I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The end of summer

Late snowfall brought spring flowers in September
This year, 2011, has been one for the record books in so many ways. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, summer comes to an end this week, and we only really had two weeks of warm weather in my part of the country. Other parts, like Texas, had nonstop 100-degree days; I'll take our version of summer any time. I'm listening to the rain falling outside right now, reconciled to the fact that skydiving this weekend won't happen and hoping the next weekend will bring warmer and drier weather.

The springtime brought us so much snow and cool weather that we were sure that come July our summer would start. It didn't. Then August came, and it started out cool and rainy. It wasn't until September that it began to be really warm. I enjoy Scott Sistek's weather blog on KOMO News, and he wrote here about how we had six consecutive months of below-normal temperatures.

The late snowfall in the mountains and the cool temperatures meant that snow would cover most of the trails in the Mt. Baker wilderness that I enjoy every summer. This year we couldn't even get to the trailheads of most of them, and I just learned that the snow level is lowering to 6,000 feet this week, meaning that the remaining snow will not clear, only to be covered by more. I wonder what the bears have been eating to get ready for their long hibernation.

The upside has been the wildflowers this year. They have been everywhere in amazing profusion at the higher elevations, when usually they are long gone by this time. Tomorrow we'll go on another hike in the mountains, and I suspect I'll see more flowers. They thrill me when they are in such abundance, especially when the sun is shining. Tomorrow's hike will be the seventh extra hike we added that takes us to new places farther south, since so many of our usual treks are impassable. It's supposed to be hard, one of the hardest I'll have done, but the rain should have stopped by then.

I'm in the best shape I've been in for decades. Because of the extra hikes on Mondays on top of the regular Thursday hikes, I noticed this past Thursday that a 1,700-foot elevation gain over three miles felt like nothing. Tomorrow's 4,000-foot elevation gain on Mount Dickerman wil be a challenge, I'm sure, but it comes at the best possible time for me. Although the summer is coming to an end, and my ability to keep this hard-won fitness will probably not last for the entire winter, I'll do my best to help it along. At my age, the adage "use it or lose it" applies to many aspects of life, but especially to fitness.

Interesting to me to consider how hard it is to become fit and how easy it is to lose it. It's not fair, but there you go. Nothing to be done about that fact. At any age, getting in shape is a worthwhile goal, but when your seventies are looming on the horizon, it's very satisfying to walk for long distances and feel my body continue to perform admirably. It's not that I don't get tired, but a good night's sleep or two and good healthy food and I'm raring to go again. I haven't felt this strong and vigorous in a long, long time.

I know I will be writing in here soon enough about my aches and pains, I've done it plenty in the past, but today, it's the other side of the equation I'm feeling. At the end of summer 2011, I can look back at the past season and be grateful for it. The rain is pattering gently on the roof, a light breeze wafts in through the window as I sit in the darkness, my tea finished and the day just beginning.


Whitney Lee said...

Amazing! To be in such a great place physically is wonderful and something you are obviously grateful for. Hell, I'd be grateful if I were in that kind of shape! I am, however, amazingly fast at diaper changes:)

I'll have you know that I think of you whenever I see the mountains or the wildflowers-living in the midst of the Blue Ridge Parkway this is rather often. At some point, when my time is not so spectacularly split, I intend to make time for a hike of my own through this beautiful country.

Linda Reeder said...

You have such a peaceful, contented tone to your writing today. That's a good thing.
I know I could not keep up with you hiking up those mountains, but I too am enjoying better physicality now. I notice how much easier it is just to get out of a chair or out of the car. Yes , getting more fit and healthy does make us happier.

Dee said...

As I said before--in a comment several weeks ago--you are a model for me of how to keep physically fit and healthy as we age.

I'm 75 now and have had ill health for the last five years. But, given your example, I have begun walking again--in a gymnasium. (Cost? $5 a YEAR for senior citizens!!!!)

I walk only 20 minutes a day, but I hope to ultimately get up to an hour. That's a goal. Then some day, I'll find a mountain--not likely here in the mid-West--and do some climbing while I look for those wild flowers that so delight you.

Thanks for this inspiring posting, DJan.


Rubye Jack said...

You sound so content and well, wonderful DJan. Isn't it amazing how much the weather affects our attitudes? Since it has been cooling off from our 100 degree temps, I am feeling so much better all around, but only wish I could be in the shape you are. Happy hiking!

Anonymous said...

But, don't you find the frequent rains and grey skies depressing? Everything so grey? That would dampen my spirits. Hawaii is famous for its "liquid sunshine." When it drizzles in the sunshine, beautiful rainbows appear.

CrazyCris said...

I'm one of those people living in a place that's been horribly hot all summer, and coming here and visiting you has always helped to "cool me down", so thanks DJan!

There's rarely all bad without some good, as the abundance of wildflowers you've gotten to enjoy proves! ;o)

And yet, much as I envy you your wildflowers and mountains, like Gigihawaii I think I'd have a problem with the frequent grey skies and rain. I need sunshine to recharge my batteries. Who knows, if I ever find myself living in a rainy climate again (Belgium was hard!), I'll think of you and remember to look for a ll the positive aspects of it! :o)

Teresa Evangeline said...

I'm starting to understand that you carry your sunshine inside you wherever you go. I love that photo, the misty mountain wildflowers. Just beautiful.

Rita said...

You have hard earned that feeling and the body you have at the end of this summer. Could hear the joy you felt after that last hike that you made with ease. You are physically ready for the hardest climb. I admire your determination and enthusiasm--rain or shine. I love that you share your adventures with the rest of us with pictures and your vivid descriptions. You and your hiking buddies have really made the most of an unusual year. If it wasn't for the strange weather you might never have gone on these extra hikes to new places. Some new hikers this year, too. Can just hear the contentment with joy bubbling under the surface. Have a great time with that next big challenge. :):)

Bragger said...

You do such a wonderful job of concentrating on the positive. I need at least a daily dose of that. Thank you for your beautiful writing.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I agree with Teresa, you seem to carry the sunshine with you. Your level of activity is awesome and inspiring.

Gigi said...

I don't know that I could deal with the lack of sunshine....I know what the past three days without it have done to me.

But, I have to wonder...do you realize what an inspiration you are? You make me look at things differently. You make me want to get fit (quite a feat right there). You make me want to test my limits. You make me want to do so much more than I am currently doing.

I love coming here. It always, always, makes me feel lighter.

Nance said...

I wish that I could take those long, long walks. I miss them terribly. It's quite an achievement to say that one is in unprecedented shape at almost seventy. Congratulations!

I've begun to doubt my judgment about what's "normal" for weather, too. Certainly, it's always been remarkable, but I have to rely on science to explain to me the degree of abnormal it's all gotten to. My vision is distorted by fear that politics will prevent us from doing any of the things we should have done long before now.

indonesiatooverseas said...

What a wonderful place.
My country only has dry and wet season.

Pamela Kieffer said...

What a wonderful summer you have had. Fall flowers are abundant here in Virginia...I can't remember when the fields were so full of yellow tickseed and purple iron weed. It is a beautiful time of year for walking out.
I enjoy reading your blog it is always filled with happiness.

Red said...

As usual, you cover a wide variety of topics. I like the fitness aspect. I wish many others were reading you and listening. Keeping a high fitness level takes lots of effort but is it ever worth it. You explain the value by telling how great you feel. Good for you for working so hard and enjoying the benefits.

Anonymous said...

You are an inspiration!

Anonymous said...

I am so glad that the flowers are a side effect of a dismal summer. I'd trade you in a minute with our 100+ summer.
Feeling fit and strong is such a wonderful feeling. I get a wee bit of that in the summer after a confining winter when I feel stronger each day.
Like you said, it does go away in a hurry though. Keep up the good work.
Arkansas Patti

Stella Jones said...

How lovely to end the summer feeling so well and you've earned it so you can now enjoy it. None of us knows what tomorrow will bring so we may as well enjoy today.
Happy Autumn D-Jan.

CiCi said...

Gosh, I saw the date of this post and realized I have been behind in reading your posts.

Will you be swimming at the Y through the winter? I will be interested to hear what activities you find to help your body during winter.

Friko said...

You are doing very well indeed, I hope it continues throughout winter. With all the exercise you re taking I can't see any reason why it shouldn't. Good luck.

Our summer has been non-existant. And now it's too late. Perhaps October? We had late frosts, an early and overly warm spring week or two, another heavy frost; the best thing I can say about our summer is that is has been a very mild winter.

Grandmother Mary said...

You'll have swimming to keep fit- which you looked in your photo after the hike in your other blog. Good for you- you're my inspiration!

Sally Wessely said...

You have had a wonderful summer and have inspired the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

This was just what I needed. I'm feeling empty nest pains for summer. Thanks.