Okay, ode is probably not the correct word; commentary is more like it – but what kind of title is Commentary to the Peak? First of all, if that were the title, it would have to be Commentary about the Peak – which is really what this is; but since that's hollow and lacking in sentiment, I'm using the word ode: Ode to the Peak.
'The Peak,' of course, is
As I intimated a few posts ago, I have, once again, begun to hike in the morning. We're in triple digits now so the afternoon hikes are just out of the question for me. No, from now until some time in November, I'll be on that hill before roosters wake farmers, before six – or more to the point – before our sizzling fireball rises up, high in the sky, pushing morning temps beyond the 80s. Can you imagine 89 degrees at 6:00am? It's not that now; now it's around 78 – which makes the morning hikes feel like heaven on earth. It's as we creep toward summer that dawn temperatures will be around 89, but keep in mind, when daily highs are anywhere from 108 to 115, a good 20 to 25 degree swing cooler is actually pretty pleasant.
Anyway, it's always great getting back into the morning routine. It's like a reunion of sorts up there – I've seen all the regulars again. There's DL with the red back pack and his posse of hiking compadres. This is one serious group of retirement age hikers who seem to be more committed to hiking than, say, Admiral Byrd.
In addition to this group, there are also the independent hikers, like me, who share this early rising, communing with nature, appreciation for the great outdoors. There's Tim the Fireman, Ray the Contractor, Mr. Incredible, the Banker and the Anchor. These last two are obviously friends – I rarely see one up there without the other. I think their job descriptions alone could be parlayed into a sitcom: The Banker and the Anchor – two men, one conservative by nature, the other dynamically daring; come enjoy this revisionist version of a modern day odd couple as they comedically travel through the conundrums of life's ups and downs – this fall on CBS. No? Okay…
And there are others –
I sometimes feel like I'm up there personally spearheading the Congeniality Committee (I may have mentioned this before). I'm smiling, I'm waving, I'm saying, Good morning, How ya doin? or sometimes just, Hey – but the Hey is almost always accompanied by the smiling chin-bob. There are those that respond and those that ignore. Yeah, ignore. I don't understand it, really. I'm not trying to enroll anybody in network marketing, or have them join a pyramid scheme; I'm simply saying 'good morning.' Oh, what nerve, huh? Whatever… honestly, I've been hiking up there for so long now that I've sort of gotten used to that unfriendly, closed-off, antisocial behavior that it hardly even fazes me anymore.
What does faze me, though, is the sometimes lack of social decorum that's exhibited up there. I find that a lot of men think nothing of openly spitting, at any time, anywhere on the trail – not giving any regard to the fact that there are other hikers RIGHT THERE! Don't get me wrong, I've actually hocked a loogie or two in my day, but I've done it discreetly, making sure no one was nearby. Spitting is, after all, voluntary – it's not like vomiting. We have control of if, and when, we let the phlegm-balls fly.
One day, I had a man no more than six feet behind me doing his absolute best to bring up a lung. I cannot even begin to describe the repulsive, guttural, throat-clearing sounds this man was making. All I can tell you is I was having one heck of a time controlling my overly sensitive gag reflex each time he was successful in forcefully expelling one of these hard-won muculent globs. Wondering if any of his sputal spray was actually getting on my back, I eventually gave a half-hearted turn and said, "Sir, please," to which he responded, "What? I have to." Have to? Honestly, if he really had to perhaps he shouldn't have been out hiking. Have to? Didn't we just determine that spitting is voluntary? Have to? I don't think so. I managed to subdue an overwhelming urge to vomit and ran off – I actually ran – thinking, "Well, here's hoping he won't have to poo a little further down the path."
That man not withstanding, I love that hike. It always reminds me of life – there are parts that are difficult and challenging on the way up that are easier on the way down. There are people you meet along the way that are friendly, and those who are not. To me, life is like that – tough at times, easier at others. Sometimes, a lot of times, I think, it's the tough times that we experience that make the future times more manageable – we learn, we grow, we develop character from the tough times. No pain, no gain as the saying goes. And, some people we encounter along the way will be friendly and make our walk more enjoyable, others not so much – but, these folks are there also (they will always be there) and we need to deal with it. If that means running ahead before you're spit on, then so be it. It's all part of the journey!
On the run…