20 March 2008

A lovely view from up here

"Where a goat can go, a man can go; and where a man can go, he can drag a gun"
- Maj. Gen. William Phillips, as his men brought cannon to the top of Mt. Defiance in 1777

On Friday I got a nice e-mail from Brett saying that he and son Charles would be hiking Section A of the Billy Goat Trail on Saturday morning and would David and I like to go? David was nursing a case of the sniffles, but I was free and so I rounded up my hiking shoes and we met up at the Visitor's Center.

In general, the best way to get me to do something is to make the information about the activity available and then assume that I won't actually look things up or figure out what I'm getting myself in for.

Like, for instance, that time we were at DisneyWorld and - as I hadn't read up on any of rides, a rather interesting choice for someone who is afraid of heights and has a poor sense of balance - I wandered blithely past the sign saying how tall, how not pregnant, and how free of heart conditions one must be to go on the ride. In fact, I believe that my exact comment as I sashayed by was "Oh, I'm definitely that tall. I'm more than that tall." La, la, la.

And just as I realized that I was in line for a roller coaster and started to try to figure out how to get out of line, Brett, Stacey, and John started telling me that we were in line for the Happy Train to Mickey's Birthday Land or something. I'm not all that bright sometimes, so even that didn't actually cause me to realize what was up. Or rather, way up. And once I did, they just hustled me on board cheerfully talking over my pitiful cries for help.

Not that the DislandWorld folks were going to rush to my rescue; they found the whole thing hilarious. Humphf. I am so put upon.

So anyway, yeah, all I knew when I signed on was that Brett would be there and Charles and that we would be outside on what was supposed to be a beautiful day.* So I followed the link that Brett sent and confirmed that, yep, the visitors' center was the one that I was thinking it was, and went on about my business. I suspect that Brett could invite me to spend six months with his family in a bathysphere**, send me the plans for the vehicle and a list of necessary supplies and health warnings and my brain would file it thus: Brett! Charles! Cate! Something about the beach!

Cate, sadly, couldn't join us this time because she would rather scrub floors than go hiking with me.***

So on Saturday, we met up at the visitor's center and set off on our hike. The first part, which is, well, which is the tow path is very easy. Then the trail breaks right and we leave what's pretty much a semi-paved road and start scrambling over little rocks. No sweat, I can do this. Just keep alert so that I don't turn an ankle and I'll be fine. Heck, this is probably good for my knees! La, la, la.

Then the rocks started to get bigger. To turn into boulders, actually. Around this time, Charles started scrambling up them and announcing how easy they were, which was almost precisely not what I was thinking. The boulders looked like this:

Around the time that the boulders were getting big enough to make me hope that Section A is a loop and that I wouldn't have to meet these rocks coming back the other way, we came round a bit of trail and I saw this:

The Wikipedia caption for the photo calls it the "Billy Goat Trail Cliff." After I got to the top of it, I named it the Cliffs of Insanity**** and began to hope in earnest that we were on a loop. We were and the Cliffs of Insanity was the most "strenuous" part of the trip.

And as I got used to scrambling I got better at it. Not great, but better. I stopped overthinking every step and just took them. And I started treating the relatively flat tops of the boulders more like sidewalks and less like tightropes. It's possible that I am the only person who noticed this blossoming surefootedness, but it still made me feel better.

Especially as while Brett is one of the best people you can have at your side for this sort of thing - supportive, non-judgmental, patient - Charles is, after all, ten years old and being better at things than adults is like getting two desserts and no green vegetables for dinner. So it made him pretty happy to tell me about every blaze he beat me to (most of them) and every rock he climbed better than I did (prett' near all of them).

At one point he was outlining his system for continuing to destroy me, blaze-wise, and I pointed out to Brett that Charles seemed to follow the example of the sort of criminals that Batman always sends back to prison because they'd rather talk about their plan than actually kill Batman. "Yep," agreed Brett, "he's a monologuer." Of course, your average Batman villain stands more or less in place while monologuing and Charles can do it while scampering up a boulder pile in a way that reminds you why both children and young goats are called kids.

I will be revenged, however. Some day Charles and I will be lost in the trackless desert or shipwrecked or something and my contribution will be to smirk and say "Oh, you're so smart -- you get us home" and then go back to reading whatever script was in my purse when the disaster happened. I'm kind of looking forward to this, actually. The best revenge is revenge against harmless small children. (The next best revenge is when someone who is always right - and I know many of them - has to admit in front of other people that you were right and they were wrong. This happens far less often that I would like.)

Anyway, after our exhilarating hike - and it was, I worked up a bit of a sweat and definitely met my target heart rate at least once - we walked back to the car and headed off for a nice lunch with ice cream for dessert. I was also able to give Brett the box of Girl Scout Cookies I had bought for him, which made us both happy.

And I have a picture of the Cliffs of Insanity taped to my hutch at work to remind me that I actually climbed those rocks. And lived to tell the tale.

*It was a beautiful day, just as advertised. Don't worry - this isn't some kind of foreshadowing.

**I'm also not really a fan of small, enclosed underwater spaces.

***Truthfully, she had a prior commitment to help with some pre-Easter Spring cleaning at her church, but that's not what Brett said. Not does it make the best story.

**** I know, not very original, but it seemed pretty accurate to me.


simonator said...

Well I will point out that the last time I hiked the Billy Goat Trail, there was a floor show. It took me a few seconds to realize the the girl on the VA side of the river was NOT pumping up camp stove, but rather her boyfriend.

Bill said...

And I would rather work on taxes than hike with you (not really, but they had to be done). And Ben would rather work on stage light crew (probably true).

Bill said...

Come to think of it, I'm surprised that Brett invited you. If I recall correctly, that was where you spoiled an after-hike snack of Hostess Ho-Hos with your awful observation.

Leta said...

Actually, it was at a Pennsic that I made the Awful Observation.