Posts Tagged With: hiking

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

Camo–Can You See It Now?

Hunters everywhere, rejoice. You have now become cool. Well, at least your clothes have.

According to fashion experts cited in an Associated Press article that came out about the time fall hunting season started, camouflage is in. It’s the new plaid. The new paisley, even. Apparently it has sneaked away from outfitters like Cabela’s and L. L. Bean and slipped inconspicuously into the world of haut couture.

The article used phrases like “sexy take on the classic hunter look,” and “edgy but completely neutral.” The experts were excited about wearing camo in “a slick urban way,” whatever that may mean. They suggested various color options, from blush for evening wear to cartoon colors for kids.

They did, however, caution that orange is a bit cliched. That blaze orange hunting cap you’ve had for ages? Sorry. Time to ditch it in favor of something neutral, perhaps accented with a “pop of navy or yellow.”

And those style gurus must be right, because even I have noticed the camo as I’ve been Christmas shopping. Browsing through gauzy women’s scarves, for example. Half of them were camo prints in muted, ladylike browns and greens. I haven’t seen this myself, but apparently this fall’s fashion lines included camo cocktail dresses. The perfect option, I suppose, if you want to disappear into the crowd at your spouse’s office Christmas party.

Apparently another designer has come up with camouflage fake-fur coats. The true woodland wilderness experience, twice removed. At least the jackets aren’t real fur, which would be truly tactless. The original wearers of that fur might take it as adding insult to injury.

It seems to me there are some risks in this style trend. Take just one: toddlers in camo. They already can vanish in a millisecond the instant you turn your back. Who needs to make that easier by putting them in camouflage?

There is, however, one form of camo clothing that they should have been making a long time ago. Underwear. It’s the perfect answer for hikers, especially female hikers. That way, when you need to retire behind a bush for a private moment, you can go in perfect confidence that no one will see you.

At least if you don’t commit a camo fashion faux pas by wearing orange.

Categories: Fashion, Wild Things | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Robert Frost Didn’t Stop By These Woods

It's amazing what some people do in the woods.

The Black Hills National Forest is a multiple-use area, and on a shirt-sleeve warm Sunday afternoon in November it was certainly being used.

We were out there on serious business having to do with geology. Well, one of us was. The other, while willing to keep an eye out for the occasional outcrop or carry the rock hammer now and then, was just there for the hiking.

Pretty much everybody else was out on ATV's. We saw several family parties—Mom and Dad on the front seat of a four-wheeler, with two or three little kids squeezed into the back. There were a few hunters, in blaze orange caps and vests, with gun cases across their laps. There were a few hot-rodders whose goals seemed to be speeding over the bone-rattling trails as fast as they could go.

With all these vehicles buzzing up and down the narrow gravel road and dirt trails, walking in the woods wasn't exactly a deep wilderness experience. Not surprisingly, perhaps, we didn't see a single deer all day. We did meet one hunter, though, walking alertly through the trees with her rifle at the ready. She was obviously an optimist; in the unlikely event she did see a deer in the crowded woods, we hoped she was also an accurate shot.

Then there were the intrepid hill climbers on mud-spattered ATVs, with winches and ropes and tire repair kits. A group of them came up behind us in a narrow canyon, announcing their presence with a low rumble that increased to an ominous growl as they came closer.

We moved to the side of the trail, which suddenly seemed much too narrow. I alternated between apprehensive glances over my shoulder and checking the sides of the canyon for possible places to climb out.

But they were the ones looking for a place to climb. They stopped at the bottom of a slope that was almost a staircase of rocks. The lead rider, on his ATV painted with skull designs, took off his menacing full-face helmet and turned into a polite young Air Force sergeant. He pointed out to us the exact rock he had landed on when he had tried this climb earlier in the day and flipped his vehicle.

He made it this time, and so did his friends. Each four-wheeler crawled up onto the first ledge at just the right spot to avoid getting hung up on the big rock in the middle, jumped sideways at just the right angle to make it to the second level, then growled on up between rocks that a mountain mule might have balked at. It was impressive. It was amazing to watch. Personally, though, I'd feel safer on a mule.

We went out again the following Sunday, not in shirtsleeves this time but in warm coats, heavy gloves, and long underwear. It was 31 degrees and snowing. Oddly enough, we had the silent, peaceful woods to ourselves.

Categories: Just For Fun, Wild Things | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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