The other day I went on a little “post-birthday hike” up into this little national park here in the city… And while it was great to just be walking around outdoors through greenery and life, and fun to rest at the top of the overlook, gazing down at the city and watching the sun begin to set, the real fun was the return trip. Because of my dilly-dallying, and the restful quiet at the top of the mountain, when I glanced at my watch it was 4:45. The park technically closed at 5:00. And because it is winter, the sun sets nowadays around 5:15-5:30. And I’m still almost 1000 meters up, and about four kilometers away from the entrance. So what else to do, but run down the mountain?
Does anyone know why doing something like that is so much fun? Something about tearing down a little dirt path with trees and branches whipping by, looking far enough ahead to make sure you put your feet in just the right places to avoid a twisted ankle, a nasty spill, or a tumble off a cliff, and doing it all at high speed, as fast as you can – it just makes you feel alive… Grabbing onto branches and tree trunks to slow or stop yourself when you realize you’re going just a little too fast for control… Skidding around corners like you’re on skis, and dropping one hand to the dirt to steady yourself, and then popping out of it on the return… and the crazy moment when time slows down to jello and you just have enough time to think to yourself “This is bad,” when the tree you grasped planning it would slow you down enough to retain a modicum of control decides it has other ideas and snaps with a loud CRACK… and then a mid-air gyration and flailing, and time resumes as you slide a ways and scrape up your arm and get a few little cuts. But nothing major, so off you go, down, down, down…
And running through the flat along the ridge before plunging into the valley, feeling like Hawkeye in “Last of the Mohicans,” running alone and silently, and suddenly dodging the two girls taking pictures of the darkening forest – quick grin flashed, “Hello,” and then you’re 20 feet past them and around the next corner before they have a chance to respond. You finally reach the paved road as the street lights are coming on, in 1/3 the time it took you to get up to the top. You have a few cuts and scrapes, but there’s something satisfying about returning from playing outside with a little blood on you – evidence that you were there, and you pushed yourself – almost a little bit too much, maybe… But you’re fine, and by God, it was fun, and you were alive!
Come on down, and maybe we can race next time… it’ll be fun… I can’t wait.