Have you ever had a dream in which you were running after something or someone and the harder you tried to keep up, the more you fell behind? Well, a similar experience happened to me last weekend.
Last Saturday, my SAT, Ian, and I joined a meetup group in an attempt to meet other potential hiking buddies. (The meetup website is a portal to thousands of groups categorized by activity/interest. After you join a group, you can participate in that group’s activities and hopefully, make friends!) The group we joined billed itself as a “fast pace group” that does “advanced hikes.” I thought we’d be ok, as we’ve been hiking hard hikes for the past month and haven’t died (well, perhaps I may have felt close to expiring when we did Mazatzal Peak recently). The scheduled hike was in the Tucson area: the “Window” via Ventana Canyon. According to hikearizona.com, the hike is 12.8 miles (round trip), boasts 4,310 feet in accumulated elevation gain, and takes about 8-10 hours to complete. I was a little concerned at my ability to keep up with a fast-paced hiking group, but my SAT was optimistic, citing our recent weekend hikes and my propensity to keep up appearances, i.e. ‘save face.’
We elected to meet the hiking group at the trailhead and left our place around 6:30am, giving us 2 hours to get to the trailhead by 8:30am. Unfortunately, we were not even 15 minutes into the drive when we noticed that we had slowed down a lot….and were in the company of dozens of other cars. Turned out that there was a bad accident up the freeway that was blocking traffic and the cars up ahead were being detoured. I contacted the hike leader and told her that we were stuck in traffic, would probably be late, and the group should go on without us. To be totally frank, I was sort of relieved that we would probably not meet the group (I don’t have to prove myself as a “fast hiker!”). However, things have a way of working out and we actually ended up meeting the group at the trailhead only 15 minutes late (they had just arrived themselves).
After exchanging greetings, we took off. And by “took off,” I mean “started running.” Good grief, the starting pace really scared me. I was 3rd in the line of hikers and the pace was the fastest hiking pace I had ever encountered. It really was more like running. Ian was behind me and I muttered to him that “this is really really fast!” He agreed. My SAT, on the other hand, was 2nd in the line and was chattering like a blooming chipmunk, not even pretending to be out of breath or terrified at how painful this day was going to be.
After a half hour or so, the trail got steep pretty quick and the hike leader slowed down a lot. Half of the group (all guys who had 1% body fat and didn’t need oxygen climb steep mountains) told my half that they were going to “run up for a bit.” I would have said something, but that would have required air and I didn’t have any to spare.
Most of the hike was pretty challenging for me, not because of the amount of elevation gain, but because of the overall pace. The pace, while not the terrifyingly fast pace initiated at the start of the hike, was still strong and I was struggling at times to keep up with the group (but I DID keep up, as my SAT kept on telling me).
This group hike was also the first time that there were NO BREAKS. I’m used to having a break or two on the way to the top. This group does not stop. The break occurred at the top. Lastly, because I was hiking faster than my normal pace, my legs were shaky a few times….so much so that my SAT literally had to give me a boost up over a number of large steps/boulders. He was actually lifting me up. It was sad (for me) and amusing (for him).
Despite my pain, I still have to say that the group was pretty nice and we enjoyed getting some food with them after the hike (by the way, it’s a LOT easier to pretend that all is well when you’re done the hike, sitting down, and eating good food). The temperature was lovely and there were great views from the top. I also really enjoyed the break we had at the top. Very much. As a side note, total hiking time was just under 6 hours. (Remember the estimated time I cited of 8-10 hours? Apparently, that timeframe is only for people who want to breathe during their hike.)
Here are some views from the “Window:”
I do much better with breaks.