Saturday, October 29, 2011

Take a hike walk

I must admit to being a rather pathetic hiker -- which, frankly, is a doggone shame when you live in the Shenandoah Valley and it's fall.

Back in the day, I could blame my hiking woes on an inexplicable acrophoia. I don't know why I have this and it totally baffles family and friends who don't have it. I know a lot of people equate the fear of heights with vertigo, but that's not exactly true. Vertigo makes you dizzy. For me, acrophobia feels like a vacuum pulling me to the edge.

John Boy has gamely tried on a few occasions to drag me up a mountain only to be disgusted by the sniveling puddle of goo I become when confronted by a rock outcropping.

I remember one ledge when we hiked up Rag Mountain. In retrospect, it really wasn't a ledge. It was quite wide and, while it was a straight drop down from the edge, the rock was plenty wide and the exposed edge only about few feet wide. A normal, thinking person -- even one uncomfortable with heights -- would focus on the path ahead and step over the rock ledge -- it was that small.

All I had to see was a peek at the valley beyond and I could feel the suction from the edge and knew I would be sucked out into the air it I even tried to set foot on that rock. And so I went into a total meltdown.

I don't remember how I got past the ledge -- I think John Boy had to literally drag me across while I closed my eyes. He was quite angry with me, especially because, now that my nerves were completely shot, I was whiny and cross for the rest of the hike. So John Boy solved this by getting well ahead of me (pretty easy to do) and allowing me to catch up while he rested.

Of course I deserved it and, having enjoyed what was, to him, a leisurely hike back down the mountain, he was maddeningly upbeat all the way back home from Virginia to New Jersey.

That being said, John Boy does have a reputation for overestimating the abilities of his hiking partners. The result of this is that he cannot often talk anyone into hiking with him unless a second opinion can be obtained as to the intensity of the trail.

You would think such experiences would turn me off hiking completely. But there were enough good memories for desire to stay with me, even though I'm not exactly hiking material. Granted, I still have not overcome my acrophobia; but there are plenty of trails in Shenandoah National Park where that is not a problem.

These days I have to admit that I just don't have the strength -- for whatever reason (had I health insurance I would find out). I tell myself it's age (though John Boy is four years older than me...).

Fortunately, somewhere in the bureaucracy of the national park system are people who understand how I feel and they have made it possible for me to pretend I'm hiking. To John Boy, these would be "walks." The longest of them is a mile loop. There are very few inclines. Some of them are even paved. I come out of them in pain and totally exhausted, but I'm determined to keep it up until I can tackle something substantial

It's Dirtman, of course, who accompanies me on these excursion, even though they are probably equally lame to him as they are to everyone else. When we're done, though, he acts like I've conquered Everest or made it to the North Pole.

The pictures accompanying this post are of the Storybook Trail on the Massanutten Mountain here in the valley. I used to bring the kids up here back when we were homeschooling because there are stations along the trail that tell how the Shenandoah Valley was formed.

So, along with the gorgeous fall foliage, I can remember the echoes of my little boys running about on all the subtrails that loop back to the main, paved trail. Our dog, at that time, was our first Australian Shepherd Dundee, who worried himself over the fact that Heir 2 kept disappearing, reappearing and disappearing again.

Now it's Dirtman, Zsa Zsa and me (the Heirs think calling the Storybook Trail a "hike" is like calling computer solitaire a "video game") and that's fine too. We pack a lunch, take a walk and take the long way home over dirt roads.

I sleep the best after an outing like this.

Can you tell The Leash is an insult to Zsa Zsa? Well it is. She would no more take off than she would sprout wings and fly. We frustrated her because Dirtman was always ahead of me and I was always limping behind -- she couldn't keep her herd together! Just another example of "My Dog Thinks I'm a Moron."

Note: My blogging manners are atrocious of late and for that I apologize. Of course, I have excuses for my silence, but I'm not going to go down that path right now until I can succinctly give it all perspective.