Wednesday, August 3, 2011

On the Way Down



People say that there are two ways to hike Runyon Canyon: the hard way and the easy way.

The "hard way" is taken when you turn right at the fork, and soon enough you meet a sign that warns of such steep slopes, you must be in good physical condition to take them.

It's a scramble all right, though really dedicated athletes sometimes run up the slope. But when I hiked it tonight, by the time I finished the entire loop, I thought, "That was too easy."

The last time I hiked Runyon, I went the "easy way," turning left at the fork. After a steady climb, with a nice payoff of a scenic overlook, I reached the top of the steep slopes and said, "Oh my God."

Vertigo kicked in. Panic ensued. I tiptoed across the wood planks and down the uneven terrain, sliding along the gravel. I felt top-heavy, weak-ankled, and, at times, paralyzed. I pretended that I was taking a breather, or taking in the view, but I was really taking inventory of my bravery, since I'm occasionally so easily undermined by such simple things.

I made it down that day a couple weeks ago, but not easily, and not without paying the price of sore quads and wobbly legs for days.

Most hikers are relieved when they reach the descent of a hike, when they've climbed a few hundred (or thousand) feet and have to climb back down. But I would rather climb uphill the whole way (if that were even possible), sweating and chest heaving, than catch my breath and slow my heart rate while teetering along a narrow ridge, surely to tumble head-first to my inevitable maiming.

Downhill has never been easy for me. I'll stick with climbing upwards, tackling the steep ascents, and I'll take the more gentle slopes back home.

To become a fan on Facebook, click here.