Or, There’s a Lake on Top of Mount Doom
Once upon a time I was a walking fool.
As a lad I would wander the fields of my father’s farm. I’d follow the branch to where it emptied into a pond. Gates and barbed wire, effective at keeping the cows in their place, did little to deter me.
When I mastered the bicycle I expanded my range. Dirt roads, lake roads — I knew every curve and hill from Cane Hill to Stockton. In college I walked the campus and on into downtown. Day and night. “Long, aimless walks” were what I called them. Didn’t keep track of the mileage and post it on Facebook. Didn’t care how far I’d gone. Just wanted to walk.
Once upon a time I was a walking fool.
Once upon a time I was 10 years old. Then 15. Then 20. Then 30.
Once upon a time walking was a way to clear your head, take in the world, move at your own pace. At some point walking became exercise. And then it became a chore.
Long before we left for Snowbird, Laurie had informed us she had signed us up for a nature hike. I misheard her as “nature walk” and figured it would be fun. There was probably a nice nature trail somewhere around Snowbird Center and we’d have a leisurely stroll through the mountains. Maybe we’d see a moose, like when I went on the nature trail in Alaska.
As you may have noticed by now, nothing is ever easy at Snowbird, Utah. This wasn’t going to be a walk — it was going to be a hike. One vertical mile up a mountain. We were currently at 8,000 feet elevation. We would take a van to another mountain another thousand feet up. From there we would walk up another 500 feet or so.
There would be a lake at the top of the mountain where we could eat our box lunch. The view would be breathtaking.
Unfortunately, at this point I’d had enough of breathtaking. I’d like to keep my breath, thank you very much. Just walking 10 feet from Snowbird Center back up to our hotel was taking my breath away. Did I really want to hike a mile uphill in an even higher elevation?
Well, we prepaid for the excursion and the box lunch. Suck it up, Roy. Be a man for a change. Besides, someone has to be there if you-know-who has another you-know-what at the mountain.
We ride in the cramped van up the rocky, curvy road to our destination. The smart people ate their lunch on the van so they wouldn’t have to carry it along the trail. I wasn’t in the mood to eat. We began the hike. Not too bad. It’s all in my head. Laurie and Andrew waste no time in not waiting for me. As usual. They do stop occasionally for a photo-op.
We’re over halfway there and I’m feeling pretty good about myself and Andrew isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Then we reach our destination. Or rather, a ridiculously steep incline at the top of which must be Lake Mountain.
There’s no f-ing way I’m going up that mountain. It’s too big, it’s too steep, there’s no decent path, there are no banisters.
And then in occurs to me: My wife has finally had enough of me (and who could blame her?). This has all some elaborate means of killing me so she can move to the beach with her girlfriends and open a food truck. I mean, she can’t just shoot me, she might get arrested. But were I to have a heart attack and die climbing a mountain surrounded by her lawyer friends?
“Honestly, officer, I can’t believe this happened! He loves to walk! He walks all the time! He used to brag about his long, aimless walks! Oh, tragedy! How will I go on?”
There’s a nice horizontal rock shaped like a couch at the bottom of the cliff. It is here that I end my journey. I bid my family well as they press onward and upward. I’ve seen enough of the beauty of nature’s splendor from right here, thank you very much. Besides, I’ve seen lakes. Hell, I grew up next to one.
I sit on my rock and watch. I watch the little kids scamper on by me. I watch the old(er) men and women walk past. I watch young couples go by. I see a mother carrying a small child pass. I see a young man carrying a child in a backpack go on.
I eat my lunch.
After about an hour I wonder if they’re ever going to come back down. Then I remember that Laurie is always one of the final people to leave any LawyerCon event. She’ll stay on that mountain until last call. If I wait for her to come back down, they will inevitably get ahead of me and then I’ll be the one that everyone is waiting on at the bus stop. So I begin the long descent back to civilization alone. It was downhill and at my own pace, which was much nicer.
Return to van central and have a seat on a nearby rock because God Forbid someone put a bench around here. The first van leaves, then the second. Finally in the distance I see Laurie, Andrew and a few other stragglers. She assures me the view was breathtaking. I assure her I’ve enjoyed keeping my breath right where it was.
“Did you take pictures,” I ask.
“Several,” she says.
Turns out Andrew is quite the mountain goat, he had no trouble navigating the mountain. And he was still in a good mood. Go figure.
As we are riding down the mountain, Laurie is chatting with someone and the topic turns to riding the tram up to the top of Snowbird Mountain.
“We should do that when we get back!”
Dear lord in heaven. Must we do everything in one day? It’s just Tuesday. We get back to the hotel and I collapse on the bed. “Just give me a half-hour. Just 30 minutes…”
Thirty minutes later we’re back in the lobby. From there it’s back down the hill to Snowbird Center. Then onto the tram and up, up, up to the peak of Snowbird Mountain (I don’t think that’s its real name).
What’s the opposite of claustrophobia? I was kinda freaking out at the top of that mountain. I know it was highly unlikely that I would fall off of it, but fear is not a rational creature. After the obligatory photo-op, Andrew and I caught the first tram back down. Laurie and her friend, of course, caught the last tram.
By now it was dinner time and with nowhere else to eat, we returned to the Mexican place. You-know-who, realizing he hadn’t done you-know-what yet today, begins to have a meltdown. I take him back to the room and he chills out enough that we are able to return to the group for dinner.
I had the burrito this time and no, it was not as good as the Mexican Villa burrito.
Coming Up: If at first you don’t succeed…