August 03, 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.

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