicately phrased it, "one that ends with a zero." There's nothing wrong with the zero—it's that six in front of it that's the problem.

At least it was until a couple days ago, when I was hiking with a couple of my grandkids and had a life-transforming revelation along the trail to Harney Peak. I realized I've been given a unique opportunity. I have a second chance to experience the 60's.

There's the joke about, "If you can remember the 60's, you didn't fully experience them." That would be me. I lived through that decade with modesty, sobriety, restraint, and high grades. I didn't ingest or smoke any strange substances. I went to class regularly. The only time I attended a campus protest, I wandered in by accident. I didn't burn any bras (not that anyone would have noticed) and never even ironed my hair.

Now, I get to do the 60's over again. It's the perfect opportunity to try some of the things I missed the first time.

Like drugs. Well, maybe not so much. By the time I take my daily multi-vitamin, calcium, vitamin D, fish oil, and estrogen, the last thing I'm interested in is another pill to pop. I suppose I could try smoking my new hemp Tilley hat, but after that whole skin cancer on the nose experience last year, I need the sun protection more than the high.

Peace? I'm all for it. Just give me a universal jamming device to shut down all those obnoxious television sets in waiting rooms, bass-thumping speakers that damage the eardrums of people three cars over, and cell phones being shouted into by anyone in a public place. I'd be glad to give that kind of peace a chance.

Fashion? This one is too easy. The 60's are so In right now, in a retro sort of way. Never mind that anyone old enough to remember a fashion from its first incarnation shouldn't wear it the second time around. Bellbottoms? Absolutely. So what if the bell is a little rounder and swings a little lower than it used to. Love beads? Well, maybe; are love handles close enough? Long, beautiful hair? Never mind; I don't even want to talk about it.

Sit-ins? Tell me where and when, and I'll be there. I am an expert sitter. I'm willing to sit anywhere, anytime, for hours. Just as long as I have an ebook reader, an Internet connection, and a nice comfortable chair.

Free love? Absolutely. The more the merrier. I'll bring all my friends. Maybe the grandkids, too. What? Oh, wait. I thought you said "free lunch." Never mind.

Questioning authority? Challenging the establishment? Back then, I was too busy being well-behaved to get involved with any of that hippie change-the-world idealism. Now? I've learned just how important that idealism can be—especially when it's combined with some life experience. This time through, no more little miss nice girl. I am grandma; hear me roar.

A 60's do-over. I can't wait.

But in case anyone cares, let me add just one reassuring note. I promise I will never "let it all hang out."

Categories: Just For Fun | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Rocky Mountain High

How pathetic is it to be hiking in the mountains and be overtaken by a three-year-old girl in pink plastic shoes? Not only was she forging steadily onward and upward in her little Crocs—the backless kind, yet—but she kept talking the whole way without needing to pause for breath.

In our defense, we had to stop and rest several times because one member of our group wasn't feeling well. Another extenuating circumstance was that we were hiking at 10,000 feet. (The little girl, I'm sure, lives at that elevation.) Living in the Black Hills, I tend to think of myself as dwelling at altitude. Since our house in the foothills is at about 3500 feet, however, and since the highest point in the Hills, Harney Peak, is a modest 7242 feet, I guess I don't live quite as elevated an existence as I might like to think.

But we were on this steep, boulder-strewn trail for a higher purpose than to feel competitive with tots in Crocs. We were there to see St. Mary's glacier, which must be the smallest glacier in the world. It looked like a dirty snowdrift lying for about 100 feet along the side of a mountain. Not exactly spectacular, perhaps, but still worth the hike.

Going back down was much faster than the climb up; we even passed the little girl this time. Of course we were much too elevated—in the spiritual rather than the alpine sense—to feel at all superior about it. We had places to go, things to see, and other mountains to climb.

To drive up, anyway, on what is billed as the highest paved road in North America. It hugs the side of Mt. Evans for about 14 miles, two just-barely-adequate lanes with no shoulders and no room for sissified frills like guardrails. The steep drop-offs were awe-inspiring in more than one sense. I tried hard to believe our driver when he claimed he kept his eyes open the whole way.

We saw a mountain goat, only a few feet from the road, who paid no attention to the visitors taking his picture. He was too busy stocking up on calories for the winter ahead. From the thickness of his coat, he was well prepared for the cold weather to come.

At the edge of the tree line we got to walk through a stand of bristlecone pines, some of them 2000 years old. With their stubby wind-twisted branches, gnarled trunks, and scant bark, they're an amazing example of endurance through minimalist living.

The last stretch of the road was closed for the season, so we didn't make it to the 14,000-foot summit. The glacial lake at 12,000 feet, however, was still well above the tree line and was rewarding enough. The views were magnificent: aspens glowing golden in the sunlight, a shimmer of snow across the steep side of the summit, and a panorama of neighboring mountains. I needed a thesaurus to find other words for "spectacular," "awesome," and "wow."

Even the grandest of views, of course, can't make one forget indefinitely about the more mundane needs of life. As I approached the women's toilet, someone who was just coming out said, "I'm not the one who was smoking pot in there."

I believed her—just as I hope the next woman in line believed me when I said the same thing to her. But from the overwhelming reek of marijuana, someone certainly had been indulging in there. With acres of rocky slopes and ridges to disappear behind, her choice of a smoking site didn't make much sense.

Actually, it made no sense, in that marvelous spot near the top of the world, to smoke anything at all. Lock yourself in a toilet for a furtive joint? Or enjoy a magnificent view on a perfect October day? Only one of those is a real Rocky Mountain high.

Categories: Living Consciously, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pointed Lessons from the Grandkids

Important life lessons one can learn from having a couple of grandkids visit for a couple of weeks:

Lesson One: An 11-year-old and a 12-year-old, even ones who are enthusiastic about hiking, are likely to run out of steam two-thirds of the way up Harney Peak to such an extent that one of them is sure he's "gonna die." Yet those same kids, at the end of the steep six-mile trip up to the summit and back down, will have ample energy to spend an extra 45 minutes scrambling up, down, and over the rocks around Sylvan Lake.

Corollary to Lesson One: A tired child who is "gonna die" is not amused when his loving grandmother's response is, "Does that mean I can have your lunch?"

Lesson Two: If your ego is somewhat fragile, it is a mistake to get out the dominos and teach two very bright grandkids to play Mexican Train.

Lesson Three: A dart that hits a sliding glass door just right (or just wrong) will shatter it.

Corollary A to Lesson Three: A large flattened cardboard box is not as effective a backstop for a dartboard as it may seem.

Corollary B to Lesson Three: A non-dart playing grandmother who thinks a good place to set up the dart board is in front of the patio door would do well to get a second opinion.

Corollary C to Lesson Three: Dart-shattered safety glass doesn't immediately fall out of its frame, but it makes ominous crinkling noises for at least half an hour.

Corollary D to Lesson Three: It takes a lot of masking tape to secure a large piece of heavy plastic over a broken sliding glass door.

Corollary E to Lesson Three: The estimate from the glass repair shop for replacing the glass in a door is enough to make a frugal grandmother wish she had suggested playing poker instead of darts.

Corollary F to Lesson Three: Breaking the shattered safety glass out of the door frame by tapping it with a screwdriver handle is sort of fun—but when you figure the per-minute cost, it's very expensive entertainment.

Corollary G to Lesson Three: When a friend who hears about the broken glass says, "It could have been worse—at least it wasn't an eye," she is absolutely right.

Lesson Four: If the kids want to come back next summer, they'll be welcomed with open arms, homemade cinnamon rolls, and plans for new hikes. Oddly enough, however, the dart board will have mysteriously disappeared.

Categories: Just For Fun, Living Consciously | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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