For Christmas, I bought myself hiking boots. They are lovely boots, comfortable and light, yet sturdy. I wore them around town for several days, getting used to the feel of them and making sure they didn’t have any spots that hurt.
Last Saturday, on one of those rare winter days when the weather is the perfect mix of warm sunshine and brisk breeze, Gary and Ben and I went out to Oak Mountain State Park and hiked part of the yellow trail.
My out-of-shapeness was clear, but the guys were patient.
“You better not be taking pictures of my butt,” she said, hearing the clicking shutter as she bent, hands on knees, sucking in oxygen.
“Nah, I’d have to changes lenses,” he replied, focusing on a hawk in the distance.
“Ha. Ha. Wide angle?”
“Fish eye,” he commented solemnly, adjusting the camera’s settings, and not looking at her.
We only hiked a few miles on a fairly easy trail, but there were streams with bridges, ferns, fallen trees covered with moss, and hawks circling. I am a notoriously indoor person, but it was beautiful and I am hooked.
I want to hike all the trails, and learn about the plants and trees. I want to recognize the hawks, and I want to see the owls that we only heard before.
And I want to sleep out there. I want to backpack in, with a tent and a sleeping bag, and food for our dinner, and sleep out there in the terrifying darkness.
Most of my family are risk-takers. They run marathons, race boats and cars, they ski, they jump off high places into water. My son went to Europe at 13. My other son randomly takes off on road trips with friends, with no worry about where he’s going to sleep. If there’s a sign that says “Danger,” my husband is going to do the very thing that it says not to do.
I am not so much a risk-taker. I am a bookworm, a studier, a dreamer, a learner. I am always the one who knows what foods are a salmonella risk. I carry hand sanitizer. I am the one who has a whistle in my day pack.
But I want to go into the woods, carrying my stuff on my back. And one of these days, I want to do it alone.
So, this is a goal of mine now. I plan to day hike ever increasing distances until I am in better shape. I am going to start collecting the appropriate backpacking gear. And some time this year, I am going to load my stuff on my back and walk into the woods and set up my little campsite and sleep out in the wide, wild world.
I am 58 years old. I figure it’s time to get out of my comfort zone.