I did not want to go hiking


Me, unhappy, on a mountain in Colorado

I saw Niagara Falls once. It was June 2004, on a trip I made in a diesel Jetta with three other 19-year-old males. We went to see Canada. We went to legally drink underage.

I remember more about the Ruby Tuesday where we ate dinner in Niagara than I do about the falls. And when I think about Niagara Falls, despite the fact that I have seen it person, I still think about Superman 2.

This is probably because I find the natural world terrifying, defined more by death than majesty. I concede it’s a majestic death.

It should be obvious that I did not want to go hiking in Denver on Sunday. I did not want to spend two hours and five miles walking uphill. But I was forced and went — Doug, you and your trekking poles can still go to hell — and I didn’t even get to see a bear.

Me, unhappy, on a mountain in Colorado

Me, still unhappy, on a mountain in Colorado

Hiking at high altitude is hard, but I passed the time by struggling to breathe and thinking about things I could do to unnerve real hikers — like arranging replica human skulls on pikes and sticking them on a random peak. And I thought about the grave we passed.

Yes, the grave. At least, it seemed like a grave.

A bronze marker snuggled in a stack of variegated rocks said a man died in 1995, cause unspecified. It looks like how John Wayne would bury someone in The Searchers, in what would be the movie’s most plausible plot point.

CO mountain grave

This may be a grave on top of a Colorado mountain.

I still wonder how this man died. Maybe he saw the bear I didn’t get to see. Maybe a lightning bolt came down and felled him. Maybe someone had the head-on-a-stick idea before me, and for this man, the combination of the thin air and threat of ritual-human sacrifice was too much.

But hiking, even though I hated it, was an experience. It is something I did and something I appreciate, even though I never want to do it again and remain more fascinated by the old trains we passed on the drive to the casino than God’s splendor.

I respect people who hike. It’s hard and it’s dangerous, and if you’re not used to sustained, vigorous uphill walking on a more than a two-mile high mountain, there’s a chance it could be fatal.

mountain panorama

The majestic terror of nature

I don’t like hiking, but that’s not a value judgment. It’s an issue of preference. My enthusiasm for nature remains abominably low, but I appreciate having gone hiking in the Rockies — thanks, Doug! — although I enjoyed losing $20 at the casino more. Video roulette may be the only thing dumber mountains.


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