|Sun, clouds, and Ruth Mountain, taken last week|
I was quite surprised that we climbed so far and covered more than nine miles and my knees didn't bother me one bit, either on the downhill or the next day. That's rather unusual, since I've been babying that left knee and expected more difficulty than I encountered. I'm not sure why, but I'm grateful. Once upon a time I could ski every week in the winter and run more than 30 miles a week, but that's in the past. In fact, as I've grown older I realize how much my activities have changed along with the years. It was so gradual that in many cases I didn't notice; as long as I had something to keep me going outdoors and working up a sweat, I've been going with the changes without experiencing a sense of loss.
Well, that's not quite true: I realize, now that I think about it, that I miss being able to strap on my running shoes and go for a five-mile run, and I miss being able to spend the entire day outdoors on a cross country ski trip. I compensate for it by having my classes at the gym, my Saturday walks with the ladies, and my sacrosanct Thursday hikes with the Senior Trailblazers. Exercise is a part of my life, and I realize it's been that way since the early 1970s. When I first moved to Boulder, I moved into a rooming house that had at least a dozen Boulderites living there, and as I gradually became friends with them, they invited me to join them on excursions into the mountains for climbs of the peaks. Some of them were trying to "bag" all the fourteeners (Colorado has 53 peaks higher than 14,000 feet (4,265 meters).
I remember my first fourteener. Although I'm not sure whether it was Quandary Peak, I think it was, and I remember the effort to get to the top. As the air gets thinner and one climbs higher, you need to stop often to catch your breath. It got to the point that I would count ten steps and then stop for a moment. But it wasn't just me; everybody was in the same situation. By the time I made it to the top, I was simply amazed at the 360-degree view of the surrounding mountains! It was incredible, and that moment still lives in my memory as if it were yesterday. I was hooked on that Rocky Mountain High, all right. I ended up climbing 26 of the Colorado fourteeners, some of them more than once. A few were scary and just enormous piles of loose rocks with little to no path to the top, just clambering upwards until you could climb no higher. But still. I loved it. Each fourteener has a canister at the top with a page inside for the summiteer to sign to show you got there. I'm not sure who keeps them supplied, but I don't think I ever climbed a fourteener without one.
And then my friend Donna and I decided to bicycle from Boulder to San Francisco, so we went on many long bike rides on the plains and in the mountains to get ready for it. In September and October 1974, we spent six weeks on the road on our bikes, with adventures galore. By the time we got to Oregon, we were sick of each other and split up to finish the rest of the ride solo. I was in the best shape of my life by then, with legs as hard as rocks from all that biking. I think I also had some calluses from that bike seat! I remember how much I disliked Highway 1 along the Pacific Coast to San Francisco. I would climb upwards and reach the top of a hill and then zoom downwards, again and again. I was glad my bike had a good low gear. It was a great adventure and I sure do enjoy thinking about it all these years later.
All through the 1970s and 1980s I was very active outdoors, with long overnight ski trips, hiking and biking, and having taken up running and training for a marathon (which I never did; I would get injured as I worked to increase my mileage). Then my world changed when I made that first skydive on September 3, 1990. Skydiving took over my entire life and I left everything else behind, other than my career which took off at about the same time. Everybody who wasn't a skydiver got tired of hearing about it from me, and every single weekend, every vacation I ever took after that was geared to skydiving. In the 1990s and 2000s that's all I pretty much cared about. I met Smart Guy through skydiving and we were married in 1994, in freefall of course. When I retired from my job in 2008 and we moved to the Pacific Northwest, I still continued to skydive but nowhere near as often.
This year I stopped skydiving and have sold my skydiving gear. Although I could still go out for a jump by renting gear, I probably won't. It was time to stop, and I know you have heard plenty about the long mental struggle I endured trying to give it up. But I finally did, and now that it's been six months since I last leaped out of an airplane, I know it was the right thing to do.
It's inevitable that as we age we take up activities that are more geared to our place in life. I've managed to stay fit and carefully manage the aches and pains of age in order to keep on going for as long as I can. There's no doubt that I am still wanting to enjoy the outdoors to the fullest extent possible, but one day that will come to an end, too. I'll be a gardener and walker for as long as I'm upright. In fact (dare I say it?), one day I'll be unable to do any of these things, but it won't be without looking back with much satisfaction on all that I have done.
|My 70th birthday with the walking group|
Yes, it's a good life, all right, and there's this other family that means so much to me, my blogging family. I am hoping that you will have a wonderful Sunday, that you will give yourself a hug for me, because I'm sending a virtual one, do you feel it? Until next week, I wish you all good things.