Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Downhill All The Way

Saturday while playing corporate wife for L, we journeyed up the mountain at Vail in the afternoon for an ice cream social. Like most sane people, we took the gondola up the mountain to the top where the social (and various entertainments for the kids) were to be held. A short gondola trip for those used to multistage backbowl gondolas like the one at Keystone.

L and I had a pleasant trip up with the gondola car all to ourselves. Once up on top (at 11,000+ feet), we moseyed around and visited the eco-school display and generally putzed around killing time until the social. At the duly appointed time, we snarfed our bowl of ice cream and began preparations to journey down the mountain by hiking trail.

(A little background here. L is not noted for having mad map reading skills, but since she and the Son have skied the area before and returned to tell about it, I assumed she knew where she was leading me. Her words were that it was an easy 45 minute hike to the base of the mountain.)

We started down and it was indeed a beginner type trail at the beginning, avoiding any really steep descents. About a third of the way down, we were passed by a group of girls wearing school uniforms and backpacks. We had heard them following us for a while since they were all in the 13-16 year old range that cannot be silent. When we came to a widening in the trail, we stepped to the side to let them pass with the words "Go ahead, we don't want to hold you up." The response was "You guys are doing really good" with the unvoiced "for old fogies" muttered under breath. L. and I got a good laugh about that. We marvelled at how the girls could all be talking, wearing their IPods, skipping lightly along in tennis shoes, never looking down, and not trip or fall on all the obstacles on the trail.

Over the next half hour, the trail began to look more like an expert only trail in places. It had become clear that the 45-minute descent did not describe the trail we are on. Since a few turns back, the trail has begun getting steeper and steeper. Of course my toe gets torsioned and the nerve fires. (The story of the nerve that has been dieing for years due to diabetes is a thing for another time. Suffice it to say that when it fires, I will do anything to stop the pain.) I tried to protected the nerve by using mostly the other leg and pretty soon we are coming down black diamond slopes with both of my legs in danger of not working. Even L, who is built for downhill hiking (I am not. The combo of being 6'5" and wearing size 16 shoes does not make for a good downhill hiking experience on steep and narrow rocky and rooted trails!), was starting to falter a bit. The net result is a nearly four hour torture trip down the mountain, leaving both of us limping and in L's case blistered.

To make it all the more exciting, L and I are supposed to be at the formal awards dinner starting at 7pm. At that time we are just at the base of the mountain and still have to hike to the hotel and get ready. All I have to say is that it was really good that the cocktail hour lasted a bit overtime and that we had a room that was luxurious enough to have both a tub and a separate shower in the bathrom. We made it just in time to file in with the crowd (although I didn't have time to shave, so I had a bit of a white shadow over the face.)

Of course, this being a sales district meeting and awards ceremony, there were a lot of standing ovations. My legs hurt enough that I was waiting for them to quit working evertime we had to stand up and clap. L and I were basically cussing under our breath at each and every new occasion requiring us to stand up. We were very happy when the ceremony ended. We still had enough giddy-up go to make it to the post ceremony party (a hike of a couple of blocks) and to outlast most of the crowd. Proof positive you can make old warhorses hurt, but you can't make them quit!

What are the morals of this story:
  • Never believe anyone who says a trail is easy without proof.
  • Never believe anyone who says "this is a short cut when we ski here." Slopes and lengths are a lot different on foot versus on downhill  skies.
  • Never give up. You can make it even when it already looks impossible.


  1. Going hiking this weekend and my hubby has already told me that he is bringing his handheld GPS (contains off road maps).

    I thought it overkill, but my sense of direction and your story has confirmed it to be a must have for the hike.

    Hope your legs were back in fighting shape the next day.

  2. Sounds like an interesting trip. Great story, with great morals. I came over to say thanks for inspiring one of Mama Kat's prompts this week, that I wrote on your "Incredibly Short Books" prompt and had a lot of fun doing it. Thanks!

  3. I'm writing those "nevers" down before my camping trip this weekend!


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