Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Loner...

With my wife and kid still on the lam I was left with another whole Saturday with nothing to do. This time I headed for the mountains. 

The Blue Ridge Parkway, where I spent my youth driving around, hiking, and doing, um, other stuff. I had my sights set on the Peaks of Otter. More specifically Sharp Top Mountain.

No, it’s not Everest. Or the Rockies. But it’s beautiful and spectacular all the same. It’s been maybe five years since I’d been, so I woke up early, fixed the coffee, and hit the road.I drove up in all my dorkdom, listening to an audio book, enjoying the scenery, and otherwise lost in my own little adventure. I don’t mind being by myself. Sometimes I kind of enjoy it. I even saw a black bear cross the road. A first for me.

I hit the men’s room in the parking lot, did a few quick stretches—the same stretches the older guys used to do before basketball.—and took a deep breath of mountain air. I checked my phone, wanting to catch the time. But my phone was blank.

The battery was dead. I fiddled with the button but it only flashed the empty battery then died again. I’m not a constant phone type of person but still it was a bummer. 
Mostly because I’m so freaking attached to technology.

Not long ago there were no cell phones. I’ve hiked up this mountain twenty or more times in my life. Like I said, mostly in the nineties, when nobody had a phone and nobody—at least no one I knew thought to carry a camera around. And if they had, and taken it out and said something like, “group pic guys” or “selfie time” he—or she, but especially he—would have been belittled endlessly for the rest of the day. Maybe week.

But times change. And now, as I saw that the battery was toast, the thought of not hiking up the stupid mountain actually popped into my head. Seriously, I’ll admit it. I mean I did go, after all, and I mocked myself for thinking such stupid thoughts. But the fact that because I couldn’t get up there and take panoramic pictures almost convinced me to render the whole hike pointless was enough. Twenty-year-old me could only shake his scraggly head.

On I went. And it was tough. I’ll be 40 in September. Not old, but old enough to where you start talking about your age and saying you’re not old. I pictured myself bounding up those same rock steps, a little less eroded, both in mind and spirit, laughing about Ace Ventura or humming the latest Pearl Jam tune. And because I’m neurotically deficient I kept thinking, what if I just fell out right here? I don’t have a phone!

I don’t have a phone. Again, twenty-year-old shook his head and spat. Then left me to go drink beer on the top of that mountain.

I pressed onward.

It was nice. No one was around being that it was old person early. I wiped my brow. Are we there yet? I was sweating through my shirt. Then I got my second wind. Everything just started flowing and the next thing I knew I was climbing up the rocks to the peak.

The top. Wow. Let me just say. Nothing puts our world into perspective better than sitting 4000 feet above it all. The rolling green of the treetops. The bluish horizon. The breeze rolls up to you. Everything is quiet. Tiny cars drift by without sound. A wasp lands on your neck.

Where was I? Oh, so I sat in my solitude, where the chatter and all the everyday bullshit that consumes our feeds is muted for a moment. People, cars, civilization blends with the clouds and rock and dirt and mountains. I was glad I came. And I was glad I didn’t have a phone. 

So, no pictures. But then again no distractions. I contemplated the really heavy stuff in my life.

Like how I shouldn’t have eaten half a pepperoni pizza last night but at the same time I couldn’t wait to get home and gorge myself on the other half.

Like how I’d better vacuum the house before my wife returns home tomorrow.

Like how I hoped that black bear was somewhere far, far away.

With my thoughts in order I got to my feet. By then I was starting to see people. Sweaty, heaving young people who made me feel much better about my own heavy breathing.

I passed families and couples. I passed young women who asked if they were almost there. I assured them they were, because I’m still a long hike way from maturity.

When I got to my car I sat covered in sweat. It was only ten in the morning. It felt good. I needed to get out, get myself together. I tossed my phone on the seat. Up and back in a flash. Still got it.

Now if I could just find that old Pearl Jam cd…

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