Last week was rough.
It was so rough that when I told Bronxie that during the weekend I wanted to 1) do a nice dinner, 2) hike, and 3) find a deal on a hotel room so I could sleep next to him, he immediately agreed.
Not all heroes wear capes – mine has a lion’s mane and wears reading glasses.
He suggested the Major Welch Trail on Bear Mountain, which is part of a loop that goes up to Perkins Tower (GORGEOUS views) and then back down a section of the Appalachian Trail, a round trip of approximately 3.6 miles.
He warned me it was rated “Medium” and I thought nothing of it – I figured it would be more challenging than the “Easy” hikes we had been on, but how bad could it be?
It was a gorgeous day with low humidity and a gentle breeze. We got a good parking spot and started out around the lake, making plans to do the paddleboats before the season is over.
The incline around that part of Hessian lake is so far the steepest one I had hiked, but it’s not long and I felt like a badass getting through it. (I’m an amateur, don’t laugh too hard.) We were talking and laughing and holding hands and I told him that I was nervous but I wanted to make him proud of me.
“Sweetie,” he told me, “I’m ALWAYS proud of you.”
When we got to the trail head, this is what greeted us:
I looked at it warily, but wanted to continue on, and made mention that next season, I want to invest in a good pair of hiking boots. I warned Bronxie that I might be a little slow moving, but I was going to hike this trail, so we started the climb.
Now a quick aside about anatomy and physiology that will have some bearing on the rest of the story.
I have flat feet. Like ankles roll in and I walk on the part of the foot that should have an arch. My left foot is worse than my right, and as such I have more limited mobility in that joint. I’m no longer in PT, so sometimes our long walks wind up requiring more recovery time due to that issue.
And I’m only 5’2″ tall – this will also have bearing later.
The start of the trail was far steeper than the incline around Hessian Lake. I moved slowly and carefully while Bronxie mountain goated his way up, picking my steps carefully and moving in constant fear my left ankle saying, “Yeah….nah,” and giving out, sending me ass over undignified teakettle down the mountain.
I tried really hard to keep that fear to myself, until I got to a step down that was too high for me and my short little legs to do confidently, so I asked Bronxie to come spot me as I made the step. He held my hands and helped me down, the anxiety bubbled over and I blurted out my worry. He reassured me I was doing great, and we kept going up the steep-ass incline.
We got a little off track when we saw a couple of deer that Bronxie followed into the woods, but a steep climb up some squishy feeling ground got us back on course.
As promised, it was slow going, but we moved slow and steadily onward, Bronxie leading the way and me
checking out his butt taking my time to avoid injury.
The Hills Are Alive With the Sounds of Swearing
We learned the true definition of “Medium” when we encountered our first rock face. Up until that point the scariest things we dealt with looked something like this:
The rock was steep. It was sheer. It looked like it went straight up. Photos did not do it justice.
“YOU HAVE GOT TO BE FUCKING KIDDING ME!” I exclaimed, as Anxiety!Brain flashed all the amazingly horrible things that could go wrong if I
dragged my fat ass attempted to scramble with my inexperienced self. I stood there, eyes wide with terror and maybe a tear or 2, mumbling to myself “I don’t know if I can do this.”
It was at this point that the Bronxie told me it was ok to go back if I wanted to, and I did consider it.
For like a second.
“No, I want to keep going,” I said.
So up we went.
From that point forward, the trail felt like it went straight freaking up. There were more Lord of the Rings looking steps, more sheer rock faces, and a bunch of super steep rock piles that, as Bronxie put it, felt like we were stepping on oversized Legos. Amazingly, I felt slightly more confident on those than I did on the sheer faces, because I could literally trace my route from rock to rock, and use my hands for balance and pulling.
Bronxie was the exact opposite – he was far more comfortable scrambling his way up the sheer rock faces.
By my (incredibly amateur) estimate, the majority of the trail was a scramble of some sort. I have never been so happy to see steps every time we encountered them. We had good tree cover so the sun wasn’t as much a factor as I worried it would be, and took frequent water breaks, making sure to sip the water, not slam it. The last thing we needed was a cramp.
I was horrified at the bottom of every scramble and smiling my ass off at the top, but every time he told me, “I think we’re almost there!” BOOM!
Another rock face!
My legs felt like jello, my hands felt scraped, and I was this close to suggesting we just live on the side of the mountain from now on, when after a particularly challenging climb, Bronxie told me to turn around so I could see this:
The breeze was beautiful and I snuggled into my Bronxie, admired the beauty around us, and marveled at how much we had completed. I was
sweating glowing and so proud of myself, and double checked to be sure he was proud of me, too (he was!).
Then we hit the next scramble and I was back to “YOU HAVE GOT TO BE FUCKING KIDDING ME”.
But we kept going.
I didn’t keep track of how many climbs we made but it felt like a thousand. I kept stopping as I scrambled because my legs had progressed beyond lactic acid buildup and straight into mush, which is not a fun feeling to have when you’re midway on a sheer rock face and going down is going to be harder than continuing up.
I huffed and I puffed and I pushed and I pulled (and I ate it once when my foot got caught on a tree root), but we made it to the end.
Which turned out to be a LEGITIMATE FUCKING ROCK WALL, and I was that close to giving up. I just couldn’t see how I could safely scale it from where I was standing at the bottom of the last Lego rock scramble.
Bronxie made it up and reassured me 1) it was possible, and 2) we had found the road. Halleloo!
I very slowly and carefully picked my way up the scramble, and one (very tiny) foot-and-hand-hold at a time, made it up the wall before collapsing into a graceless heap at the top.
And also crying.
I had made it up a Medium-rated trail, complete with scrambling, and I didn’t hurt myself, and I made my Bronxie proud.
I think the best feeling of all, though, was knowing that even though Anxiety!Brain kept nudging toward hysteria, I shut it down and carried on.
As much as it feels like it, Anxiety!Brain (and Depression!Brain) are not in control here – I am. I forget that sometimes.
I’m planning to print a copy of that gorgeous view and put it at my desk to remind myself of that when start feeling myself spiraling out of control.
Bronxie and I walked very slowly and carefully down the road on the mountain because we were both way too tired to attempt a trail descent. Everything hurt. We were exhausted. But we were both very satisfied – that was the hardest hike either of us had attempted.
We had a beautiful Italian dinner al fresco on the waterfront, and limped our way into the hotel by 10:30 before collapsing into our cool, comfy bed. We arrived too late for a dip in the pool, but once we stopped moving, I don’t think either of us could have started again.
So instead we curled up together and beamed about what we had just accomplished before falling into a well earned sleep, excited for the amazing breakfast we knew awaited us in the morning.
Anxiety!Brain is not in control. I am.