Thursday, November 30, 2017

The path of least resistance

In June 2008, I hiked Half Dome with my friend, John.  I was in fairly decent shape, and didn't necessarily train for it.  I was 215 pounds, which is a good weight for me (about ten pounds less than I am now).  I read several sites about Half Dome and most seemed to think that as long as you were in semi-decent shape, this was a completely do-able (although not necessarily easy) hike.  John had hiked it many times and I think his best time was six hours up and back.  Apparently he thought my long legs liked to move fast and we decided to drive up, hike and drive back in one day.  I may have long legs but I don't walk very quickly, and I also seem to enjoy making things more difficult than they need to be.

We got in the car around 4:30 AM to make the three-plus hour drive to Yosemite.  After a couple of stops and getting ourselves set up, we were on the trail by 9:00 AM.  No big deal, right?  It is a 14 mile (round trip) hike if you take the waterfall trail up.  If he could do it in six hours and our friend AJ said she could do it in eight, I wouldn't take more than ten hours.  It was summer.  We'd be off the trail and back in the car by the time the sun was down.

WRONG!

John walks fast.  Lori does not.  We hiked most of the trail together, but then he would get ahead of me and I'd lose him for awhile.  He would find a log or a rock, he would sit and take conference calls, and I'd round the corner to see him resting.  And all I wanted to do was rest, but he wanted to keep us on schedule.  By the time we got to the cables that lead you to the top of Half Dome, I was pretty much done with that fucking backpack I was carrying.  Who the hell suggested all this frozen Gatorade that weighs 87 pounds?!  I was ready to throw it off the side of the mountain, but John took it from me and carried both packs.  The switchbacks to get to the cables almost killed me.  John just kept saying: put one foot in front of the other.  And the cables can be pretty scary, especially when you have people coming down as you're trying to go up.  But, we made it.  There was no other option.  Making it to the top was like nothing I had experienced before.  I've never had to physically exert myself like that.  The view was amazing.  The feeling of accomplishment was indescribable.  (And the marmot trying to steal our food was pretty cute.)  We didn't get to spend much time at the top because it was going to get dark and we needed to get back on the trail.  Coming down the cables was terrifying.  I had to turn around and back down so I wasn't staring down certain death (over and over I imagined myself falling over the side...don't Google those stories, because they exist).  I believe it was around 5:00 PM when we started down the cables.  Eight hours in and we were barely heading back, but walking down a mountain should be WAY faster than going up, right?!

John learned something about me on the trail down.  I don't like to be followed.  And I walk very quickly when someone is behind me.  He probably wished he had known that on the way up.  We may have made it up a lot faster!  Anyway, as we were walking down the trail (we decided to forego the shorter trail down as it was slick with water from the waterfall, thereby adding two miles to our hike), we were using flashlights, trying to avoid the uneven trails, listening for the bears and mountain lions that were certainly waiting in the dark to eat us.  I would wander all over the trail trying to avoid rocks or other dips.  John kept yelling: LORI, TAKE THE PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE!

I had no clue what he was talking about.  In my mind, I WAS taking the path of least resistance.  I was avoiding those stupid rocks and potholes that were clearly trying to trip me and roll my ankle.  I just kept doing what I was doing.  I didn't realize he wanted me to just walk a straight line and step over the shit in my way so that we could get down the trail faster.

There had to be a point where John wanted to just throw me off that fucking mountain and be done with me -- just like my backpack!  John doesn't want to go to jail.  John is a good friend.

Almost ten years later, I finally get what John was saying to me.  I find I like to make life difficult sometimes.  More difficult than it needs to be.  It is easy to blame other people for making me feel a certain way, when I had control of how I felt (and where I stepped) the entire time.  Sorry it took me a decade to understand, John, but I finally get it.  And I don't need to return to Half Dome to learn.  (I did try to hike Half Dome again in 2009, but didn't make it to the top...my quad seized up and I decided I better head back down before I had a repeat late return.)  I think I am finally finding that peace I have been searching for and am ready to let my life just go with the flow so I can enjoy my time here.

I know.  I know.  At this point, you're probably thinking, who gives a shit about your spiritual awakening!?  What time did you get back to the car??  11:00 PM.  It took another six hours to get down the trail.  The entire hike was 16 miles and took 14 hours (I was wearing a watch that tracked the calories you burn and I burned over 10,000 that day).  We still had a long drive home.  John found a park ranger who let us into the closed showers so we could at least clean up.  Then we got into the car to drive back.  John drove first but he started talking to people who weren't in the car with us, so I took over for awhile.  About an hour and a half into the drive, I realized we were going to die if we kept going in that state.  I pulled over and got a hotel room.  At that point, we had been up for almost 24 hours, and I had been through the most physically grueling thing I had ever experienced.  I don't think I've ever slept so hard in my life.  I was sore for an entire week.  It is on my list of top five life experiences, though.  I'm glad I did it but I don't know that I ever need to do it again.

I've been thinking about this trip a lot lately and the lesson it took me so long to learn.  I really appreciate John's patience with me and am pretty proud of myself for finally learning the lesson.  Better late than never!





4 comments:

  1. I didn't google the scary stories, but I had to google the cables cuz I couldn't understand what they were. Oh.hail.no. My friends tried to get me to go repelling once. I got down a few steps and said, nope, I'm climbing back up. They were like, you can't climb back up. Watch me. And I did.

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    1. Going up wasn't so bad because you're not looking down. But I couldn't descend facing forward. And it was getting dark and I know he was getting frustrated with me. So we turned around and he essentially made a seat by letting me sit on the edge of his knees and he backed us down the cables. I saw a story where this guy fell over the edge and he basically laid himself out flat like a starfish. That will never leave me!!

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  2. Going up wasn't so bad because you're not looking down. But I couldn't descend facing forward. And it was getting dark and I know he was getting frustrated with me. So we turned around and he essentially made a seat by letting me sit on the edge of his knees and he backed us down the cables. I saw a story where this guy fell over the edge and he basically laid himself out flat like a starfish. That will never leave me!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I don't know why my replies always post first as comments. Ugh.

    ReplyDelete