Samstag, 30. Juli 2016

First hiking weekend

These kids with their slang and their "butt-hurt." They wouldn't know butt-hurt from butt-numb. I've had what amounts to Montezuma's revenge for the last 20 years. I know from butt-hurt.
I'd never been able to hike for more than a few hours in the past. With a regular need for a toilet, hiking was tricky. I couldn't eat just before or during, so I could never go on a hike long enough or demanding enough to require provisions. Until now.
When surgery was first proposed, my husband was psyched at the idea that we might one day go camping. But more immediately, he was psyched for a wife who liked to hike and who could hike. Because I did like to hike. But near the end of each hike, and for the following few days, I would suffer. My husband didn't quite realize the extent of my suffering until he could see its absence this weekend.
We have often done cycling tours to celebrate our anniversary, and they've been incredible. I'm so grateful to have a partner who is flexible in his expectations and the best cheerleader I've ever known. The idea for this year's hike came to us last autumn, and I was a bit nervous in the initial planning stages, if I'd be able. After surgery, when it was clear that I was not at risk for the worst of the complications, we started planning more concretely. We planned a route, booked the dog sitter and got our hiking gear in order.  The week before, I began to get nervous. Swiss mountain-folk started reacting to our plan with surprise; saying that it was a pretty difficult hike. I wasn't sure that I'd be up for it. I was so unpracticed. On Thursday, I took my new boots and my new ostomy-friendly hiking clothes up and down our local hill to check them out. I went up and down the 400 meters and felt great. So there was nothing to do but pack and go.
The weather looked like it could turn poor, but not dangerous. Folks had gotten stuck in snow the week before and there had been so many violent storms this summer, so we wanted to be safe and sane. We left Falera early Saturday morning, eating our packed breakfast on the Post Auto to Ilanz. We were in time to make the 7:40 bus to Vrin, but sadly the driver forgot to change his sign from Ilanz to Vrin, so we were given an extra hour to have coffee and relax and marvel at the muddied kids returning from the local festival, which had been struck by lightening and turned accoustic early Friday afternoon.
On the bus to Vrin, we were in the company of other festival-goers and a group of people from the East of Switzerland, who were....very energetic and excited (sauglatt). Luckily, they transferred to a smaller bus in Vrin to take them further up the mountain, while we hiked the road 10 km on to the proper path.

We walked up - all day. We went up to the most gorgeous views I've ever seen. We walked over waterfalls, we walked up paths that didn't curve as softly as those other paths that make steep mountains more manageable. We walked up past young men using the last of their cell phone signals. We accidentally walked off the proper path and went along the narrow, steep paths that only cows use, and then we reached steep wet cow pastures, full of poo, just as it began to rain. My legs ached. We'd taken about a break every 45 minutes. Ivo offered to take the flasks that I was transporting along with our food, but it wasn't the weight. It was the effort. This was new for me. We'd been going up for hours and I'd never climbed so much in my life.
Eventually, we reached our peak elevation. "I'm dizzy with success!" I panted. It was an ongoing joke that had begun earlier in the hike, when there was still enough breath for talk of history and politics and told me about that Stalin speech. It had come up when our eyes tried to accommodate the new, incredible views. At the signs for the path markers and elevation, there were a group of hikers with umbrellas and clear, disposable rain ponchos - the Eastern Swiss from the bus!
Surely the Terrihütte was just around the corner? No. We  still had to climb down a super steep trail and cross a river and then climb up a path that involved boulders and helpful chains and then back down a path on which Ivo - with his super heavy pack - slid multiple times. We started inventing dialogue from our cinematic journey - Game of the Rings / Lord of the Thrones - until - at last -we reached our destination (which was, of course, the journey all along, blah, blah.) When we got into the mud room, I lay on my back; so dizzy was I from success.
3 Bernese youths, who had been alternating the lead with us since we went astray from the official hiking path, congratulated us. Once we'd changed and had some salty soups and sweet fizzy drinks, we went out into the sunshine on the wet peak to stretch our muscles and cheer on a family of hikers - drenched and considerably young and exhausted - as they arrived, dizzy with success.
I didn't care that a 13-year-old in skinny jeans had managed the same hike. I was so thrilled that my body had managed the exertion and I felt incredible and so strong. I didn't even have any dehydration headaches. (I've been learning about my different hydration needs this summer, with my new gut length.) I kept remembering my cousin Mike's loathing of hikes that lead to places where cars can go. He seemed to think that hiking up to a peak, only to meet people who'd achieved the same goal with a motor was a bummer. But here, the only way up for people is walking (with the exception of the Terrihütte staff and foodstuffs, which are brought up regularly by helicopter.) 26km, 1300 meters up.
At dinner, while scarfing multiple portions of risotto (food has never been as delicious as it was during this hike), we were gifted with the view of 30+ capricorns availing themselves of a salt lick that had been provided. It was amazing.
Next day, it felt like we were part of a huge group. Breakfast was over at 8 and people got themselves packed and geared up and as clean as the freezing taps in the bathroom would allow and wandered off in their various directions. Our table mates from dinner and breakfast were on our path for a while. We scrabbled down a couple of crevasses together, wondered at some marmuts, who played nearby up-wind of us, and then parted ways as they hiked Vrin-ward and we headed to the Ticino.
We needed fewer food breaks on the way down, but required more water breaks. We had a picnic on a rock in the middle of a waterfall and dipped our toes into the chilly water.

Ivo's heavy pack really taxed his poor feet. But we had hours to go. We began making up our own fake Italian slang. We had to hike an hour and a half farther than expected once we realized that our destination had poor bus service when school was out. But we did it, and we did it well, speeding up to catch our bus in Olivone, by-passing that group of Eastern Swiss hikers again! Then on to Semione, where our dizziness from success made that last 45 minutes of walking to our B&B just exhausting. But we'd done another 39 km of walking and my body was no worse for wear. I had to red marks on my back from the back pack and a bit of leg and foot soreness that night, but no more than my extra-fit spouse.
I am a hiker!!

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