Monday, February 12, 2007

Muscle Memory

Tonight the temperature in Rochester, New York, will drop to about zero fahrenheit, and sometime late tomorrow afternoon we will get 12-18 inches of snow - our first big snow of the year (although our friends 150 miles away in Oswego got 6 feet last week alone!). But for the past three weeks I've been spending an hour and a half every other day in the YMCA fitness center. No, working out was not a New Year's resolution. It is an annual pre-Spring ritual.

In less than three months I'll be on the Appalachian Trail again, this time trekking from northern New Jersey, through New York, then Connecticut, then to the northern border of Massachusetts. That will be 245 miles with a pack on my back, and it will take me about 16 days of hard walking before I exit the woods just down the road from Williams College. The physical challenge of conquering the hills and valleys keeps me going back to them. I will have 9-11 hours of walking to accomplish on most days.

Few people understand the difficulty of the Appalachian Trail, because relatively few people attempt it. But I love it because it is tough. I go into it in good shape, and I leave it 16 days later with my entire body almost hard as a brick. My face will be thin, and my ribs will show. My quads and calves will have strange curves where muscles have tried to burst the skin. I'll be ten pounds lighter. I will feel like I can walk through walls.

I'll turn 63 two months after this year's hike, and I hope to make that last hike up the steep ridge of Mount Katadin (in Maine) before I turn 65. There are a few others my age out there, and some of them can really move! But I hold my own pretty well, even against the kids, and I love to talk with other hikers in the evening at a shelters or tent site. I've met some fascinating people out there, people from every background who have interesting stories to share with a stranger.

So tonight I'm feeling a lot stronger, and my muscles are helping me remember what it's like to put your body to a big test. Go away, snow! It's almost time for another hike.


Anonymous said...

I look forward to your post-hike stories! Will you have room in your pack for a small digital camera?

Peter said...

Hiker, you are an inspiration! Thanks for the link btw, I love your comments and reading your stuff here.

Life Hiker said...

Thomas, two of my sons worked for Kodak, one until fairly recently. I have a great little Kodak 5MP camera that I took on last year's hike & will take again in April.

The bad news is that Kevin got downsized. The good news is that he got a job as good as the one he lost. The bad news is no more cameras.