Sometime around when my age hit double digits, my brother, sister, and I all visited my cousin’s house in Lynchburg. We were lucky enough to catch a snow storm that gave us a full day of sledding and snowball fights. But sometime around sunset, I got to do something I had never done before. My cousin Tyler led me and my brother on a hike to the top of a hill near his house.
One summer, my friend Nat’s babysitter offered to take us to the river or hiking around the river. I chose hiking. I did not even know what the word meant at the time.
"It’s just walking," my brother told me, and I quickly changed my mind.
I have loved mountains since I was young. The scars on the earth are giant teasers that lure me in to snowboard, bike, or hike. But my cousin Tyler had no idea when he took me up that mountain that he shaped the desire within me to another level.
When I heard my coach Michael was taking a group of triathletes to Wintergreen mountain, Virginia for a training camp, I hesitated to join in for financial reasons. When I recieved and e-mail detailing the itenerary for the trip, I commited. A hundred mile bike ride with some of the steepest and longest climbs in Virginia, swimming in a mountain lake, and as the cherry on top, a three- mile run up Wintergreen mountain. Two days later I was in the car with him headed to the mountains.
I guess I could have seen a thru-hike in my future. Nat told me about the Appalachian trail thru-hike on a day hike up Old Rag in Virginia. I cannot say I remember the hike too well because the entire time I was thinking about how insane a thru hike is. My first idea was an attempt at setting the record. I wanted to do the fastest thru-hike. But that is not why I hike. I hike to escape from that attitude and when I go home I’ll return to that.
There is no feeling like cresting the highest mountain and and after wiping the sweat out of the one’s eyes, being able to see for a hundred miles. These bumps were not put here to stand at the base of in awe at how magnificent they are. They were dropped here to be climbed and viewed from the top where we can realize how magnificent the entire world is.
No one I have met will deny the worth of climbing a mountain just for the glory of standing on top. Even with a forest surrounding the summit, limiting the views through the dense woods, a sign with a name and a number will satisfy me.
On my hike up the Bigelow earlier today I thought if I ever met the man who designed this trail I would kill him. When I stood above tree-line on the peak of Maine’s "Second mountain" I wish I could shake the man’s hand.