Doing Not Much

It’s been a long time since I’ve done nothing. Every day, there is a compelling item on my calendar — either dance classes or backpacking practice — but ever since I popped something in my thigh on Friday, I haven’t done anything. Well, nothing physical, that is. I’ve been taking it easy, reading and writing. Mostly writing.

I still don’t know what happened to my thigh. The tiny pop I felt/heard was definitely some sort of tear, but it doesn’t seem to have caused major damage. There is no bruise, no pain, no limitation of movement except for the limitations I’ve put on myself. I was concerned about exacerbating the tear, but with no real effects from the pop, I don’t suppose it’s necessary to continue resting. Too bad. I’ve really enjoyed these two days of doing not much.

If all continues to be well, I will go to my dance classes this week and hope that by Friday, I will be able to practice backpacking again without ill effects. Unfortunately, I will probably have to reduce the weight in the pack, so that will set me further back in the conditioning process than I want to be, but better such a setback than shouldering the same poundage and destroying my thigh permanently.

Even if I couldn’t go hiking today, I can do it vicariously through my poor benighted (and gaily bedighted) hero since, oddly, he is setting out on a journey across the desert. (Well, not so oddly considering who the author of this journey is!) Luckily, when I go out to the desert for real, I get to wear clothes that cover almost all exposed skin. My poor hero is clad only in that silly pink and lime green polka-dotted loincloth.

Maybe I’ll write an oasis to give him a break from the relentless sun.

But first . . . more of doing “not much.”

I hope you are having as enjoyable day as I am, and with as little to do.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Meeting the Challenges of the Day

I woke this morning feeling sore and achy after yesterday’s adventure, and I considered staying in bed. No one but me would know I was being lazy, but I got up anyway. First challenge of the day met!! Yay!

I also considered taking a zero day (hiker parlance for a day without accumulating miles), but after puttering around for a bit and getting my muscles working, and after adjusting the pack again (since I have a hard time adjusting the shoulder straps when it’s on), I decided what the heck, just go. Second challenge of the day met!

Except it wasn’t that easy. The cold wind hurt my ears, so I came back for my earwarmers. Headed out again, walked a ways, and then realized I’d never make it with the cold blowing down the back of my neck. So I came back for a scarf. Headed out again. Left shoe came untied. Bent down to tie it. A real challenge with twenty-plus pounds on my back. Then the right shoe came untied. Then the right shoe. Sheesh. But I met all those challenges.

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Finally, I got to the desert, made my loop and headed back. When I got to a crossroads where I could take my usual route down to a sidewalk and ending with an uphill trudge or I could take a slightly shorter route back without battling that final hill. I stood there for what seemed like minutes but I’m sure was only seconds, unable to decide. (My brother recently told me he worried about me because I seemed to have a hard time making decisions. Ya think?) I eventually took the usual, slightly harder route because this is supposed to be a challenge, right? Well, challenge met.

I had to stop a couple of times on that last uphill leg, but I made it. (Well, obviously, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this.)

And these were just the challenges of this day.

I thought all these challenging faux backpacking trips on the weekends would have made a difference by now, but I don’t seem any stronger, have no more stamina or endurance, don’t weigh any less. I mean, I’ve been doing this for months now, haven’t I?

Uh, no. Although it does feel that way, it’s been merely four weeks. Still, I would have thought there would have been some sign that I’m getting more conditioned to backpacking, but so far, I don’t see a change, and did I expect some change. If nothing else, I thought I would feel lighter after taking off the pack, that hiking with the extra weight would make the rest of my life a bit easier, but it doesn’t seem to work that way. I still lumber more than bounce when I walk, still struggle to get things done.

But then, the challenge is in the doing, and I am doing these weekends of backpacking practice. In fact, these weekend backpacking challenges are beginning to seem an end in themselves. Who knows — maybe by the time I’m in condition for a real backpacking trip, I’ll feel as if I’ve already accomplished what I want to accomplish.

Whatever that is.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Re-Summer

I went hiking in the desert again, not wanting to waste the last couple of days left from this halcyon summer rerun before colder temperatures set in once more.

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(The warming trend after the first frost used to be called Indian Summer, but I suppose that name has become anathema along with all the rest of the terms being restructured for political reasons, and I have not yet heard the new term for this re-summertime. Not that the season cares what we call it — it simply is. And besides, in the desert, the summer was never this lovely, so perhaps the current mild weather isn’t a rerun at all, but the real thing, no matter what the calendar says.)

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The trails I took today were a lot easier than the previous ones, mostly because they were wide enough I could chug uphill on the smoother parts and zigzag my way down on the steeper slopes.

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I wasn’t the only one making use of the fine day, but I don’t want to ruin the experience by mentioning all the boys of all ages with their noisy vehicular toys zooming along the trails. (Oops. Do you see what I did? I mentioned the noise after all!) I really shouldn’t complain about the motorized toys — after all, if it weren’t for vehicles, most of the trails in the desert would be as treacherous as the one I climbed the last time I was there.

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The hardest parts were balancing me, my trekking poles, and my phone so I could take photos. Usually, photos seem more vibrant than the natural subject, but for some reason, these photos don’t pop the way the real scenery did, maybe because there is nothing to show the scope of the slopes. (I suppose I could have done a selfie or two, but that’s not my style. I prefer to be outside the photo looking in, rather than inside the photo looking out.)

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Still, the photos are good enough to show the beauty of my walk without showing all that isn’t beautiful, such as the roads carved into the desert floor by the ATVs and the garbage strewn everywhere. But let’s not talk about those things, and remember only the intermittent silence and the beauty.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

When You Can’t Go Forward and You Can’t Go Back

After my success hiking in the small part of the desert across the street, yesterday I decided to go further afield. Beyond these two hills is what I used to call “my desert,” the area I used to ramble when I stayed with my father.

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The view was different from I remembered, but then, I was further south than the trails I used to walk, and was looking at the hills from a different direction.

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I didn’t want to overtire myself the second day out, so I rounded the hills and headed back. In the distance, I saw an interesting rock formation jutting above a hill, and since I wasn’t at all tired, I took a short detour to check it out. Such a lovely mini canyon!

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By then, I’d climbed a rocky trail that had been easy to walk up, but seemed too dangerous to walk down, so I kept going. The trail ahead of me seemed steep but easy enough.

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Oh, my! Most of it was okay, but parts of it were so steep I simply could not hike any further. Perhaps if my damaged arm and wrist were stronger, I could have hauled myself up using the trekking poles. Perhaps. As it was, I could only stand there, legs shaking, body trembling with adrenaline.

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So, what does one do when one can’t hike up and can’t hike down? You toss the poles ahead of you to free your arms and crawl on your hands and knees. At least, that’s what I did. I had to laugh at myself — I’ve been dreaming again of a long distance hike, something epic and life changing, and there I was, in what certainly could have been a life-changing situation, especially when I encountered not one, not two, but three such spots, each more dangerous than the last. But finally . . .  finally . . . I got to the top of the hill.

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When I was safe, I glanced back and couldn’t believe those innocent-looking hills held such beauty and treachery.

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You know what the worst part of the hike was? Yep, you guessed it — not the hard part of the trail, but what should have been the easiest — the long paved city mile back to the house. After two hours hiking I was exhausted!!

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

An Easy Hike

I haven’t been on any hikes recently. I’ve been taking a couple of extra dance classes and also preparing for a show (my class will be doing two numbers at a dance performance put on by the local college next weekend), and I wanted to make sure I didn’t jeopardize that privilege by overdoing it. My body is used to the extra classes now, so when a friend invited me to go on an easy group hike with her this morning, I accepted. It didn’t seem like it would be a very scenic hike — it was more to explore a water system from the 1800s than to enjoy the scenery — but I’ve been trying to walk more in preparation for . . . I still don’t know what. Some sort of long, long, long walk perhaps. And this seemed a perfect opportunity to stretch myself a bit.

We met at a nearby dam and signed in. Since the Sierra Club sponsored the hike, we had to sign a waiver. I didn’t think anything of it — after all, I’d done Sierra Club hikes before, and anyway, it was an easy hike, only three miles, according to the English chap who led the group.

The scenery at our meeting place wasn’t very inspiring — just a lot of dirt bike trails carved haphazardly out of the desert floor by bikers — but after we climbed through the gate meant to keep out cars, and walked leisurely across the top of the dam, there were some pretty sights, including this rare example of fall colors in the desert.

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We took a break so everyone could catch up to the leader, and then we continued up the path. The operative word here is “up.” The path started with a gentle incline that got steeper and steeper as we climbed. At one point, the only way I could make it up a sharper than 45-degree angle was on hands and knees. Embarrassing, but effective.

Our leader promised us that was the hardest part of the hike, but then we started our even steeper descent on sand and scree. (I had to pause here and reflect. I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “scree” in my entire life, never had reason to. Amazingly, I was able to dredge the correct word out of my magpie brain.) I wish I could announce that I descended that hill gracefully, but once (okay, I admit it — twice) my feet slid out from beneath me and I ended up “bum sledding” as the English chap called it.

“It’s easy from here,” the chap said when we all made it (one way or another) to the bottom of the path. “Easy from here?” I responded. “Wasn’t the whole hike supposed to be easy?” He said, “When we get back, it always seems to have been so easy.”

But we weren’t yet back. There was still a rusted and rotted water pipe to hike along for several yards (someone suggested that I use my trekking pole as a balancing pole, and it worked! Or maybe it’s all those relevés I’ve been doing in ballet class.) After the water pipe episode, we had to wade through a sand field where my legs sunk halfway up to my knees, ford a river, and climb one last 45-degree hill.

We returned to the cars three and a half hours after we started. Allowing a generous hour for breaks and a snack, we’d been hiking for at least two and a half grueling hours. Even at my slowest uphill pace, I walk a mile in thirty minutes, so I have no idea how long the hike really was. At least four, but probably closer to five miles.

We gathered around for a brief post-hike retrospective. The English chap asked if anyone was hurt. We all took stock and admitted we were fine.

He beamed at me and said, “See? An easy hike.”

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.