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.
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.
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.
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.