The Hard Part

“Just so y’all know, this is the part of the trail that gives the hike a “difficult” rating on the website description.”  A bit out of breath myself, I spoke that sentence in three fairly distinct parts, pausing after “know” and “hike.”

“How long is this difficult hike?” the person behind me asked.

“It’s a total of about four miles,” I replied back, those words coming out in a single breath.

“No, I mean how long is this difficult hike.”

I was missing something, and I was pretty sure it was my fault.  “Just about four miles all together.”

“I mean the difficult hike; the difficult part.”

“Oh, sorry, I didn’t understand!  That’s only, well, not even 200 yards, and then we’re as high as we’re gonna climb.”

And then we stopped talking, concentrating on navigating the limestone boulders, tree roots, and pockets of dried leaves and gravel that made up the trail beneath our feet.

Sure enough, within minutes we were at the highest contour line on the map we were to see that day, having just left nearly 20 or so of them behind us.  I thought it a good time to stop for a drink of water and to check out a small waterfall, mostly so that, you know, the others could catch their breath.

Wherever you’re at, reader, take time to get outside.  Spring is almost here, even if it’s still covered with snow in some places!


Map geeks: Here’s the trail map for the hike we were on during this conversation.  We were heading west on the Harris trail (near the middle of the page), having just left the intersection of the Shovelton and Rock Wall trails behind us.  The contour interval for the map is 10 feet.

16 thoughts on “The Hard Part”

  1. It never dawned on me that you were in Alabama, Tim! The person behind you reminds me of a hike my husband and I recently took where I asked the same question. I need to be sure to write about this memory now. Thank you for the memory prompt. And, I’m wondering, you know, who the real “breath catcher” is here. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Shari, I’ve lived here for 21 years now–that still amazes me. The breath catcher may–just may–have been me! I’m looking forward to seeing how that memory looks as a story. 😀


  2. How long is the difficult part? How long is the difficult part? Not sure you meant to speak in metaphor today, but BOY am I feeling it! As for me, yes. I did get outside today. I got to experience wonder today through my puppy, who has now learned the joy of catching snowflakes on the tongue. I can’t blame her. In fact I may have joined her!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lainie, your comment reminds me of recently writing (March kind of blurs, so I’m not sure when it was) about spring being here after a long winter. A metaphor, indeed! I’d love to be outside in the snow with a puppy–that’s awesome. 😃

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This reminds me of a trail we were on in Kauai when my youngest was afraid of mis-stepping and falling into the ocean! How much farther? How much farther? My other connection to this post, Tim, is when I led a Forest Bathing Hike with a trained person (I was the Land Trust representative) and we were supposed to be soaking in the silence of the forest and people kept talking! UGH! Sometimes, they just don’t get it. And, fortunately, sometimes, they do! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow–that sounds like a trail I’d love to see!

      Your forest bathing hike sounds interesting. I love being out on the trail and not talking. When I lead hikes, as the “expert” I try to say as much as my participants want to hear and not much more. It would be neat to take a hike that is intentionally silent.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The trail on Kauai was breath-taking but hard in the July heat and as I said, scary for our youngest…he still talks about how he was afraid!

        The forest bathing hikes were part of my favorite events at the Land Trust. I asked our hike leader which book she would recommend because I was so interested in the process. In addition, I had the opportunity to have a training session by the Korean expert in Forest Bathing. That was fascinating. There are parts of these hikes where you do talk but other parts where silence is the expectation. The book is Your Guide to Forest Bathing by M. Amos Clifford. It’s only 170 pages long and a small size (4×6). You might find it interesting. There is a whole process to becoming a certified Forest Bathing Hike Leader, but anyone can do it, with or without the certification.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. This writing thing sure is expensive when I factor in the book recommendations! I’m going to have to check that out. Kauai sounds wonderful. We lived on Oahu for 3 years and did a bit of hiking, but my interests were a lot different back then and I wish we’d have gone more. That was a long time ago, though (early 80s).

        Liked by 1 person

  4. So…….about a year and a half ago my husband and I crossed “Climb Mt. Monadnock” off our bucket list. Well, about not even 30 minutes in after struggling with a seemingly never-ending jagged granite scramble I said to a hiker who approached us from behind and passed us, “Have you climbed this before? How much further until the rocky scramble ends?” His reply? “Oh, it’s like this all the way to the top.” One and done!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All the way to the top!? Wow. Years ago, my wife and I were able to climb Mt. Fuji in Japan. The trail we took down was nothing but loose cinder/hardened lava rock for a good part of the way. The trail up was beautiful with dirt and trees. I’d love to do that trail again with my current eyes to figure out just how that worked.


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