Thursday, November 20, 2014

Hiking Inspiration Point

Seriously, I did not give it a second thought. In fact, I was beyond excited about it!

At a September, 2014 conference setting in lovely Santa Barbara, California at the Four Seasons Biltmore Resort, I was presented with a variety of options for an afternoon activity. The choices were golf (something I frequently do where I live in South Carolina), kayaking in the ocean (tempting, but I felt that my kayaking debut should be in calmer waters), a facial or massage at the spa (I could do that any place, any time), whale watching (except we were told that it was not whale season), or hiking. Ah, hiking! When I lived in New York, I loved hiking in the Adirondacks and even formed my own hiking group. I recall being at the top of Buck Mountain and looking down on small aircraft. Hiking it would be!

Originally, there were fourteen people signed up, but due to the unusually soaring temperatures for this area, seven cancelled. So, off we went with two affable guides, four younger hikers and three…shall we say… senior citizen hikers, of which I was one.

Completely pumped as we began the trek, Brian led the pack while his co-worker, Jake, stayed at the rear with us old codgers. The younger folks practically ran up the sun-drenched trail, but I sensed that it was in my best interest to pace myself. After about fifteen minutes of climbing straight up, my heart was pounding like a big bass drum, and I was utterly out of breath. How could that happen? Then I remembered--my last hiking event occurred over ten years ago. I quickly discovered that I needed frequent rests and could not dash up the mountain. Stopping occasionally to survey the spectacular view and gulp some chilled bottled water served as a valid excuse to catch my breath.

After climbing the trail for what seemed like an eternity, I finally asked Jake, “Okay. How much longer will it take us to reach the top, and will it be this steep all the way?” Obviously, the last question was silly. Of course, it would be steeper as we reached the top.

Jake humored me and replied, “About another half hour straight up.”

“Fine,” I said. “Remember that shaded area we just passed a minute ago? Well, that’s where you’ll find me when you come back down. This body isn’t going any further uphill.”

He radioed Brian to advise him that I was stopping in my tracks, and the two other senior citizens in our group breathed audible sighs of relief, thrilled to be joining me. I think they were just waiting for someone else to cry “uncle.” No one wanted to be the first to stop, but I did not want to have to be airlifted off the mountain.

The others joined us in about fifteen or twenty minutes, having made it to the top, taken photos and returned to our little social circle in the shade. Brian asked us if we wanted to descend the mountain the same way we came up, or did we want to try the “fun” way down?

Naturally, this adventurous group opted for the “fun” way, which contained no trail at all, but was comprised of huge boulders that we had to navigate in order to progress down the mountain. To say it was challenging would be a gross understatement. I survived it and did not break an ankle or leg, even when I had to sit on gigantic rock formations and slide down to the next level.

It was gratifying to be able to declare that I did it. I had hiked the major portion of the mountain and had the privilege of viewing the picture-perfect scenery that would have been impossible to see from ground level. On the way down, I traversed the rugged terrain with the best of them and finished unscathed. A huge thank you to Brian and Jake for their expertise and patience!

At the end of the day, I felt great for putting my body to the test, stretching my limits, participating in the “fun” way down. The destination was called Inspiration Point, and I actually left there inspired to depart from my comfort zone more often. Now, where do I sign up for that massage?

All the best,

Mary Anne Benedetto

Author of Eyelash, 7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing: Build a Priceless Legacy One Story at a Time!, Never Say Perfect and From Italy with Love & Limoncello.


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