The older I get, the bigger chicken I become. I've lost some of my bravado, my edge, my gusto from even five years ago. I don't do a lot of the dumb things I use to do---mostly because dumb things lose their appeal and you realize they're not fun, they're dumb. Still, sometimes I worry that I'm losing my courage. I worry that I'm fading into a blah person. Terrorists, smerrorists, I'm scared of mediocrity.
The last time I hiked in Zuma Canyon, I met the big ass rattlesnake. I've hiked a lot since then in other places, but I haven't gone back to Zuma. I've managed to avoid it. Even though rationally I knew the odds of meeting the snake again were next to nothing and rationally I knew I would be cautious, I still had a hesitation about hiking my favorite hike in Zuma. I knew it was an irrational fear, but the irrational fear was trumping all my rational justifications.
On Saturday, the temperature rose into the eighties and the sun was shining (sorry, East Coast). For the last two weeks, I had been down and out with a nasty sinus cold that progressed from a head full of flem to a hacking cough. After two energy sapping weeks, I was anxious to get outside in the sun and do physical stuff. I was bouncing off the walls, and I wanted to do my 12 mile Zuma hike.
I decided to take Earl, my aunt and uncle's dog, with me. Earl is half boxer and half Border Collie. He's black and white and weighs 50-60 pounds. My aunt and uncle adopted him on a dog adoption day. He was the friendliest dog there. I've grown to like Earl. At first, he and I had some difficulties---especially his need to growl at my boyfriend, but now he's better behaved. I have taken him up Solstice Canyon and he is excellent on the trails. He stays with me, and he doesn't go after whatever is making a sound in the bush. True to his work dog nature, he's very task oriented.
Dog trainers have said that Earl can roam 20 miles a day. My aunt and uncle enthusiastically supported the 12 mile hike idea for Earl, so I packed extra water, a plastic bowl, and doggie treats.
As I hiked, I mentally wrote this piece about me going back to the source of my irrational fear. I wanted to pay close attention to how I felt as I approached the site of the snake encounter. I was thinking so much and looking out for the dog that I didn't notice that I had gone past the snake encounter spot. There was no heart beating faster or heightened senses. There was of course no snake. I walked past a spot that was just like any other spot. Not only was my irrational fear completely irrational, I questioned the complete validity of it in the first place.
The dog and I hiked on. We were having a good time. When we got to the creek, we sat in the shade and drank water. His brown eyes looked around and he panted contently. I ate an apple. He peed on a bush. It's a dog's life.
We hiked up the canyon. The dog looked back and seemed to ask ‘more up?'. When we got to the gate, we stopped and had even more water. We were on time with an hour until sunset and two miles to go. We were good for awhile, but then Earl started lagging. He moved slower and slower. He was spent.
The sun went down. I tried carrying Earl, but it was too awkward. Slowly, we made our way down the mountain to the parking lot. We did our last mile step by step, slowly, in the dark. When we got to the car, I lifted Earl into the backseat. He was done. The little tubby fella had done that last bit on pure guts and ambition. Sometimes, all you can do is keep on keeping on.
The next day, I offered to take my boyfriend on the same hike. He declined and told me that he was not that extreme. Then I realized, shit, I guess I am a bit extreme. By the way, if anyone wants to do this hike, I'll be happy to take you.