We six women stood in a hot parking lot with the breeze blowing through our hair and pondered our future. We could turn back – we could certainly find other things to do. I could go work with photos at work and they could all go lounge on the beach and throw back a few cocktails. But we knew we had to do this. We knew we could do this. But we really didn’t want to. Nonetheless, we began our journey up Harney Peak.
Harney Peak is the highest point in the state, and I’m pretty sure it’s the highest point for a very long distance, but I don’t know the specifics. It’s a beautiful area and for a lot of the 3ish-hour hike I felt like I was on the set of ‘Twilight.’ The trek was actually pretty uneventful for the first ten minutes until I heard a voice behind me.
“Hey Anna,” my friend Abby called out to me. She was hanging pretty far behind the group and didn’t look as if she was enjoying herself.
“Oh come on, think about how many calories you’re burning!” I coached her, “Think about how this can be like your workout for the month.”
“I don’t know why I agreed to do this,” she moaned, but kept walking.
But five minutes later, she called out again. She had decided she hated it and had no desire to do it, so she was going to go lay out at the lake…or something.
The rest of us fought onward. The tail winds upward for the first mile at an unimposing angle. The second mile makes you think you’re just that in shape because it takes a turn downhill for a while. Then, when you’re most confident about your hiking skills, everything gets rocky and you’re forced to climb up, up, upward to the high point on the mountain.
We all felt like death. Our calves burned and our legs ached. Our knees cried out to stop. But we kept walking-and sometimes almost crawling. When we finally did reach the top, we were met with a series of small steps. These were the absolute worst part because they were spaced so closely together that it forced you to this kind of hop-skip-jump thing as you climbed, which only made your calves scream louder.
But once you’re up there it’s beautiful.
It’s like being on top of the biggest rock in the world and it’s hard to believe that they managed to build a small fortress up there. We had lost a friend, but most of us had made it and it felt amazing to stand there and let the wind tickle your sweaty cheeks. The land stretched outward as far as you could see and the clouds were…
Dark. Brooding, dark, dreary, awful, and a little apocalyptic. We didn’t know where they had come from or why they were there, but we weren’t going to let them ruin this previously sunny and gloriously painful hike. We took pictures, answered questions for tourists, and had a jolly good time while this thick black cloud hung heavily in the air mere inches from our heads.
Maybe it was our optimism and maybe it was something in the atmosphere, but the cloud just hung there and never did anything. It never rained and it never hailed – which is a nice change from what the weather has been doing here lately. We left the top without incident and made the trek down with a group of very attractive German (or Dutch) guys and had a rousing conversation about the ‘Lord of the Rings.’ We were mid-flirt when my left toe caught on a rock, my knees gave out and I suddenly found myself on all fours in the dirt. Gravity can be really mean.
I wasn’t scraped up very badly, but I was super embarrassed so all conversation ceased. Except for one of the girls (Jess) having to stop and pee in the woods, that was really everything that happened. It was hard, but it felt good mentally to know we had done it. On the other side of things, it didn’t feel good physically at all and even as I sit here, I ache all over. I make old man noises when I sit and stand and people are looking at me strangely, but I don’t care because I did it. I hiked Harney.