Well, the first hundred yards or so of steps and switchbacks were very steep. Hell, the first ten feet had me rethinking this whole mountain hiking thing. Whoa, (huff-puff) did I leave my strength (wheeze) and stamina (moan) back in the Rolling (gasp) Steel (stop, rest) Tent? Or is Post-Cancer Man just not ready yet? Give up or continue?
Um……………. Continue. At least to the end of this switchback.
……………. Okay, I didn’t die. Do one more switchback.
……………. Oh, there’s an observation deck after the next section. I can make that. I think.
……………. Looks like it levels out—a little—after this.
……………. Ah, there’s a nice boulder to sit on.
A moment later, a family with small kids came down the trail from the opposite direction. Skipping and jumping, as happy kids do. Then a group of twenty-somethings. One of the fit, energetic guys asked, “Hi. Are you okay?”
“Just being an old man.”
“Need any help?” He seemed genuinely concerned.
Assured I was okay, he continued on. And, assured I was okay, I continued on.
The trail did flatten, mostly. Tricky footing here and there, a water crossing, a couple of moments where I wished I’d brought my pole. There were forks I had to figure out. Which one for the long loop and which for the shorter? When in doubt, take the lower one.
I took my bearings. “I should be near the top of the waterfall. This is the creek and… Yeah, over there.” I could see where others had scrambled off-trail, and where the forest opened into sky. “I’m going to try to get right to the edge.”
And I did.
As I watched the falls I realized I felt good—physically and mentally. I wasn’t the old man I had been a half hour before. Because the part of me that said to keep going won the argument with the part of me that whined it was too hard.