Six Miles Up, Six Miles Down

I think it’s human nature for people to say things about themselves that make them sound more refined or perfect than we really are. It’s the reason that we stand in line at Starbucks, muttering venti bold Columbian espresso no whip over and over, so when we actually get to the counter, we’re able to say it as if we actually order something so complicated every day. Then we turn around and tell the person behind us who is whispering their own semi-Italian phrases in practice, that we opted out of the whipped cream because you read in some magazine that it is bad for you. No we didn’t. We heard that from the last person standing in front of us at Starbucks. We’re a crazy population of people that love to come across as something that we really want to be, and dare I say, sometimes think we are. But there’s always an issue–a pothole that stops us dead in our tracks. Some people turn to money or status, but for me, I would say that my weakness is trying to come off as healthier or more active than I really am.

Wine: A hobby worth having.

And it’s so funny because when I tell people the things that I’m interested in, there’s a part of me that actually believes that I’m into “cross country running,” but the only time that I’ve ever been anything close to cross country running was on the way out of the woods from a hunting trip with my dad because I knew we were going to stop at Subway on the way back. My real hobbies include: writing, drinking wine, quoting obscure moments from popular culture, talking to people, doing stuff related to public relations or writing, reading, drinking wine, driving places, canoeing, and drinking wine.
My most recent error was telling my roommate that I really “wanted to start running again.” The most successful venture I ever had with running is when I was borderline obese and kind of accidentally started working out. I somehow block out the times when my vision would start to waver and I would use three paper towels to get rid of all the sweat on my head alone… I just remember that, for a time, I think I might have enjoyed running. So, it’s always a giant surprise to me when I try to run recreationally how much I actually hate it, and what I hate even more than running is when people stop and wait for me to catch up. I want them to leave me so that I can wallow in my own misery. I want to power walk without the athletic pressure of those around me, and if I get lucky enough, I’ll drown in my own body fluid and never have to run again. To prove to myself that I wasn’t ever going to make the mistake of recommending a run again, I had us walk down the big hill next to my house so that I would have to run up it. I listened to a song that reminds me of someone I loathe from my senior year of college just so that I could muster enough energy to haul ass up the hill. I wanted to associate as many bad things with running as possible so that I’ll never forget that the ramifications of acting active will always outweigh the image boost that comes with it.
But there’s never been a more devastating error that I’ve made than the dangerous, dangerous phrase: Oh you like hiking? I LOVE hiking. No you don’t, Justin. You like that you got Chacos on sale, and you love snacks. You like the things that come with hiking. You do not like hiking. And the reason that I don’t like hiking always becomes apparent pretty early into the hike. You have to climb up things, and not only that, there are all these things in your way… like rocks or roots or children. The whole thing is such a burden, and you’re never prepared for it.
But when Dixie asked me to go hike Mt. LeConte (as if that’s just a normal thing to do), it must have been a couple years since I had hiked. But I loved Dixie and I thought I loved hiking, so I agreed. We woke up at a totally unreasonable hour and met to adventure up this mountainside. And as always, when I go packing, I pack the most ridiculous assortment of things: a camera, a complete inadequately sized water bottle, nothing to eat at all, and a jacket that I am sure that I will never use. I’m terrible at hiking, but I’m even worse at preparing for it.

This is obviously very early into the trip, as
I am still smiling and am not totally drenched
in sweat.

Another common factor is the mood that comes with hiking Justin. I always start out feeling fantastic, usually setting an unrealistic pace and then I talk about how I always go that fast; I guess it’s just my thing. Then, much like my running style, about a mile in I slow to the pace of an elephant taking sips of my water every seven feet. And by the time that we get about a third of the way into the hike, I begin asking how close we are… would it be okay if I stopped to tie my shoe… let’s just sit for a minute and take in the scenery… pretty much anything that would keep us from having to go any farther. Dixie told me the night before we were to hike Mt. LeConte that the hike was “six miles,” and as great of a person as I think Dixie is, if we were to have a conversation about it right now, I would call her a liar to her face. I know exactly what she did: she very inquisitively asked me things on the way up the mountain, like: wow, don’t you think we should be near the top? haven’t you seen this before?… but I know what she was doing… she was making some wiggle room for herself when I realized at about mile four up the mountain that it was six miles up, six miles down. I looked up toward the top of the mountain and turned around to Dixie, one of the nicest and most moral people I’ve ever met and pointed to the top of the mountain, announcing Dixie, what the hell is that? Why the hell is the mountain up there? She looked at me with a worried face, as if I might actually throw her off the ledge we were on. The truth was out there now: Justin is obviously not a hiker. She turned her map upside down, then right side up, look inquisitively as if there might be some kind of error, but Dixie knows how to read a map. Dixie knew exactly what she had done… she had me trapped in God’s country, and as much as I love me some Jesus, I think God and I both know that’s not where I belong.
I eventually convinced Dixie that a mile from the top of the mountain was a pretty stellar personal best for me, as long as I would eventually go back to hike Mt. LeConte one day. And one day, I would love nothing more than to stand at the top of Mt. LeConte with her, providing there’s a trolley service to the top, or that winking business from I Dream of Jeanie becomes an actual human function. When we finally reached the car, I had developed two giant blisters on each foot and had somehow burst them in the process of getting down. I was frazzled and nasty and tired and even so disoriented that I offered a hitch hiker named “Leaf” a ride down the road, but I believe that’s probably a different story for a different day.
But it’s these stories that remind me to stick with what I’m good at and just try to capitalize on those experiences the most. Canoeing is like water hiking, and arguably even better because you get to sit down the whole time. Actually, all of my favorite hobbies involve sitting down, which might be an indicator of a common goal I try to aim for… do as much as possible without getting up. And you know what, if you can’t dig what I’m doing when I’m sitting down, then I’ll just have to see you when you get off the mountain.

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