Friday, August 28, 2009

30 plus one week

This week, I have been getting out more often than I normally do - in a social sense - which means I have been sleeping later and getting outside a little less. It's a good thing, I think; after all, life is but a river that ebbs and flows. Autumn seems like the perfect time for an ebb. The rains move in; the temperatures creep down; life slows to a trickle. But come winter, the trickle begins to freeze and accumulate until it has transformed into something sparkling and new and almost electric, in a way that makes life come alive. I love winter. It truly is my favorite season.

It occurred to me today that I have been 30 for a week now. I'm supposed to be having some type of pre-mid-life/post-post-adolescent crisis, but to be honest, I've hardly noticed. I guess I do find myself looking in the mirror and thinking things like, "I'm 30 now. Maybe it's about time I started wearing makeup;" or, "Maybe I should buy some non-outdoors-specific clothing that isn't a hand-me-down from my 22-year-old sister;" or "I'm 30 and my worldly possessions amount to a few boxes of clothes, a kitty cat, a car that after being "totalled" by $700 in brake work is officially worthless, a road bike that has a similar status, a battered mountain bike and one beloved Pugsley." But my inclination right now is still toward less stuff and more mobility. I guess turning 30 hasn't done as much to spur me toward adulthood as I'd hoped.

And I won't even talk about my athletic pursuits right now. It's probably been pretty obvious from my blog that I'm all over the map, both demotivated and excitedly trying new things; both wrapped up in frequent adventures and discouraged by the "sameness" of the space I occupy. The sun came out yesterday afternoon and I watched it with bitter jealousy from my cubical at work. Today the rain rate was back up to a tenth of an inch per hour and I decided to go peak bagging anyway. Mount Roberts was my goal, with an ambitious hope for Sheep Mountain should the weather take a turn for the better.

The rain let up but it left behind a brutal, bitter cold wind. On the ridge, it was blowing 35 mph and easily gusting to 50 and even 60 mph (a speed where the wind takes your breath away, and pushes unsuspecting hikers nearly off their feet.) The ridge is somewhat narrow in spots, but not too exposed, so I layered up as best as I could with the random things I had stuffed in my Camelback over the past few weeks - a fleece pullover, a soft-shell pullover, winter mittens, a hat, a headband (which I pulled over my nose and mouth), and dry wool socks in a ziplock bag (lifesavers, those were.) Hard to gauge the windchill this early in the season. It felt below freezing, but then again the first real chills of the season always feel uber-cold. It was probably 45 or so degrees at elevation, not accounting for windchill.

The wind was relentless, and continued to get worse. Mount Roberts has a few steep, loose spots that were sketchier than I remembered, and I ended up turning back short of the peak because I had become consumed with the idea that I was about to blow off the mountain. I'm not really sure what the wind speed would need to be to actually blow a 130-pound person off a mountain - probably at least double the strongest gusts that hit today. But the wind felt intense enough that I was genuinely jittery. Every time a gust hit, I just crouched down and held my hat until it passed. I was certainly relieved when I reached the tram terminal and ordered the biggest, hottest cup of coffee they had, and "cheated" the rest of the hike by riding the tram down to sea level. It was a good day. That kind of hard, cold wind makes me feel alive. Like I said, I'm definitely a "winter person."